Michael Learned (born April 9, 1939) is an American actress, known for her role as Olivia Walton in the long-running CBS drama series The Waltons (1972–1981). She has won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series a record four times; three for The Waltons (1973, 1974, 1976), and one for Nurse (1982).
Learned in a publicity photo as Olivia Walton, 1972
|Born||April 9, 1939|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
(m. 1956; div. 1972)
(m. 1974; div. 1977)
William Parker IV
(m. 1979; div. 1988)
Learned was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter and oldest child of Elizabeth Duane "Betti" (née Hooper) and Bruce Learned, a diplomat. Her maternal grandfather was an attaché for the United States Embassy in Rome.
She lived on a Connecticut farm with her five sisters for the first 10 years of her life. Learned said that her parents never explained why she received a masculine first name, her father telling her elusively: "if I had been a boy, I would have been called Caleb, but I was a girl, so I was called Michael."
When she was 11, Learned moved to Austria, where her father worked for the U.S. State Department. At this time, she attended Arts Educational School, Tring, now Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Tring, Hertfordshire, England. During this time, she discovered the theater and decided to make acting her life's work.
She was billed as "Miss Michael Learned" on The Waltons (which ran from 1972–1981) because she was relatively unknown at the time, and producers wished to avoid confusion among viewers about her gender. By the sixth season, as the show continued its success and after the departure of co-star Richard Thomas, producers' fear of confusion about her sex had been alleviated and the "Miss" was removed from Learned's billing. She was nominated for six Emmy Awards and won three for her role of Olivia Walton. After the end of the sixth season, she agreed to appear for one more season, on the condition that she wouldn't have to work the full nine months.
Her character's abrupt disappearance was explained by Olivia developing tuberculosis and entering a sanatorium in Arizona. She made occasional guest appearances until the show's cancellation and later appeared in four of the six Waltons reunion movies made during the 1980s and 1990s. For her portrayal of Olivia Walton, Learned was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards. During her run as Olivia Walton, Learned and The Waltons co-star, Will Geer, appeared together in the 1974 made-for-TV movie, Hurricane.
Learned starred as Nurse Mary Benjamin in the hospital drama Nurse, which ran on CBS during the 1980–1981 and 1981–1982 seasons. Though the series was well received critically, it was not a ratings success and lasted only two seasons. Nevertheless, Learned was nominated for two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress and won yet another Emmy for this role in 1982. She later had starring roles in the unsuccessful 1988 drama Hothouse and 1989 sitcom Living Dolls and reprised her Waltons role for a number of television movies and reunions in the 1990s.
In 2005, Learned played Judge Helen Turner on the ABC soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live as part of the "baby switch" storyline on both shows. In the second season of The Secret World of Alex Mack, she guest-starred as a ghost who regretted the decisions of her long-estranged granddaughter, revealed at the end to be the show's main villain, Danielle Atron (Louan Gideon).
She guest-starred in Scrubs as Mrs. Wilk in five episodes from the show's fifth season. She played Shirley Smith on ABC's General Hospital. In the fall of 2011, Learned played Katherine Chancellor on the CBS daytime soap opera, The Young and the Restless, filling in for Jeanne Cooper, who was on extended medical leave from the series.
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In the late 1960s, Learned and her then-husband (Peter Donat) appeared in various roles with the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. She has appeared in many stage productions on Broadway, off Broadway, and elsewhere, including the 2006–2007 national touring production of On Golden Pond. In the fall of 2008, she starred in Innovation Theatre Works' production of Driving Miss Daisy, playing the title role of Daisy Werthen opposite Willis Burks II as Hoke and Dirk Blocker as Daisy's son Boolie.
Learned has been married four times. Her first husband was Canadian-American actor Peter Donat, whom she married in 1956 when she was 17 years old. The marriage was dissolved in 1972. She had three sons by the marriage — Caleb, Christopher, and Lucas Donat.
Her second marriage, to Glenn Chadwick, lasted from 1975 to 1977 and ended in divorce. In 1979, she married actor-screenwriter William Parker. That marriage ended in divorce as well. Since 1988, she has been married to lawyer John Doherty; the couple resides in California.
In a 2002 article she wrote for Daily Word, a publication of the Unity Church, Learned states that at the time she was cast in The Waltons, she had "hit rock bottom". Then, at age 32, Learned realized she was an alcoholic. Taking herself to ex-husband Peter Donat's cabin on the California coast, she decided to "get sober" and that her time there was the beginning of a spiritual journey. Learned further stated in the article that she has been sober since 1977.
|1980||Touched by Love||Dr. Bell|
|1986||Power||Governor Andrea Stannard|
|1993||Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story||Vivian Emery|
|1997||Life During Wartime||N/A|
|2000||For the Love of May||Mary Lou||Short film|
|2007||The Killer||The Innkeeper||Short film|
|2009||An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong||Nana Louis Hanlon|
|2014||Unplugged||Grandma Katie||Short film|
|2018||Second Acts||Lee Marston||Short film|
|1963||The Other Man||N/A|
|It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy||Janet Walters|
|1978||Little Mo||Eleanor Tennant|
|A Christmas Without Snow||Zoe Jenson|
|1982||Mother's Day on Waltons Mountain||Olivia Walton|
|1984||The Parade||Rachel Kirby|
|1986||A Deadly Business||Ann|
|1987||Mercy of Murder?||Skipper|
|1988||Roots: The Gift||Amelia Parker|
|1990||Gunsmoke: The Last Apache||Mike Yardner|
|1991||Aftermath: A Test of Love||Irene|
|Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Wojas Smart Story||Judy Smart|
|Keeping Secrets||Marion Mahoney|
|1993||A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion||Olivia Walton|
|1995||A Walton Wedding|
|1997||A Walton Easter|
|1998||A Father for Brittany||Edna Humphreys|
|1968||Wojeck||Nina Eden||2 episodes|
|1972–1979||The Waltons||Olivia Walton||168 episodes|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1973–1974, 1976)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1973–1976)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1975, 1978–1979)
|1973||Gunsmoke||Mike Yardner||Episode: "Matt's Love Story"|
|Gunsmoke||May Lassiter||Episode: "A Game of Death... An Act of Love Part 2"|
|Match Game 73||Herself||Episode: "1.6"|
|1973–1974||Insight||Sister Janet||2 episodes|
|1974||Police Story||Linda Keitlinger||Episode: "Love, Mabel"|
|1981–1982||Nurse||Nurse Mary Benjamin||25 episodes|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
|1984||St. Elsewhere||Sister Millicent Domencia||2 episodes|
|1988||Hothouse||Dr. Marie Teller||7 episodes|
|1989||Murder, She Wrote||Maria Hudson||Episode: "Trevor Hudson's Legacy"|
|Who's the Boss?||Trish Carlin||2 episodes|
|Living Dolls||Trish Carlin||12 episodes|
|1994||Reading Rainbow||Herself||Episode: "Appelemondo's Dream"|
|1995||The Secret World of Alex Mack||Ghost of Paradise Valley||Episode: "The Secret"|
|1998||Profiler||Helen Waters||3 episodes|
|Promised Land||Dolly Carstens||Episode: "The Secret of Bluestem"|
|2000||Pensacola: Wings of Gold||Congresswoman Benedict||Episode: "Article 32"|
|So Graham Norton||Herself||Episode: "3.8"|
|2003||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Candace Lamery||Episode: "Privilege"|
|2005||All My Children||Judge Turner||Episode: "1.9044"|
|One Life to Live||Hon. Judge Turner||2 episodes|
|2006||Scrubs||Mrs. Wilk||7 episodes|
|2009||Cold Case||Louise Patterson '09||Episode: "WASP"|
|2010||General Hospital||Shirley Smith||21 episodes|
|2011||Mr. Sunshine||Maggie||Episode: "The Best Man"|
|The Young and the Restless||Katherine Chancellor||13 episodes|
- "Michael Learned profile". Television Academy. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
- Love, Barbara J. (1970). Foremost women in communications: a biographical reference work on accomplished women in broadcasting, publishing, advertising, public relations, and allied professions. Foremost Americans Publishing Corporation.
- "Elizabeth B. Hooper is Married in Rome – The Daughter of Attache at the American Embassy in Italy Wed to Bruce Learned". The New York Times. July 1936. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- "Olivia Walton by another name is just Michael Learned". The Morning News. Ancestry.com#Newspapers.com. 26 April 1980.
- "Michael Learned – Biography". The New York Times. New York: New York Times. 2010. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- "Walton family will lose hard-working old Olivia". Hutchinson News. Heritage Microfilm, Inc.#NewspaperARCHIVE. 10 November 1978.
- Kroll, Dan J. (October 21, 2011). "Jeanne Cooper taking medical leave from Y&R". Soapcentral. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- Learned, Michael (December 2002). "My Spiritual Journey". Daily Word. Archived from the original on March 28, 2014. Retrieved January 20, 2014.