Bryan Cranston in a tuxedo at the Oscars.

Bryan Cranston Casually Mentioned His Mother’s “Last Sweet Romance” During the Oscars & I Need to Know That Story

We're gonna need you to back up a bit, Bryan.

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During this year’s Oscars ceremony, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award had two recipients for the first time ever. Tyler Perry received the award for his work helping those both within the film community and outside of it, specifically Black activists and Black people living in Atlanta.

The other recipient of the award was the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF), which was set up a century ago to help people from the entertainment industry who were suffering from economic hardship.

While Viola Davis presented Perry with his award, Bryan Cranston spoke at length about the work being done by the MPTF. During his speech, he said that he had a special, personal connection to the organization: “When my mother, Peggy, a former actress, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the MPTF offered her a caring and loving home for her final years, as well as her last sweet romance.”

At that point, Cranston went on to talk about the other work being done as if we’re just going to let him gloss over that whole “sweet romance” thing. We are not, Bryan! We need to know this story, and we probably need it to be made into a whole movie.

A cursory Google search indicated that Cranston had told this story before, but few details were available. The Wrap wrote up the events from Kirk Douglass’ 100th birthday celebration back in 2016.

“Cranston talked about the time he received a call from an MPTF representative to let him know that his elderly mother had a new boyfriend. She was staying at Harry’s Haven, an Alzheimer’s care unit opened by Kirk and Anne Douglas in 1992,the outlet wrote.

“She said, ‘If you have any concerns or issues, please, I’d be happy to help you with those at this time,’” Cranston recalled. “And I said, ‘I have one very big concern.’ She said ‘What can I do to help?’ I said, ‘What if she gets pregnant?’”

“We laughed. But behind the laughter was a grateful son,” Cranston said. “Because in the last few years of my mother’s life she was able to find companionship and love, and she received the best care I could have hoped for from this facility, and from Harry’s Haven.”

That’s great, but again, we need details!

Finally, I found a video of Cranston talking about this story at the 2019 Women in the World Summit. And it is, as expected, very sweet.

Cranston describes getting a call from the facility, letting him know his mother, who he describes as having always been a “Blanche DuBois” type (“Oh, a man,” he says, fanning himself by way of imitation), had “developed a relationship” with a fellow Alzheimer’s patient named Albert.

“They hit it off,” he said, “and they became romantically involved.”

He goes on to say that what made this especially beautiful is that he’s been told “one of the first impulses to leave you if you have Alzheimer’s is any sense of a libido or attraction or wanting that in your life.”

Cranston was in conversation with Dr. Robbie Brinton, an expert on brain science, and she explained that yes, that can happen—although what she describes really sounds like the opposite effect.

Dr. Brinton explains that early in the disease, one of the first things that can get hit for Alzheimer’s patients are the “cortical cells that are suppressing the emotional system”—what she calls a  sort of “guard” for things like emotional reasoning.

Part of what happens, she says “is that if there is a release of that suppression, then a lot of emotions can be released, some of them lovely, some of them–”

“Oh, they were released alright,” Cranston interjects. He says that the nurse practitioner informed him that his mother and Albert had “consummated” their relationship, though he smartly didn’t ask how she could know that.

He says that Peggy and Albert’s relationship was a bit like Groundhog’s Day, where they woke up and had a sort of familiarity with each other but basically had to rekindle their romance and redevelop their intimacy over and over—basically an elderly, dual-sided 50 First Dates.

Cranston says that this whole escapade gave him joy as well as hope: “I thought, there’s some aspect of real humanity that my mother is still feeling, that she welcomes and that she enjoys. And I was thrilled that that was the case, that she had a paramour at 80 years old and they were enrapt with each other.”

So yes, I’m going to go back to my original point that we definitely need this to be a movie.

(image: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Bryan Cranston)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.