Thursday, July 14, 2022

Whatever happened to Pat Carroll?

"I think it always went against the female image for a woman to be funny.  But within families everywhere., they talk about Aunt Tilly, who was a hoot, and Grandma Marian will just keep you in stitches.  Woman have a sense of humour, always have had.  In many cases, within families, they've been the only ones to  keep the beacon of laughter alive.  And I just think that the translation to the theatrical profession is not difficult for women, except for the prejudice of people who did not want to see them acting silly  They wanted them to maintain themselves as ladies.  Well, please forgive me, but ladies have a sense of humour as well."

- Pat Carroll, The Let's Visit Show, with David Welsh, September 25, 2011

I've been watching old episodes of Make Room for Daddy (September 1953 to April 1957) on ABC)later known as the Danny Thomas Show (October 1957 to 1964 on CBS).  As a result, I've been feeling curious about several members of the cast {I've already written about the tragic death of Rusty Hamer, who played Danny's son, Rusty Williams, on the show.  In 1990, Rusty died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 42).  The only major cast  members still alive are Sherry Jackson (born February 15, 1942), who played older daughter Terry Williams, Angela Cartwright (born September 9,1952), who played younger daughter Linda Williams, and Pat Carroll, who played Bunny Helper.

To be honest, I wasn't sure whether Pat Carroll was still alive.  I looked her up and discovered that she remains active at the age of 95. She's has worked professionally since 1947 as an award-winning actress, comedian and singer.  

Patricia Ann Carroll was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on May 5, 1927, the daughter of Maurice Clifton Carroll and Kathryn Angela (née Meagher).  When Pat was five years old, the Carroll family moved to Los Angeles and she began performing in local productions.  From 1944 to 1947, Pat attended Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles.  During the years following World War II, she toured with the United States Army as a civilian actress technician.  She also enrolled in Catholic University of America, a private research university in Washington, D.C., where she received a Bachelor's degree in Acting in 1950.

Pat received her first acting credit for her role as Lorelei Crawford in the 1948 film, Hometown Girl.  During the early days of television, she guest starred in anthology series such as Goodyear Playhouse (1951), The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse (1954), Kraft Theatre (1955), General Electric Theater (1959) and The DuPont Show with June Allyson (1959).  She also appeared on The Dennis Day Show (1954), The Mickey Rooney Show (1954) and The Ann Sothern Show (1961).

In 1957, Pat received an Emmy Award for her work on Caesar's Hour, a love hour-long sketch comedy TV show featuring such notables as Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner and Janet Blair.

From 1961 to 1964, Pat appeared in 40 episodes of The Danny Thomas Show.  She played Bunny Helper, the spirited wife of nightclub owner Charlie Helper (Sid Melton).  In a 2014 interview classicshowbiz, here's what she had to say about Sid: "Oh, my darling Sid Melton!  There was another nervous nellie, God bless him!  He had done The Danny Thomas Show long before I ever appeared on the scene.  He was a nervous wreck!  I practically had to hold his hand and pat his brow . . .  But he was fun and he was a good actor and he knew exactly what his place was and played that to the nth degree.  He was a wonderful companion.  He really was.  I always got a kick out of Sid."

Pat Carroll and Sid Melton

In the 1965 television production of Roges and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Pat portrayed Prunella, one of the wicked stepsisters.

Pat Carroll in Cinderella

Pat continued to work in prime time series throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  From 1971 to 1972, she had a recurring role in the Bobby Sherman series Getting Together.  She was a guest star in a 1971 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show entitled "Hi!" (Season 1, Episode 20, Air Date: February 6, 1971).  In the episode, Mary gets her tonsils removed and must share a hospital room with a very grumpy, played by Pat.  In her interview with David Welsh, Pat recounted how some viewers were upset with her for how her character treated Mary's character.

Pat in hospital scene with Mary

In 1971, Pat also appeared in episodes of My Three Sons and The Interns.  In 1976, she was cast as Lily Feeney, mother of Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) on the ABC comedy Laverne and Shirley,  She appeared in an episode of the series entitled "Mother Knows Worst" (Season 1, Episode 15, Air Date: May 18, 1976).

Pat with Cindy Williams on Lavern & Shirley

In 1977, Pat appeared as Pearl Markowitz alongside Adam Arkin in 12 episodes of Busting Loose, a comedy about a 24 year-old-slacker who moves away from home for the first time.  In 1983, she guest starred in an episode of Designing Women.   From 1986 to 1987, Pat had a role as Hope Stinson in 20 episodes of the Ted Knight sitcom Too Close for Comfort.  From 1987 to 1989, she played Gussie Holt in 45 episodes of She's the Sheriff, a comedy starring Suzanne Somers.  

Since the late1980s, Pat has done a great deal of voice work on animated shows such a A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and too Garfield television specials.  In 1989, she provided the voice for the sea witch Ursula in the Disney film The Little Mermaid.  She sang :"Poor Unfortunate Souls" and considers the role to be one of the highlights of her career.

In 2005, Pat made three guest appearances on the medical drama ER as Rebecca Chadwick.  

In 1955, Pat married talent agent Lee Karsian.  The couple had three children - Tara, Kerry and Sean Karsian - and divorced in 1976.  Tara Karsian (born August 5, 1965) is an actress, producer and director. 

More recent photo of Pat


* Pat Carroll is a lifelong Republican and a devout Roman Catholic.

* During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Pat appeared in many variety shows such as The Steve Allen Show, The Red Buttons Show, The Danny Kaye ShowThe Red Skelton Hour and The Carol Burnett Show.  She also appeared on game shows such as The Price is Right, Password and To Tell the Truth.

* In the 1970s, Pat performed in Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, a successful one woman show on the  American novelist, poet and playwright In 1980, she won a Grammy Award (with others) for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording of her Gertrude Stein performance.

* Pat's ex-husband, Lee Karsian, died on June 26, 1991 in Las Vegas Nevada.  He was 66 at the time of his passing.

* Pat's daughter, Tara Karsian, is known for her recent TV roles aa Gayle Burns in The Morning Show (2021) , Chef Bertie on American Horror Story (2019) and Lucille on Review (2014-2017).

Tara Karsian

* Sid Melton, who played Charlie Helper, Pat's husband on The Danny Thomas Show, died on November 3, 2011 at the age of 94.

* Danny Thomas, who played nightclub entertainer Danny Williams on his show, died of a heart attack at his home in Beverly Hills, California on February 6, 1991.  He was 79 at the time of his passing.  

* Jean Hagan played Danny Williams/ first wife, Margaret, from 1953 to 1956.  After three seasons, she left the series.  Her character was killed off rather than recast.  As a result, Danny Williams became a widower and a single father.  Jean Hagan died of esophageal cancer on August 29, 1977.  She was 54.

* Marjorie Lord, who played Danny Thomas' second TV wife, Kathy, from 1957 to 1964, passed away on November 28, 2015.  She was 97 years old.

* Louise Beavers, who played the Williams family's housekeeper, Louise Evans, died on October 26, 1962 at the age of 62.  When she became ill in 1955, Amanda Randolph assumed the role of Louise,  Amanda died of a stroke on August 24, 1967 at the age of 70.

SOURCES classicshowbiz, "Classic Television Showbix: An Interview with Pat Carroll, Part Three" January 1, 2014; Pixie Video: The Let's Visit Show, with David Welsh, September 25, 2011; Wikipedia; Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

- Joanne

UPDATE (July 31, 2020):  Pat Carroll passed away on Saturday, July 30, 2022 at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  She was 95.  Her daughter, Tara, announced on her Facebook page that Pat died of pneumonia.

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