A character actor can give a motion picture that bit of something extra that makes a scene in the movie.
In the 2002 film by Steven Spielberg, Catch Me If You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio started his career of pretending to be others people when his mother and father told him they were getting a divorce. That scene help to put a fright into him more with his maternal grandmother appearing speaking nothing but French. He knew his life was in for a change.
The character actress who played that role was Lilyan L. Chauvin who started in Hollywood as one of its glamor girls and ends up as one of the most familiar faces in TV, commercials and films, yet no one remembers her name.
Lilyan Chauvin has taken her Final Taxi at the age of 83.
Born Lilyan Lowans in Paris in 1925, Chauvin traveled via the Queen Elizabeth to New York in 1952 and begin teaching French at the Berlitz school off of 5th Ave.
In 1953 actress Judith Anderson met Chauvin, who says she looks like a Garbo, and helped to set her up on the TV show “Studio One Summer Theater” where she played in the presentation “Letter from Cairo.”
In 1956 she guest-starred in Crusader with Brian Keith and later the same year, she appeared in The Adventures of Jim Bowie and in the Adventures of Superman in 1957.
In 1958, she made her first credited motion picture appearance in Lost, Lonely and Vicious. In 1960 she starred in Walk Like a Dragon and North to Alaska. In the rest of the 1960s she appeared in Bloodlust!, Back Street, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Two Weeks in Another Town, Tickle Me and Yours, Mine and Ours.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she appeared in a wide variety of motion pictures and television movies, nearly always playing French characters or nuns. In 1971 she was in The Mephisto Waltz with Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset and in 1975 she acted alongside Barbra Streisand and James Caan in Funny Lady. 1980 saw her with Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin, but the role she will be most remembered for was from 1984 where Chauvin played the lead role in the horror film Silent Night, Deadly Night, playing the Mother Superior. The role was so popular that she return for the sequel Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2.
1990 movies included Bad Influence, Predator 2, Universal Soldier, True Identity,No Place to Hide (Where she played another Mother Superior) and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings.
Her latest offerings have been Catch Me If You Can and the The Man Who Wasn’t There (by the Coen Brothers).
During all this time Chauvin was always on TV. In the 60’s there was Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Perry Mason, and Mission: Impossible to name a few.
The 70’s and 80’s saw McCloud, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Mannix, Fantasy Island, Magnum, P.I and she was a regular on the nighttime TV soap Falcon Crest, playing a nun.
Chauvin was also on the daytime soap The Young and the Restless where she played Marianne and also for a short time on Ryan’s Four playing Nurse Rose.
Her television roles of the 1990s include guest appearances in Baywatch, Murder, She Wrote, The X-Files, Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Frasier. One role many TV watchers will remember Lilyan Chauvin for is when she appeared on the sitcom Friends, where she play Joey’s grandmother.
Her last role was in a episode last year of the TV show “Ugly Betty.”
Twice nominated for the “Emmy Award”, (The Young and the Restless & Baa Baa Black Sheep) her dedication to the arts won her recognition to for Excellence in moral quality media. She won the 1991 “Angel Award” for the program “Hollywood Structured”, a cable TV show she co-produced, directed and hosted. On the show Chauvin explored new facets of the industry each week through interviews with top professionals. The 64 episodes covered acting, directing, make up, documentary filmmaking, producing, music, comedy, cinematography, stunt coordinating, modeling, publicity, writing, dancing, sports announcing, production design,
entertainment law, agency, casting, union, special effects and more.
The show’s star- studded guest list read like the Who’s Who in the entertainment world. Celebrity guests included Jacqueline Bisset, Henry Mancini, Danny Glover, Linda Gray, Anne Francis, Morey Amsterdam, Al Burton, Roy Christopher, Nina Blanchard, Billy Barty, Jeanne Cooper, Linda Purl, Betty Thomas, Joanna Lee, Barney Rosenzweig, Mel Torme, Alexander Godunov and many more. The show stood as the platform for this consummate actress and director in the launching of both her successful video tape package, “Discover Yourself Hollywood” and the book she penned, “Hollywood Scams & Survival Tactics” where she shared a lifetime of survival experiences.
Chauvin also taught for over 10 years at USC and at UCLA for two years.
Lilyan Chauvin was a long time member and active supporter of the Wilderness Society, Children’s Hospital and the LA Camp Fund. She established loving relationships with many types of animals and was an animal and nature advocate for many years.