Who is Michael Learned?
American actress Michael Learned was born in Washington D.C. USA, on 9 April 1939, making Aries her zodiac sign. She’s appeared in over 70 TV series and movies, and is probably still known best for playing of the main characters Olivia Walton in 168 episodes of the romantic family series “The Waltons”, which also starred Mary Beth McDonough and Jon Walmsley, and was created by Earl Hamner Jr. It follows the members of the Walton family living in the Virginian mountains in the 1930s and 1940s, the series aired from 1972 through 1981 and won 33 of its 86 award nominations.
Michael’s still today active in the film industry, and has recently finished shooting for the 2022 biographical crime mini-series “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”, which won six of its 21 award nominations.
Education and early life
Michael and her five younger sisters were raised on a farm in Connecticut by their father Bruce Learned who was a diplomat, and mother Elizabeth Duane ‘Betti’ (nee Hooper) who was a housewife; Michael’s sisters’ names are Philippa, Dorit, Sabra, Susan and Greti.
She was 11 when she moved to Austria, after her father began working for the US State Department there; Michael eventually moved to Hertfordshire, England where she studied at Arts Education School, Tring, and it was around this time that she discovered theatre and became passionate about acting.
She eventually returned to the US and enrolled at local high school, from which she matriculated in 1958; Michael then began pursuing a career as an actress, rather than a college degree.
Roles in TV series
Michael made her debut TV series appearance in a 1961 episode of the drama “Encounter”, then from 1961 through 1966, she played Cariola and various other characters in the drama “Festival”.
In 1973 and 1974, Michael portrayed Sister Janet in the drama “Insight”, which starred Ellwood Kieser, Pat McGeehan and Efrem Imbalist Jr, and follows a group of people as they’re searching for love, freedom and meaning; the series won nine of its 16 award nominations. The remainder of the ‘70s saw Michael appear in an episode or two of the crime action “Police Story” and the biographical historical drama “The Lives of Benjamin Franklin”.
In 1981 and 1982, she played the lead character Mary Benjamin in all the 25 episodes of the drama “Nurse”, created by Sue Grafton, and which also starred Robert Reed and Hattie Winston. It follows supervising nurse Mary Benjamin whose husband’s recently passed away, while she’s now returned to work at Grant Memorial Hospital; the series won two of its three award nominations. Michael appeared in a couple of other series in the ‘80s, such as the comedy “St. Elsewhere”, the romantic comedy “American Playhouse” and the drama “Hothouse”.
What marked the ‘90s for her was perhaps voicing Abigail Adams in all the six episodes of the historical war documentary “The American Revolution”, which starred William Daniels, Charles Durning and Kelsey Grammer, and follows the American Colonies’ rebellion against England.
Michael had only a couple of TV series roles in the 2000s, appearing in several episodes of the romantic drama “One Life to Live”, the comedy “Scrubs” and the crime mystery “Cold Case”.
She appeared in 23 episodes of the soap opera “General Hospital” in 2010, and in 2011 in 14 episodes of another soap opera, the long-running “The Young and the Restless”; Michael’s since appeared in only one TV series: the above mentioned “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”.
Roles in movies
Michael’s debut film appearance was in the 1964 romantic comedy “Twelfth Night”, while her following three roles were in the 1974 drama “Hurricane”, the 1974 comedy “It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy”, and the 1976 drama “Widow”.
In 1978, she played the main character Eleanor ‘Teach’ Tennant in the biographical sports drama “Little Mo”, directed by Daniel Haller, and which also starred Anne Baxter and Glynnis O’Connor; it follows the life of professional tennis player Maureen Connolly, who was the first woman to win all Grand Slams in a single year.
The year 1980 saw Michael appear in five movies, including the drama “Off the Minnesota Strip”, the family drama “The Waltons: A Decade of the Waltons” and the drama “Touched by Love”. What marked the ‘80s for her was probably playing Skipper in the1987 drama “Mercy or Murder?”, written and directed by Steve Gethers, and which starred Robert Young, Frances Reid and Eddie Albert. It follows the case of Roswell Gilbert who killed his wife Emily after 51 years of marriage, because she had begged him to do so as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; Roswell was tried and convicted of murder.
Some of Michael’s most notable performances in the ‘90s were perhaps in the 1991 drama “Keeping Secrets”, the 1993 biographical action “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”, and the 1998 drama “A Father for Brittany”.
She starred as Sheridan in the 2005 drama “Loggerheads”, written and directed by Tim Kirkman, and which also starred Kip Pardue and Tess Harper; the movie follows three estranged families from North Carolina, and won three of its four award nominations. Some of Michael’s following roles were in the 2005 thriller “Lethal Eviction”, the 2007 short horror thriller “The Killer” and the 2009 family drama “An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong”.
She’s since appeared in only a couple of movies, with her three most recent roles having been in the 2014 short comedy “The Parcel”, the 2017 comedy “Life Interrupted”, and the 2019 short drama “Second Acts”.
So excited to announce that we are releasing The Parcel for online viewing….TOMORROW!! That's right, starring the lovely Michael Learned, four-time Emmy award winner. Can't wait to share it with the world:)
Posted by The Parcel on Thursday, August 27, 2015
Michael sang various songs in six episodes of the series “The Waltons” from 1973 through 1978.
She received special thanks for the 1991 documentary movie “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse”.
Some of Michael’s most recent talk-show appearances have been in “Entertainment Tonight”, “Why I’ll Never Make It” and “Slasher Scotty”.
Awards and nominations
Michael’s won 11 of her 22 award nominations, including for Primetime Emmy wins for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1973, 1974 and 1976 for “The Waltons”, and in 1982 for “Nurse”.
Some of her other wins include a 2019 Hollywood Women’s Film Festival Award for Best Actress in a Dramatic Short, a 2019 Las Vegas International Film & Screenplay Festival Lifetime Achievement Award and a 2019 Carole Film Festival, Venice Italy Award for Best Actress, all for her performance in “Second Acts”.
Love life and husbands
Michael’s married four times. She exchanged vows with her first husband, the late American-Canadian actor Peter Donat in 1956, at the age of 17; she gave birth to their three sons Lucas, Christopher and Caleb, but Michael and Peter’s marriage was dissolved in 1972.
Her second husband was American non-celebrity man Glen Chadwick; they married in 1974 but divorced three years later.
Michael married her third husband, American screenwriter and actor William Parker in 1979, and their divorce was finalized in 1988.
Also in 1988, Michael married her fourth husband, American attorney John Doherty, and they’ve been together ever since.
She’s yet to speak of other men whom she’s perhaps dated, Michael’s married to her fourth husband John Doherty as of April 2023, and has three children with her first husband Peter Donat.
Interesting facts and hobbies
Michael is a reformed alcoholic, but has been sober since 1977.
She honed her acting skills with the San Francisco ACT Company, while she and her first husband Peter also appeared in a number of theatre plays with them.
Michael and American actress Sherry Miller are lookalikes.
She once asked her father why he gave her a male name, and all that he said was that she would’ve been Caleb if she was born male.
Michael’s last name is pronounced Lear-ned, rather than as in ‘learned something’.
Her favorite actor is Jon Voight, while some of her favorite movies include “Surviving the Wild”, “Roe v. Wade” and “Woodlawn”.
Height, eyes and wealth
Michael’s age is 84. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, is 5ft 7ins (1.7m) tall and weighs around 145lbs (65kgs).
Michael’s net worth’s been estimated at over $4 million, as of April 2023.