Mary Kay Place

Active - 1972 - 2021  |   Born - Sep 23, 1947 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

University of Tulsa graduate Mary Kay Place hightailed it to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a writer and performer of comedy material. She was hired for 1970s The Tim Conway Comedy Hour as a production assistant to both star Conway and producer Norman Lear. It was Conway who gave her her first on-camera break, while Lear saw to it that Place received her first writing credit on his subsequent All in the Family. Lear displayed her to even better advantage in the role of senseless, tactless, and eminently lovable would-be C&W star Loretta Haggers on the satirical soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976-1977). She won an Emmy for her work as Loretta, and was later nominated for a Grammy for her spin-off musical album, Tonight! At the Capri Lounge...Loretta Haggers. She wrote scripts for such TV sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis, and MASH, usually in collaboration with her professional partner (and future Designing Women producer), Linda Bloodworth. In films since 1976's Bound for Glory, Place has only occasionally been given a chance to shine on the big screen; the best of her movie roles include the washout nightclub singer who briefly replaces Liza Minnelli in New York, New York (1976), and the reconstituted "child of the '60s" who eagerly volunteers for surrogate motherhood in The Big Chill (1983). Place then continued to work on a variety of projects throughout the 80's and 90's, playing family friend Camille Chersky on the tragically-cancelled dramatic series My So-Called Life, and directing episodes of TV shows like Friends and Arli$$. With the new millennium, Place turned once again towards the big screen, enjoying appearances in films like Being John Malkovich and Girl, Interrupted, but she continued to work in TV as well, with a recurring role on the Showtime series Big Love -- which earned her an Ammy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress on a Drama Series in 2010.

Movie Highlights

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  • First job in Hollywood was as a production assistant for Tim Conway, which led to a secretarial job with Norman Lear typing Maude scripts.
  • Teamed with friend Linda Bloodworth (who later created Designing Women) to write sitcom scripts, including Friends and Lovers and M*A*S*H; received first Emmy nomination for writing M*A*S*H episode "Hot Lips and Empty Arms."
  • Big acting break came when Lear put her on All in the Family as Gloria's friend and sang the self-penned protest song "If Communism Comes Knocking on Your Door, Don't Answer It."
  • Lear later cast her as country singer Loretta Haggers on the cult soap spoof Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, for which she won a supporting actress Emmy.
  • Wrote more than 70 songs for her Haggers character and recorded the Grammy-nominated Tonite! At the Capri Lounge, Loretta Haggers in character.
  • Film debut was in 1976's Bound for Glory; first major role was in Martin Scorsese's New York, New York; most memorable screen part was as a single woman trying to get pregnant in The Big Chill.
  • While still enjoying a successful acting career, carved out a secondary career as a sitcom director on Baby Boom, Dream On, Friends and Arli$$.