The woman who Barbara Hershey's character was based on in the 1984 movie “The Natural” has died, according to a March 17 report by the Associated Press. Hershey brought baseball groupie Ruth Ann Steinhagen to life in the popular Robert Redford movie about a baseball player whose Major League career hits a major snag when he gets shot by an obsessed female fan.
The object of Ruth Ann Steinhagen’s obsession was Eddie Waitkus, the Chicago Cubs' handsome first baseman. In 1949, she lured him into a hotel room and shot him in the chest with a rifle. Waitkus survived and continued to play ball while Steinhagen only served three months in a mental institution for her crime. According to The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, she passed away of natural causes on Dec. 29 at the age of 83 after fading into obscurity.
Barbara Hershey’s character in “The Natural” was sensationalized quite a bit. Her name was changed to Harriet Bird, and she became a serial killer who takes the lives of two rising athletes before shooting Robert Redford’s character. She also commits suicide by jumping out of a window after she tries to take his life.
Most recently Hershey has starred as a fantasy character in the TV series “Once Upon a Time” -- she plays a sorceress obsessed with gaining power in a fairy tale world. However, the actress has played plenty of other characters based on real people. She portrayed the wife of famous test pilot Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff,” and she starred as a suburban housewife accused of being an ax murderer in the TV movie “A Killing in a Small Town.” It was based on the true story of a Wylie, Texas housewife named Candy Montgomery who was accused of brutally killing another woman after having an affair with the victim’s husband.
Her movie “A World Apart” was based on anti-apartheid activist Ruth First, and she played the first wife of actor Errol Flynn in the autobiographical film “My Wicked, Wicked Ways.”
Hershey really seems to enjoy playing real-life people in TV movies, because she hasn’t stopped signing on for such roles. Just last year she starred in the Lifetime movie “Left to Die,” which is based on the true story of a woman who gets imprisoned in Ecuador after being falsely accused of drug smuggling.
But "The Entity" is definitely one of Hershey's strangest movies that's supposedly based on a true story -- she plays a woman who gets raped by a ghost.
However, because of the movie’s powerful ending and the way it sensationalized an already-sensational story, she’ll have a hard time finding a project based on a true story that beats “The Natural.”