Verna Bloom, Dean Wormer’s Wife in ‘Animal House,’ Dies at 80
Verna Bloom, the actress who played Marion, Dean Wormer’s wife in Animal House, has died at age 80.
The family stated that the cause of death was complications from dementia.
Bloom was born in Lynn, Mass., in 1938. Her professional acting career began in the '60s, when she starred in the Broadway revival of Marat/Sade. Shortly afterward, she made her film debut in Medium Cool (1969). Her performance in that movie earned nominations for both best lead and best supporting actress by the National Society of Film Critics. Still, it was her role in the 1978 comedy Animal House that caught the attention of the movie-going public.
"It's my first comedy part — ever,” the actress would say about the role. "I have friends who are directors who tell me I'm the funniest woman in the world, but never give me a comedy role.”
Director John Landis would give her the opportunity to delve into comedy, and she responded with a memorable turn as the drunken, philandering wife of the movie’s antagonist. Bloom described the character as "stuck in the rut of college life in a small town with a boring guy."
While shopping for vegetables, Marion meets Eric “Otter” Stratton, the Delta fraternity’s No. 1 stud (played by Tim Matheson). The two go on to have an affair, much to the chagrin of her buttoned-up, college dean husband. Bloom explained that her character was drawn to the Delta fraternity because "they share a spirit of fun — the Delta spirit. These guys are totally outrageous.”
Though Animal House may be Bloom’s most recognizable role, the actress had a long and steady career that included work with some of Hollywood’s biggest names. She appeared in two films alongside Clint Eastwood, High Plains Drifter (1973) and Honkytonk Man (1982).
Bloom also starred as Jesus' mother Mary in Martin Scorsese's 1988 movie The Last Temptation of Christ. The actress forged a friendship with the director early in his career, and appeared in two of his other films, Street Scenes (from 1970) and 1985's After Hours.
Her final acting appearance was on a 2003 episode of the TV show The West Wing. Bloom is survived by her husband of 49 years, screenwriter Jay Cocks, and her son Sam.