Eileen Herlie was born on March 8, 1920 in Glasgow, Scotland. Originally trained as a theater actress, she first began performing on stage, but got her big break in a different format. In 1948, she was cast in the film adaptation of the Shakespeare play Hamlet, where she played Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, despite her being 13 years younger than Laurence Olivier, who played the title role. After this, she continued to appear occasionally on films, devoting most of her time to theater instead. She played roles in the Broadway musicals The Matchmaker (which was later turned into the film Hello Dolly!) in 1955, and Take Me Along in 1960, where she was nominated for a Tony award. She also reprised her role as Gertrude in the 1964 Broadway production, and in the film adaptation that stemmed from it.
Herlie made the jump to daytime television in 1976, when she joined the cast of All My Children. She signed on to play the role of Myrtle Fargate, currently the owner of a clothing store and boarding house in Pine Valley. Initially introduced as a sort of sidekick for Phoebe Wallingford (Ruth Warrick), she later developed into one of the soap’s most loved characters, acting as a motherly figure to many characters. For this role, she received three consecutive Daytime Emmy nominations, from 1984 to 1986.
Herlie has played that same role in several daytime dramas. Myrtle Fargate first appeared outside All My Children in episodes of its sister soap, Loving. She also played the role in the daytime soap One Life to Live, when a crossover storyline between all of ABC’s daytime soaps—All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital and the now defunct Port Charles—was in full swing. She was one of the few actresses to play a single character in several soaps until the late 1990s.