Attended The University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
In March 1947, Van Fleet appeared with her acting mentors Uta Hagen and Sanford Meisner in Russian playwright Konstantin Simonov's comedy "The Whole World Over." The show closed after 100 performances.
Like fellow 'East of Eden' cast members James Dean and Julie Harris, she was a member of the Actor's Studio. Considered Elia Kazan a significant contributing influence to her success as an actress.
One son, Michael Bales.
Played the role of the Stepmother in the 1965 television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, but was replaced by another (uncredited) actress when the cast album was recorded.
Received the 1954 Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) in a Play for her performance in Horton Foote's "The Trip to Bountiful," in which she co-starred with Lillian Gish and Eva Marie Saint.
She studied drama at HB Studio in Greenwich Village in New York City.
Was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actress (Dramatic) in 1958 for "Look Homeward, Angel."