Sally Struthers

Active - 1970 - 2016  |   Born - Jul 28, 1948 in Portland, Oregon, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The daughter of a Portland doctor, Sally Ann Struthers left home at 18, determined to become a star. The 5' 1", frizzy-haired Ms. Struthers attended classes at the Pasadena Playhouse, then worked as a singer, dancer and commercial actress before the breaks began arriving in rapid succession in 1970. By the end of that year, she had been seen on TV as a comedy-ensemble player on The Smothers Brother Comedy Hour and a chorus girl (in fact, the only chorus girl) on The Tim Conway Comedy Hour; she'd played a small but attention-grabbing role in the Jack Nicholson film Five Easy Pieces; and she'd provided the voice for Pebbles Flintstone on the animated Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show. Oh, before we forget: also in 1970, Struthers was cast as Gloria Bunker Stivic on the groundbreaking TV sitcom All in the Family. During her seven-season stint as Gloria, she shared a 1972 "Best Supporting Actress" Emmy with The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Valerie Harper. She also took time out to deliver an image-busting performance as the sluttish wife of kidnap victim Jack Dodson in Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway (1972), and to star in such made-for-TV films as Aloha Means Goodbye (1974), Hey, I'm Alive (1975) and The Great Houdinis (1976). In 1975, Struthers very nearly walked off All in the Family over a much-publicized salary dispute; she left the series when her contract ended in 1978, returning briefly to appear in an episode titled "California Here We Are"--and winning a second Emmy as a result. Though big things were predicted for Struthers, her post-Family years were rough. Her TV-movie appearances began playing to ever-diminishing ratings, while her highly touted 1981 Broadway debut in Wally's Café was a bust. It was a frightened, insecure Sally Struthers who returned to series television in 1982 as the star of Gloria, an All in the Family spin-off which recast the actress in the role that made her famous. Despite initially good ratings, Gloria tanked after a year. After another foredoomed Broadway appearance in a female version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, Sally accepted the role of klutzy divorcee Marsha McMurray Shrimpton in the 1986 syndicated sitcom 9 to 5. Around this same time, Struthers began showing up as the TV spokesperson for a charitable organization serving malnourished Third-World children. While none could doubt the actress' sincerity, her strident, lachrymose fund-raising appeals were treated with merciless derision by the many sketch-comedy TV series of the period. Though her career may never again reach the heights of her All in the Family days, Sally Struthers has kept busy in a variety of show-business ventures, including voiceover assignments on such series as Talespin and Dinosaurs, and a recent touring production of the musical Grease, in which she co-starred with another TV favorite of yore, The Monkees' Davy Jones.

Movie Highlights

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  • Landed her first big TV gig as a dancer alongside Goldie Hawn on a Herb Alpert variety show.
  • Had a small but memorable role opposite Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, in which she appeared half-naked.
  • Briefly sang with the Spike Jones Jr. Band.
  • Breakthrough role as Gloria on All in the Family was initially awarded to Candace Azzara, who was replaced after the pilot.
  • Began appearing in Christian Children's Fund TV programs in 1976.
  • Made her Broadway debut in a 1981 production of Wally's Cafe.
  • Starred alongside Rita Moreno in a 1985 stage production of The Odd Couple that featured women in the lead roles.