Pat Carroll, who earned critical acclaim for her work on stage as “the dowry queen of game shows” after many years on television, died Saturday at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She was 95 years old.
His daughter, Keri Karsian, confirmed the death to The Associated Press. He didn’t give the reason.
Carroll ventured into television in the 1950s as a sketch comedian and later became a fixture on “Password,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” and other game shows. She was also frequently seen in sitcoms such as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and dramas such as “Police Woman”. But the one part he took in 1977 at the age of 50 inspired him to change direction.
In a 1979 interview with The New York Times, she recalled being cast as an overly protective mother, Pearl Markowitz, on the short-lived comedy “Busting Lose” and asking herself, “Is it all that’s left – on TV. Playing the role of mothers?”
Rather than sinking comfortably into that stereotype, Carroll provides a bold answer to his own question by commissioning Marty Martin, a young Texas playwright, to write a one-woman play for him about the poet Gertrude Stein.
“Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein” opened Off-Broadway in 1979 and received rave reviews. Carroll won the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards in 1980 for the performance, and in 1981 his recording of the play won a Grammy Award in the “Best Spoken Word” category.
“It was the jewel in my crown,” Carroll said in an interview for this obituary in 2011, recalling how the drama came to be. “I was recently divorced, I had gained a lot of weight and the phone was not ringing. It was not the fault of the agents or the directors or the producers that the phone was not ringing. I thought, ‘I’m responsible for creating some sort of work.’ And I started thinking about people.”
A decade later, Carroll, who is still looking for challenging work, sought out the role of the overweight — and, apparently, male — Falstaff in a production of “The Mary Wives of Windsor” in Washington.
“When Ms. Carroll makes her first entrance,” Frank Rich wrote in the Times, “here at the Shakespeare Theater in Folger a nervous silence descends upon the audience, as hundreds of eyes search for some trace of the woman they have seen. In a thousand television reruns. What they find instead is a falstaff who could have grown out of a formal painted portrait: a bald, aged knight with a scattered tuft of silver hair and a mustache, a huge belly, rosy cheeks and Squinting, frog eyes that peer out through the boozy mist. The view is so terrifying that you hold your seat.”
“One realizes,” Rich continued, “that it is a Shakespearean character, not a Camp parody, that is being served.”
Patricia Ann Carroll was born on May 5, 1927, in Shreveport, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. Her father, Maurice, worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity; Her mother, Katherine (Meagher) Carroll, worked in real estate and office management.
Pat Carroll attended Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles on an English scholarship but left before graduating. In 2011 she said, “I realized that what I was learning was not going to lead to what I wanted to do.” “I always thought that experience is the best preparation.”
In 1947, Carroll left Los Angeles for Plymouth, Massachusetts, where he worked at the Priscilla Beach Theater and, he said, ate, drank and breathed theatre. She made her professional debut that year in “A Goose for the Gander” starring Gloria Swanson. Soon after, she moved to New York, where, among other odd jobs, she shone shoes.
He initially made his mark as a comedian in the early 1950s – first at Le Ruban Bleu, Village Vanguard and other nightclubs, then on television, in “The Red Buttons Show” and other variety series.
She was a regular on the Sid Caesar sketch show “Caesar Hour,” for which she won an Emmy in 1957, and, in the early 1960s, “The Danny Thomas Show,” on which she played the wife of the Thomas character’s manager. ,
Carroll wrote “Catch a Star!” in 1955. It performed the first of its four Broadway productions in 2012, a review written by Neil and Danny Simon. His performance did not win the kind of notices that foreshadowed stage success: for example, Brooks Atkinson of the Times wrote that he did not have “enough bold technique to come alive in the theatre”.
The reaction was different in 1959 when she played Hildy, the bubbly cabdriver who drives a shy sailor on a 24-hour shore vacation to arrive at her apartment with the song “I Can Cook, Too” in the Leonard Bernstein revival. tries to persuade. The Betty Comden-Adolph Greene musical “On the Town” at the Carnegie Hall Playhouse.
Arthur Gelb of the Times wrote, “If there’s one star in the evening, it’s Pat Carroll, a blue-eyed blonde with a talent for deadpan and double takes.”
Carroll’s work at the Folger Theater earned her three Helen Hess Awards: Outstanding Lead Actress for her roles in “The Mary Wives of Windsor” and Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children” and as a nurse in “Romeo”. Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role. and Juliet. ,
Carroll married William Morris agent Lee Carcian in 1955. The couple, who divorced in 1975, had three children together: a son, Sean, who died in 2009, and two daughters, Keri Karsian and Tara Karsian, who were survived by him. Although she spent much of her career on television (where her later work included performances on “ER” and “Designing Women”) and on stage, Carroll also had some memorable roles on the big screen. In 1968 she played Doris Day’s sister in “With Six You Get Aggressive”. In 2000 she played an Appalachian grandmother in “Songcatcher”, a role that earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination and a Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
For many of her film and TV appearances, Carroll went invisible: she provided the voices for several cartoon characters, most notably Ursula, the dreaded sea witch in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in 1989. That role, he once said, “is the one thing in my life I’m probably most proud of.”
“I don’t even care that, after I’m gone, the only thing I’m attached to is Ursula,” she said. “That’s fine with me, because it’s a really amazing character and a really wonderful film that deserves to be remembered.”