Margaret Whitton, the actress, and producer best known for playing the antagonist in Major League, died Sunday in Palm Beach, Florida after battling cancer, her producing partner Steven Tabakin confirmed to EW. She was 67 years old.
“Because Margaret kept her brief battle with cancer very private, the news of her death is one of those unexpected twists and turns in the story,” Tabakin said in a statement to EW. “As you might imagine, Margaret faced her illness with all the grace and wit she brought to every facet of her life.”
Born Nov. 30, 1949, in Philadelphia, Whitton began her acting career on stage. She made her off-Broadway debut in 1973 with Baby Goya, which also starred Olympia Dukakis (Steel Magnolias). She hit Broadway proper in 1982 with Nell Dunn’s Olivier Award-winning comedy Steaming.
Whitton found a broader audience with her turn as the villainous Rachel Phelps in the 1989 baseball comedy Major League. She played a sultry former showgirl who inherits the Cleveland Indians and tries to run the team into the ground in order to force a profitable move to Miami. She fails in the original movie and again in the 1994 sequel, in which she seeks revenge.
Outside of Major League, Whitton appeared in 9 1/2 Weeks (1986); The Man Without a Face (1993); The Secret of My Success (1987); and Ironweed (1987). On the small screen, she starred in Hometown, A Fine Romance, and Good & Evil.
“No one could deliver a one-liner like Margaret,” wrote Tabakin. “No one could be more scathing one minute and more vulnerable the next — she played all the notes. Girls wanna be her.”
Following her acting career, Whitton turned her eye to development and production. She was president and executive producer of Tashtego Films, where she worked with Tabakin. According to Tabakin, Whitton was a major philanthropist and a New York Yankees season-ticket holder; the production company’s website notes she wrote about baseball for The New York Times, The Village Voice, and more. She made her directorial debut with romantic feature A Bird of the Air starring Rachel Nichols and Jackson Hurst.
“We don’t dare mourn Margaret because she would have a wicked one-liner to snap us back to the curves, the twists, the turns, the joy. Those incredible eyes, that delicious laugh,” Tabakin wrote. “But we will remember her always, and how she made the world — and those of us lucky enough to share it with her for a while — just a little bit better.”
Whitton is survived by her husband of 23 years, Warren Spector. A memorial will be held in New York in early 2017.