“Yes, baby, yes,” she murmurs to the animal in one scene. “All these bad people.”
Deanne Frances Dietrich was born on Dec. 4, 1928, in Pittsburgh, the daughter of Mahlon Lloyd Dietrich, an electrician, and Helen (Wilson) Dietrich. After graduating from West View High School, she studied acting at HB Studios and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
She appeared in a variety of Off Broadway productions, among them “The Rimers of Eldritch” (1967), a murder drama by Lanford Wilson, at the Cherry Lane Theater.
What would have been her Broadway debut — “The Freaking Out of Stephanie Blake” (1967), a generation-gap comedy — closed in previews, reportedly because its Hollywood star, Jean Arthur, was ill. Ms. Dietrich’s first official Broadway appearance was also brief: “Here’s Where I Belong,” a musical based on John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” opened and closed on March 3, 1968.
Then her luck changed. Ms. Dietrich played a sensible older sister in Mike Nichols’s Broadway production of Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” (1971). The play, starring Peter Falk and Lee Grant as Manhattanites struggling through a bad economy, ran for almost two years and won two Tony Awards.
Live theater was a long-running facet of Ms. Dietrich’s career. She often told the story of being the understudy for Lillian Roth, who was playing Fanny Brice’s mother, in a national tour of “Funny Girl” in 1965. Ms. Roth made a habit of disappearing shortly before curtain time — or during intermission. Sometimes she came back. Ms. Dietrich learned to make quick costume changes.
In 2005, Ms. Dietrich was a Russian grandmother in “At the Beach House,” a drama by Aram Saroyan, in Los Angeles. Terry Morgan, reviewing the play in Variety, didn’t think much of it but gave at least one cast member solid praise. “Dietrich is quite good as the grandmother, who’s made of tougher stuff than her descendants,” Mr. Morgan wrote, “and her mix of kindness with a hint of steel brings the character to life.”