Actress Margaret Whitton, best known for her role as Rachel Phelps in Major League, died peacefully at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday. She was 67. Whitton’s husband, Warren Spector, told the New York Times that the cause of death was cancer.
Whitton was an accomplished actress, director, and producer, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, she had been developing projects up until a few months ago. In a statement to EW, her producing partner, Steven Tabakin, said, “As you might imagine, Margaret faced her illness with all the grace and wit she brought to every facet of her life.”
Whitton was born in November 1949 in Meade, Maryland. According to the New York Times, her father was an Army colonel, and her mother worked as a nurse. Whitton spent part of her childhood in Japan before moving back to the US and attending high school in Fort Lauderdale.
The Maryland native’s acting career began onstage, in an off-Broadway production of Baby Goya. Her Broadway debut came nine years later, in the play Steaming. During her time in the New York theater circuit, Whitton became a regular actor in Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival, and appeared in plays like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Tempest, Henry IV, and Merry Wives of Windsor. Her film career began in 1989, with the baseball comedy Major League. In the movie, Whitton plays the unforgettable antagonist Rachel Phelps, a seductive showgirl who inherits the Cleveland Indians and uses villainous methods to run the team into the ground.
In the 1990s, Whitton decided to focus her talents on directing. In 2011, she made her feature film debut with A Bird of the Air, based on the novel The Loop by Joe Coomer. In a 2011 interview, Whitton discussed the film, and what it was like working with a script that had been adapted from a book. “One of the things I was attracted to with The Loop was that I didn’t know where the story was going and I loved its curves and turns and twists. It feels like life to me.” At the time of her death, she served as president of an independent film company called Tashtego Films.
Whitton is survived by her husband, sisters, and brothers.