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Nomadland actress Melissa Yandell Smith has died at 64 following cancer battle


Nomadland actress Melissa Yandell Smith has died at 64 following cancer battle … had spent 25 years in San Francisco theater

  • Actress died at her home in San Francisco surrounded by family and friends
  • Smith appeared in the Oscar-winning 2020 movie with Frances McDormand
  • Her friendship with McDormand traces back to their time at Yale 


Nomadland actress and theater veteran Melissa Yandell Smith has died at the age of 64 from colon cancer.

‘She passed away quietly September 7, 2021 in her home in San Francisco surrounded by her husband, son, brother and friends,’ according to her obituary in The New York Times.

Smith appeared in the Academy Award-winning 2020 movie with Frances McDormand, her longtime confidante and classmate at Yale.

RIP: Nomadland actress and theater veteran Melissa Yandell Smith has died at the age of 64 from colon cancer

She played the role of Dolly, the sister of McDormand’s character in the Chloé Zhao-directed motion picture.

In an exchange in the film, Smith said, ‘You could see me when I was hiding from everybody else. Sometimes you could see me before I saw myself. I needed that in my life.’

She ceased working late last year due to declining health, according to the obit.

Smith had spent 25 years working at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre as conservatory director, the organization said September 23 in announcing her passing.

Smith had spent 25 years working at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre as conservatory director

Smith had spent 25 years working at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre as conservatory director 

Smith appeared in the Academy Award-winning 2020 movie with Frances McDormand, her longtime confidante and classmate at Yale

Smith appeared in the Academy Award-winning 2020 movie with Frances McDormand, her longtime confidante and classmate at Yale

She played the role of Dolly, the sister of McDormand's character in the Chloé Zhao-directed motion picture.

She played the role of Dolly, the sister of McDormand’s character in the Chloé Zhao-directed motion picture.

‘It is with great sorrow that we share that Melissa Smith, longtime Director of the Conservatory, passed away on September 7, 2021,’ the organization said in a statement. ‘Melissa’s impact on A.C.T. and on the American theater is immense.

‘So many have been touched by her talent, generosity, intellect, grace, and wonderful sense of humor. She will be greatly missed.’

Amid her time in the program, she had shaped the organization’s Master of Fine Arts program.

Smith acted in theatrical productions including Blithe Spirit, Continental Divide, Marie and Bruce and Uncle Vanya.

Smith, who was born in Louisville, Kentucky, graduated in 1979 from Yale, where she met her future husband, actor Warren David Keith. The pair have a son named Owen.

She is survived by Keith, Owen and her mother and siblings.

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