And so I feel her loss in an acute way - in a way that I've never felt when a more well-known or more "important" star passed. She's someone who truly can't be replaced. I'll miss her simplicity, her reassuring presence.
My earliest recollection of Elizabeth Wilson on screen was her performance as one of Rosalind Russell's teaching cronies in Joshua Logan's 1955 film version of William Inge's "Picnic," a recreation of the role she originated in her Broadway debut on stage two years earlier. She followed that with memorable bits in John Cromwell's "The Goddess"(drama) and Gene Kelly's "The Tunnel of Love" (comedy), both from 1958.
Then there was her role as one of the waitresses in the wonderful restaurant sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963), a scene that's dotted with other terrific character actors - Lonny Chapman, Ethel Griffiths, Charles MacGraw, Doreen Lang, Karl Swenson, Malcolm Atterbury and Joe Mantell, among them - who wittily debate the notion of birds gone wild. Wilson has little to do in the scene, but neither does anyone else. They are all simply part of a jaw-dropping ensemble.
Her work on stage and as guest star on assorted TV series were both vast. Wilson's final screen role was in 2012 as Sara Delano Roosevelt, President Roosevelt's mother, opposite Bill Murray in Roger Michell's "Hyde Park on the Hudson." She was 91. My aunt was old now.
But, arguably, her most enduring role remains Mrs. Braddock, Dustin Hoffman's status-conscious, trend-conscious mother in Nichols' "The Graduate." She and William Daniels made perfectly awful parents.
Elizabeth Wilson died yesterday (May 9), at age 94, at her home in New Haven, Connecticut.