Mary Ellen Trainor was always that one woman who seemed to just pop up in every great movie in the 80’s, but we seemed to never remember (or even know) her name despite always giving solid performances alongside names like Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Mel Gibson. Unfortunately, today she has passed away from pancreatic cancer but not without leaving a ridiculously amazing career behind that includes roles in cult classics like Die Hard, The Goonies, the Lethal Weapon franchise, The Monster Squad, Back to the Future II and Death Becomes her. And that’s just to name a few.
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Trainor seen in Death Becomes Her, Ghostbusters II and as one of the officers taking a blacked out Lorraine home in Back to the Future II. Awesome.
After appearing as a guest star for Cheers in 1983, Trainor landed her first feature film for the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner thrill ride Romancing The Stone, which was also Robert Zemeckis’ first film. Stone is infamous for being the film that helped Zemeckis receive funding for a weird little movie he had been trying to create, but once Stone proved to be a success, Zemeckis could make his dream script titled Back to the Future. Regardless, Zemeckis’ success also led to a huge boost for Trainor’s career since she had already wed Zemeckis in 1980.
Zemeckis had frequent collaborators in director Richard Donner, Steven Spielberg and producer Joel Silver which is what led to such an impressive career. She had the perfect look to play anyone from a simple mom in The Goonies to a psychiatrist in Lethal Weapon to a news anchor in Die Hard. She would later appear in a few roles in the 90’s until pancreatic cancer was discovered, leaving Trainor to call it quits after a few movies in the 2000’s including Freaky Friday and Moonlight Mile co-starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman.
One of my favorite pieces from her career however (and possibly the only time she played the lead) was in the classic Tales from the Crypt episode “And All Through The House” where she plays a murderous wife who must hide from an escaped mental patient dressed as Santa Clause. So good.
Originally from San Francisco before she moved to Los Angeles in 1980, Trainor studied broadcast journalism at San Diego State University where she befriended eventual Spielberg collaborator/producer Kathleen Kennedy. She found her calling in acting and movie buffs everywhere are glad she did. She’s been in more cult classics than one could ever dream of.
Thank you, Mary Trainor for your work. Rest in peace.