Tracey Ullman

Active - 1984 - 2020  |   Born - Dec 30, 1959 in Slough, Berkshire, England  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

An irrepressible "Jill of All Trades," British actress Tracey Ullman is master of all of them. Winning an arts scholarship at age 12, Ullman worked as a professional dancer with a German ballet company before channelling her energies into musical comedy. For her work in the West End production Four in a Million, Ullman was honored with the London Theatre Critics' award as Most Promising New Actress of 1981. Two years later, she was presented with a British Academy Award for her efforts on BBC Television. While still in her early twenties, she headlined her own British comedy/variety TV series, Three of a Kind, and climbed the pop-music charts with her singles "You Broke My Heart in 17 Places" and "They Don't Know." After an inauspicious film debut in 1984's Give My Regards to Broad Street, Ullman ascended to film stardom in such productions as Plenty (1985), Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986), I Love You to Death (1990), Death Becomes Her (1992), and I'll Do Anything (1994). In 1987, she launched her American TV career with the Fox Network's weekly The Tracey Ullman Show, a superb showcase for her many offbeat characterizations, including mixed-up teen Francesca, selfish yuppie Sara Downey, repressed spinster Kay, and Goodallesque anthropologist Ceci Beckwith. The Tracey Ullman Show not only won the Fox Network its first Emmy nomination, but also spawned the popular cartoon series The Simpsons, which first took shape as a series of between-the-acts animated vignettes. While the show indeed served well to earn the wildly versatile actress a loyal stateside fanbase, it was her 1996 Emmy-winning HBO series Tracey Takes On... that truly allowed Ullman the chance to cut loose in front of the camera. A freewhelling comedy smorgasbord that allowed Ullman the opportunity to tackle a different topic each week, Tracey Takes On... continued to give testament to its star's remarkable knack for character play. Later branching out with roles in such popular television series' as Ally McBeal and Will and Grace, Ullman proved that she was as capable of livening up the material of others as she was of creating her own. Supporting roles in such features as Panic and Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks kept the energetic player busy on the big screen, and in 2004 she would take the lead as an uptight suburban mom transformed into a insatiable sex-addict by a head concussion

in director John Waters' raunchy comedy A Dirty Shame. Voice work in The Cat That Looked LIke a King, Corpse Bride, and Kronk's New Groove found Ullman flexing her vocal chords to impressive effect in late-2004 and early-2005, and after taking a trip to the land of fairytales in the made for television production of Once Upon a Mattress, it was time to step into the role of the mischevous Mother Mature in director Amy Heckerling's 2007 romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman. In 2008 she launched yet another comedy series, Tracey Ullman's State of the Union, and lent her vocal talents to the animated movie The Tale of Despereaux.

Movie Highlights

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  • Began doing comedy routines with her sister to cheer their mother up after their father died.
  • At age 16, she toured in a production of Gigi in Berlin for five months.
  • Joined the Second Generation dance troupe when she returned to England.
  • Appeared in several London theater productions, including Grease and The Rocky Horror Show.
  • Had a successful music career in the UK in the early 1980s, releasing two albums: You Broke My Heart in 17 Places and You Caught Me Out.
  • The video of her 1983 hit single "They Don't Know" featured Paul McCartney.
  • Received royalties from The Simpsons, because the cartoon debuted on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987.
  • An avid knitter, she cowrote the book Knit 2 Together: Patterns and Stories for Serious Knitting Fun (2006).
  • Became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006; holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the UK.
  • Daughter Mabel is involved in politics in the UK.