Shannon Wilcox, Actress in ‘Songwriter,’ ‘Six Weeks’ and ‘Dallas,’ Dies at 80

Shannon Wilcox, Actress in ‘Songwriter,’ ‘Six Weeks’ and ‘Dallas,’ Dies at 80

Shannon Wilcox, a character actress who appeared alongside Willie Nelson in Songwriter, with Dudley Moore in Six Weeks and opposite Al Pacino in Frankie and Johnny, has died. She was 80.

Wilcox died Sept. 2 in Los Angeles, her daughter, actress-director Kelli Williams — she played attorney Lindsay Dole on The Practice — told The Hollywood Reporter.

A life member of The Actors Studio, Wilcox also portrayed the mother of Elisabeth Shue’s Ali Mills in John G. Avildsen’s The Karate Kid (1994) and worked in many other notable films, among them Tony Richardson’s The Border (1982), Ivan Reitman’s Legal Eagles (1986), Mark Rydell’s For the Boys (1991) and David Fincher’s Seven (1995).

Related Stories

Wilcox was the resigned ex-wife of Nelson’s Doc Jenkins in Alan Rudolph’s Songwriter (1984) and the wife of a California politician (Moore) caught up with a woman (Mary Tyler Moore) and her sickly child (Katherine Healy) in Tony Bill’s Six Weeks (1982). And in Garry Marshall’s Frankie and Johnny (1991), she played a prostitute hired by Pacino’s lonely character to spend the night.

Marshall would keep her busy over the years, also putting her in Exit to Eden (1994), Dear God (1996), The Other Sister (1999), Runaway Bride (1999), The Princess Diaries (2001) and its 2004 sequel and Raising Helen (2004).

Born Mary Kay Wilcox in Ohio, she was raised on a farm in Indiana with her siblings, Bob, Caudie and Janny. She attended high school and college in Boulder, Colorado, before moving to Paris to become a dancer. She ultimately settled in Los Angeles and started her career as an actress.

Wilcox made her onscreen debut on a 1976 episode of Starsky & Hutch and appeared on such other shows as Kaz, Hawaii Five-O, Family and Hart to Hart before landing her first movie, the Mac Davis-starring Cheaper to Keep Her (1980).

In 1981, she was among the inaugural group of actors and filmmakers invited by Sydney Pollack to study at the Sundance Institute.

She portrayed the ex-wife of a Texas surgeon played by Dennis Weaver — she still loves him but had to leave him because he was just too focused on his work — on the 1987-88 ABC drama Buck James, but that show lasted just 19 episodes.

Willie Nelson and Shannon Wilcox in SONGWRITER, 1984.

Shannon Wilcox with Willie Nelson in the 1984 film ‘Songwriter’

TriStar Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

On Dallas in 1990, she recurred on the two-part finale of the 13th season and on the first three episodes of the 14th season in a continuing story arc that had J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) stuck in a psychiatric hospital.

Wilcox also appeared on episodes of Remington Steele, Cagney & Lacey, Magnum, P.I., L.A. Law, NCIS: Los Angeles and Grey’s Anatomy and in films including Hollywood Harry (1986) and There Goes My Baby (1994).

She and Williams played mother and daughter on the 2004 Hallmark Channel telefilm A Boyfriend for Christmas.

Wilcox “was quick to laugh, lit up every room she entered and loved traveling and making friends all over the world,” her daughter said. “She spoke French, Spanish and Italian. One of her greatest passions was dancing tango and salsa, which she continued to do beautifully well into her 70s. Her dance card was always full.”

Wilcox was married to plastic surgeon John Williams from 1965 until their 1984 divorce and to Godfather actor and Emmy winner Alex Rocco from 2005 until his July 2015 death at age 79.

In addition to her daughter and brother, survivors include her son, Sean Doyle, a writer and producer, and grandchildren Kiran, Sarame and Ravi. A private celebration of life is being held in her honor this month.