Irene Ryan

Active - 1941 - 1966  |   Born - Oct 17, 1902   |   Died - Apr 26, 1973   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Drama

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For as long as she could remember, Irene Ryan was performing on some stage or other. From the 1920s onward, she and her husband Timothy Ryan formed the popular vaudeville duo Tim and Irene. They carried over their song, dance and snappy patter into a brief series of two-reel comedies and several radio programs. During her first burst of filmmaking activity in the 1940s, Ryan played comedy relief parts in a number of B pictures scripted by her husband. Her standard characterization at this time was the traditional wisecracking, man-hungry spinster. During and after her divorce, Ryan continued accepting roles of varying sizes in such pictures as Woman on the Beach (1948), My Dear Secretary (1948), Mighty Joe Young (1949), Bonzo Goes to College (1952) and Blackbeard the Pirate (1952). By the early 1960s, Ryan was (as she would later cheerfully admit) pretty much washed up in show business. All this changed when she was invited to audition for an upcoming sitcom about a family of mountaineers who suddenly come into a fortune. Ryan read one single line and was hired on the spot: she played Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies from 1962 through 1971, never missing an opportunity to express gratitude for her involvement in so popular a project. No sooner had Hillbillies folded than Irene Ryan was cast in a show-stopping role in the 1971 Broadway musical Pippin, scoring yet another personal success--which, sadly, turned out to be her last.

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