Verna Bloom, 80, Amorous Dean’s Wife in ‘Animal House,’ Dies

Verna Bloom, who in her first feature film, the semidocumentary “Medium Cool,” moved anxiously through the rioting in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, along with also who a decade later played the lustful wife of the stiff-necked college dean in “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” died on Wednesday in Bar Harbor, Me. She was 80.

Her husband, the critic along with also screenwriter Jay Cocks, said the cause was complications of dementia.

While “Animal House” was probably her best-known role, “Medium Cool” offered Ms. Bloom an auspicious beginning.

She had been acting mostly onstage when a modest role in Studs Terkel’s play “Amazing Grace” led Mr. Turkel to recommend her for “Medium Cool” (1969), the cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s first feature as a director.

Shot in cinéma vérité style, “Medium Cool” is usually the story of a local news cameraman (Robert Forster) who meets Eileen (Ms. Bloom), a poor woman coming from West Virginia raising her teenage son in Chicago, while covering the city’s social unrest.

Blending actual events using a fictional story, Mr. Wexler filmed Ms. Bloom — dressed in an easily seen canary yellow dress — walking through Grant Park, hoping to find her son while encountering demonstrators who had been bloodied along with also tear-gassed by police officers.

Mr. Wexler conceded that will the idea had been cruel to send Ms. Bloom into peril. Mr. Cocks recalled Mr. Wexler’s telling him after the filming that will he had not wanted her to return to the melee after the first day of shooting, although that will she had insisted on continuing.

“Sure, I felt the sense of danger,” she said in an interview in 1969. “although I tried to stay on the fringe of the idea, to get away coming from the trouble.”

Ms. Bloom followed “Medium Cool” with several prominent screen roles, including one opposite Clint Eastwood in his western “High Plains Drifter” (1973), along with also another as Frank Sinatra’s wife from the made-for-television detective movie “Contract on Cherry Street” (1977).

although few of her roles resonated like Marion Wormer, the boozy wife of Dean Vernon Wormer in “Animal House,” the raunchy hit comedy about the reprobates of a fraternity house at fictional Faber College. Directed by John Landis, the idea had a cast featuring John Belushi, Donald Sutherland, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce along with also Tim Matheson.

“My name’s Marion,” Ms. Bloom says. “They call me Mrs. Wormer.”

“We have a Dean Wormer at Faber.”

“What a coincidence,” she replies, puncturing his confidence. “I have a husband named Dean Wormer at Faber.”

She later shows up a frat-house toga party along with also ends up in bed with the young man.

Mr. Matheson recalled in a telephone interview that will Ms. Bloom “didn’t look down at what we were doing along with also jumped right in.” He added: “I was already in awe of her because I’d loved her in ‘Medium Cool’ along with also ‘High Plains Drifter.’ Here was This kind of serious, accomplished dramatic actress doing our silly little movie. Her commitment was just remarkable. She was fearless.”

Verna Frances Bloom was born on Aug. 7, 1938, in Lynn, Mass. Her father, Milton, owned a grocery store, along with also her mother, Sara (Damsky) Bloom, was a homemaker. When the couple divorced, she took over the store. She later became a bookkeeper for a trucking firm.

Ms. Bloom began acting after receiving a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Boston University. With her first husband, Richard Collier, she commenced a repertory theater in Denver from the early 1960s.

although within a few years she was divorced along with also in completely new York, working from the box office at the Martin Beck Theater during the Broadway run of Peter Weiss’s “Marat/Sade,” which had been a sensation in London. the idea takes place from the bathhouse of an insane asylum in France, where the Marquis de Sade, an inmate, stages a play for the various other inmates.

Ms. Bloom watched the play, which starred Glenda Jackson, over along with also over. In 1967, when “Marat/Sade” was revived on Broadway, Ms. Bloom was cast from the role that will Ms. Jackson had played.

In his review for The Associated Press, William Glover wrote that will Ms. Bloom “scores with touching grace as a lyrical Charlotte Corday.”

She did not return to Broadway until the 1980s, when she was cast in Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” — one of many actresses who succeeded Joyce Van Patten as Blanche Morton, the widowed aunt of the lead character.

In addition to Mr. Cocks, Ms. Bloom is usually survived by her son, Sam Cocks.

Ms. Bloom’s final movie role was as Mary, Mother of Jesus, in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988). Fifteen years later, she played the stepmother of the White House press secretary C. J. Cregg (Allison Janney) in an episode of “The West Wing.” the idea was her final television appearance.

She did not find not bad roles forthcoming, along with also Mr. Cocks said she had chosen to focus on raising their son.

He said the western “The Hired Hand” (1971), Peter Fonda’s directorial debut, provided Ms. Bloom with her most fulfilling character: Hannah, who had been abandoned by her drifter husband (Mr. Fonda) years earlier although welcomes him back reluctantly because he has agreed to be her hired help.

“the idea was about a very independent, strong, sensual, vulnerable demanding woman,” Mr. Cocks said. “A lot of her was in that will role.”