Evelyn Ward, a star of Broadway musicals in the 1940s and the mother of Partridge Family actor-singer David Cassidy and grandmother of Arrow star Katie Cassidy, has died. She was 89.
Ward died Dec. 23 in Los Angeles after suffering from Alzheimer’s-related dementia, said Jo-Ann Geffen, David Cassidy’s longtime publicist.
Ward was married to actor Jack Cassidy when David was born to the couple in 1950; they divorced in 1956. Jack was then married to Partridge Family matriarch Shirley Jones from 1956-74. The popular sitcom about a singing family ran on ABC from 1970-74.
The glamorous, dark-haired Ward, a native of West Orange, N.J., began her career as a Roxyette at New York’s famed Roxy Theatre in the early 1940s, then headed for Broadway. She understudied for Mary Martin in Dancing in the Streets, then made her Broadway debut in 1943 in the musical comedy Early to Bed.
Her other Broadway credits in the 1940s include The Firebrand of Florence with future husband Cassidy; Spring in Brazil with Milton Berle; Along Fifth Avenue with Jackie Gleason; Billion Dollar Baby; and Heaven on Earth. In 1958, Ward replaced Gwen Verdon in the Broadway company of New Girl in Town.
Her regional work included Show Boat, Where’s Charley? High Button Shoes, The Boys From Syracuse, The Pajama Game, Girl Crazy and Paint Your Wagon. The latter two productions, both from 1955, were directed by Elliot Silverstein, her future second husband; he would go on to direct the 1965 comedy-western Cat Ballou (1965) starring Oscar winner Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda.
Ward also performed in such famed nightclubs as the Carnival Room, the Copacabana and the Latin Quarter. In 1954, she appeared in a Las Vegas musical revue emceed by Ronald Reagan at The Last Frontier Hotel.
On television, Ward was a regular on the 1949 variety series Manhattan Showcase and The College Bowl starring Chico Marx. She later appeared in episodes of Omnibus, Mike Hammer, The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Dr. Kildare, Perry Mason, Breaking Point and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Ward came out of retirement in 1996 to co-star in Such a Pretty Face, a musical about self-image co-written by comedian Eddie Cantor’s daughter, Janet Gari.
In an interview in May with London’s Daily Mail, David Cassidy said his mother had been victimized by Alzheimer’s for a decade and had spent her last years in a nursing facility. “Seeing such a vibrant woman reduced to this is really just heartbreaking,” he said.
In addition to David and his daughter Katie, Ward is survived by a grandson, singer-songwriter Beau Cassidy.