Odd Couple actress Carole Shelley died Friday from cancer at her home in Manhattan. She was 79.
Born in London, Shelley was a star of stage and screen. She made her Broadway debut in 1965 in the original cast of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. In 1975, she received a Tony Award nomination for her role in Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular. In 1979, she received another nomination and a win for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in the original company of The Elephant Man.
Shelley went on to reprise her role of Gwendolyn Pigeon in the film and TV series adaptation of The Odd Couple. She and Monica Evans are the only two actors to appear in all three major iterations of Simon’s play as the same characters.
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Shelley’s award streak would continue as she won an Obie Award in 1982 for her work in the Off-Broadway production of James Lapine’s Twelve Dreams and received a Tony nod for her role in Stepping Out.
It wasn’t until the late ’90s when she expanded her talent to the world of stage musicals, replacing Elaine Stritch as Parthy in Show Boat. In 1998, she stepped into the role of Fraulein Schneider in the Cabaret revival. She played the character of Madame Morrible in the original Broadway cast of Wicked in 2003 before opening Billy Elliot The Musical in 2008 where she played the Grandma, a role which earned her a fourth Tony nomination. Her final bow on Broadway was in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
In addition to her role in the film and TV adaptation of The Odd Couple Shelley lent her voice talents to numerous animated Disney films including The Aristocats in 1970, Robin Hood in 1973, as well as Hercules in 1997. Her credits spanned across the decades and included The Boston Strangler in 1968, The Super in1991 as well as 1994’s Quiz Show and The Road to Wellville. In 2005 she starred opposite Nicole Kidman and her Broadway peer Kristin Chenoweth in the 2005 movie adaptation of the classic sitcom Bewitched. On the TV side, she appeared on All My Children, The Avengers, The Cosby Show, Frasier, and Law and Order: SVU.
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