Less than one year after receiving a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for “Rebecca” (1940), Judith Anderson signed on to star in a three-month Broadway production of “Macbeth” alongside Maurice Evans. A dozen years later, the pair reunited to play the same characters in a TV adaptation, which resulted in Anderson winning a Primetime Emmy. Six years after that, Anderson and Evans both nabbed prizes for once again portraying the Shakespearean couple in a second NBC movie, marking the first instance of the Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actor and Actress Emmys going to performers from the same program.
Since taking home the inaugural Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actress award at 58, Anderson had ranked as the oldest winner in her category, and she broke her own record with her second win at 64. In the six decades since, the title has been passed twice to actresses in their late 70s, and a total of nine older women now place ahead of Anderson. Additionally, all 10 entrants were previous or future Oscar nominees, with six having triumphed at least once each in the Best Actress category.
Since 1955, a total of 55 actresses have won Emmys for their lead roles on non-continuing programs, beginning with Anderson for the first version of “Macbeth”. Including Anderson, 14 of the winners have pulled off multiple victories.
Check out our photo gallery to find out who ranks ahead of Anderson on the list of 10 oldest Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actress Emmy winners.
10. Judith Anderson (‘Macbeth,’ 1961)
Role: Lady Macbeth
Anderson received two more nominations here for “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (1959) and “Elizabeth the Queen” (1968).
Ingrid Bergman (“Twenty-Four Hours in a Woman’s Life”)
Elizabeth Montgomery (“The Untouchables”)
9. Jessica Lange (‘American Horror Story: Coven,’ 2014)
Role: Fiona Goode
Lange has received seven nominations in this category, three of which were for iterations of “American Horror Story.” Her first of two wins came in 2009 for “Grey Gardens.”
Helena Bonham Carter (“Burton & Taylor”)
Minnie Driver (“Return to Zero”)
Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story: Coven”)
Cicely Tyson (“The Trip to Bountiful”)
Kristen Wiig (“The Spoils of Babylon”)
8. Ingrid Bergman (‘A Woman Called Golda,’ 1982)
Role: Golda Meir
This was Bergman’s second win in this category after bagging a trophy for “The Turn of the Screw” in 1960. It was a posthumous victory, as the 1982 ceremony took place three weeks after her death.
Glenda Jackson (“The Patricia Neal Story”)
Ann Jillian (“Mae West”)
Jean Stapleton (“Eleanor, First Lady of the World”)
Cicely Tyson (“The Marva Collins Story”)
7. Katharine Hepburn (‘Love Among the Ruins,’ 1975)
Role: Jessica Medlicott
This was Hepburn’s second of four nominations in this category. Her other three bids came for “The Glass Menagerie” (1974), “The Corn Is Green” (1979), and “Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry” (1986).
Jill Clayburgh (“Hustling”)
Elizabeth Montgomery (“The Legend of Lizzie Borden”)
Diana Rigg (“In This House of Brede”)
Maureen Stapleton (“Queen of the Stardust Ballroom”)
6. Maggie Smith (‘My House in Umbria,’ 2003)
Role: Emily Delahunty
Prior to this triumph, Smith competed for this award in 1993 for starring in “Suddenly, Last Summer,” and was later recognized for her work in “Capturing Mary” (2010).
Thora Birch (“Homeless to Harvard”)
Helena Bonham Carter (“Live from Baghdad”)
Jessica Lange (“Normal”)
Helen Mirren (“The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone”)
5. Mildred Natwick (‘The Snoop Sisters,’ 1974)
Role: Gwendolyn Snoop Nicholson
This was Natwick’s second and final Emmy nomination. Her first came 17 years earlier in recognition of her supporting performance in “Blithe Spirit.”
Helen Hayes (“The Snoop Sisters”)
Lee Remick (“The Blue Knight”)
4. Bette Davis (‘Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter,’ 1979)
Role: Lucy Mason
This was the first time Davis competed for an acting Emmy. She was also nominated one year later for her lead role in “White Mama” and in 1983 for her supporting turn in “Little Gloria… Happy at Last.”
Carol Burnett (“Friendly Fire”)
Olivia Cole (“Backstairs at the White House”)
Katharine Hepburn (“The Corn Is Green”)
Mary Tyler Moore (“First, You Cry”)
3. Barbara Stanwyck (‘The Thorn Birds,’ 1983)
Role: Mary Carson
Stanwyck won a total of three Emmys throughout her career, the first two of which came for her continuing lead performances on “The Barbara Stanwyck Show” (1961) and “The Big Valley” (1966).
Ann-Margret (“Who Will Love My Children?”)
Rosanna Arquette (“The Executioner’s Song”)
Mariette Hartley (“M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against Drunk Drivers”)
Angela Lansbury (“Little Gloria… Happy at Last”)
2. Lynn Fontanne (‘The Magnificent Yankee,’ 1965)
Role: Fanny Bowditch Holmes
Fontanne was married to Alfred Lunt for 55 years and the two of them enjoyed a professional partnership that mainly consisted of stage appearances. This fourth and final TV collaboration resulted in wins for both of them.
1. Jessica Tandy (‘Foxfire,’ 1988)
Role: Annie Nations
Like Fontanne, Tandy also frequently collaborated on a professional level with her husband of over 50 years. She and Hume Cronyn worked together on over two dozen TV projects and both earned nominations for this “Hallmark Hall of Fame” drama.
Ann Jillian (“The Ann Jillian Story”)
Mary Tyler Moore (“Lincoln”)
Mary Steenburgen (“The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank”)
JoBeth Williams (“Baby M”)