Elaine Stritch

Active - 1953 - 2018  |   Born - Feb 2, 1925 in Detroit, Michigan, United States  |   Died - Jul 17, 2014   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Straight out of finishing school, American actress Elaine Stritch laid the groundwork for her career by studying drama at New York's New School. Stritch's first stage appearance was in 1944, and her Broadway bow was in 1946. A superlative dramatic actress, Ms. Stritch also excelled in musical comedy, a genre she returned to off and on into the '90s. After her film debut in The Scarlet Hour (1956), Stritch contributed a compelling performance to the 1957 remake of A Farewell to Arms, but wouldn't make another truly worthwhile film (worthwhile to her, that is) until the French-filmed Providence in 1970. On television, Stritch starred in the the pioneering 1948 domestic comedy Growing Paynes, the short-lived 1960 sitcom My Sister Eileen, and costarred as the star's mother in The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986). She was also a member of the supporting comedy troupe on the 1949 TVer Jack Carter and Company, a comic switchboard operator on the bi-weekly 1956 variety series Washington Square, and Peter Falk's secretary on the one-season Trials of O'Brien (1965). In 1972, Ms. Stritch moved to London as a cast member of the Broadway hit Company and remained there to work for several years. In the last decade, Elaine Stritch has appeared in such films as September (1988) and Cocoon (1990), and has won additional critical plaudits for her role as Parthy Hawkes in the lavish 1994 Broadway revival of Show Boat.

Her on-screen work included projects such as Krippendorf's Tribe, Autumn in New York, Screwed, and the working-class musical Romance & Cigarettes. She was part of Jane Fonda's comeback vehicle Monster-In-Law, and in 2012 she lent he voice to the animated family film ParaNorman. She had a recurring role as Colleen Donaghy, Jack's mother, on 30 Rock, which earned her an Emmy Award in 2007. She died in 2014 at age 89.

Movie Highlights

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  • Studied theater with Erwin Piscator at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research in New York City, where fellow students included Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau and Tony Curtis.
  • Briefly dated Brando while they were both at New School, an experience she recounted in her one-woman show.
  • Made her Broadway debut in the 1947 revue Angel in the Wings.
  • Understudied Ethel Merman in 1950's Call Me Madam.
  • Created the role of Joanne in Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical, Company, which included her now-famous rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch."
  • Struggled with alcoholism for years as a way of dealing with her stage fright.
  • Won a 2002 Tony Award for her one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty.  Two years later, she won an Emmy for the same show when it aired on HBO as a documentary.
  • Good friends with gossip columnist Liz Smith; they celebrated their shared birth date together (Stritch was two years younger).