Ellen Albertini Dow, whose memorable take on “Rapper’s Delight” stole the show in the 1998 Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer — and whose screen career started in her 70s — died today. She was 101. Her longtime manager Juliet Green confirmed the actress’ death to Deadline but offered no details.
Albertini Dow studied acting with Michael Shurtleff and Uta Hagen in NYC, worked with mimes Marcel Marceau and Jacques LeCog in Paris and played the Borscht Belt as part of a comedy act before moving west to teach in the drama department at Los Angeles City College. The Pennsylvania native later transferred to Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley, where her husband Eugene Dow launched the theater department where they both taught. Albertini Dow retired from teaching in 1985 and went on to study acting at the American Film Institute.
She landed a role on the ’80s iteration of The Twilight Zone and during the next decade appeared in films including My Blue Heaven and the Sister Act pics and on such classic TV series as Moonlighting, Murphy Brown, The Golden Girls, The Wonder Years, Star Trek: The Next Generation, ER and Seinfeld.
But she likely is best remembered as the gesticulating singer-turned-rapper in the pink shawl in The Wedding Singer. Her peppy and uninhibited version of “Rapper’s Delight” was on the first of the film’s two soundtrack albums; it’s the only remade track on either record whose film version was used — the others being by the original artists. The album, which made the Billboard Top 5 and went double platinum, featured a medley of her take alongside Sugarhill Gang’s classic original. Watch a clip below. Albertini Dow also performed a sweet version of “Till There Was You” in Wedding Singer.
Born on November 16, 1913, in Mount Carmel, PA, she continued to work throughout the new century, appearing as recently as two years ago on New Girl and on Family Guy (2012) and Shameless (2011). She also was a regular on early-’00s WB comedy Maybe It’s Me. Other credits since Wedding Singer include Cold Case, Hannah Montana, My Name Is Earl, Scrubs, Six Feet Under and such features as Wedding Crashers and Sandler’s toon musical Eight Crazy Nights.
“Ellen had a huge heart and loved making everyone laugh and smile,” her agent Michael Greene told Deadline. “We will miss her greatly, and we will always remember her for the laughter she brought us all.”