Elsa Raven, a character actress whose memorable turns were highlighted by her role as the “Save The Clock Tower” lady in the original Back to the Future, died Tuesday at home in Los Angeles. Her death was confirmed by her agent, David Shaul.
Raven, whose real name was Elsa Rabinowitz, was born September 21, 1929, in Charleston, SC, the fourth child of Louis and Rosalie Rabinowitz. She started her acting career on stage in New York City, where she also assisted Joseph Papp in bringing the Free Shakespeare Festival to Central Park.
Her career included many character actress roles. Beyond Back to the Future (see her appearance in that film in the video above, starting at 1:36), she also played the realtor who sold the house in The Amityville Horror, John Malkovich’s landlady in In the Line of Fire, Gertrude Stein in The Moderns and the mother who lost her son in Fearless. She also played Ida Strauss in Titanic, in which most of her scenes were cut. But she was featured in the Celine Dion video for “My Heart Will Go On” as half of the older couple in the stateroom where water poured in.
She also had regular TV roles as Inga the Swedish maid on Amen, as Vinnie Terranova’s mother Carlotta on Wiseguy, as Lucille on Days of Our Lives, and as Tugboat Tessie on General Hospital.
She was a proud voting member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, diligently watching many movies every year.
Survivors include 15 nieces and nephews. No memorial plans have been announced.