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Alice Ghostley

Updated on June 2, 2016
julieann26 profile image

I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Bio Stats

Born: 14 August 1923 (Eve, Missouri, USA)

Died: 21 September 2007 (Studio City, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Cause of Death: Colon cancer and a series of strokes

Film and Television Appearances: 108+

Years Active: 1951 - 2006

Award Nominations: 5 (2 Wins)

Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971)

as Gertrude Linkmeyer in the episode "Watch the Trains Go By" (season 4)
as Gertrude Linkmeyer in the episode "Watch the Trains Go By" (season 4)

Early Life

Alice Margaret Ghostley was born in 1923 to Harry F. and Edna Muriel Rooney Ghostley. After the death of her father in 1933, her family moved to Henryetta, Oklahoma where she attended high school, graduating in 1941. She studied English and drama at the University of Oklahoma before quitting to join her sister Gladys in New York City.

Performing since the age of five, Alice took drama and singing lessons in New York, working in a variety of jobs such as a waitress, an usher, and a typist in order to pay for them. She also teamed up with Gladys and they performed as The Ghostley Sisters.

Eventually, Ghostley became known for her cabaret appearances as a comedian and singer before being selected to appear on Broadway in 1952.

I knew I didn't look like an ingenue. My nose was too long. I had crooked teeth. I wasn't blond. I knew I looked like a character actress.

— Alice Ghostley

Stage

In 1952, Ghostley made her Broadway debut at the Royale Theatre in New York City in the musical revue New Faces of 1952 produced by Leonard Sillman. She gained considerable notice for her performance of "The Boston Beguine" which became her signature song.

Other Broadway productions she appeared in were Sandhog (1954-1955); All in One (1955); Shangri-La (1956); Livin' the Life (1957); Maybe Tuesday (1958); A Thurber Carnival (1960); The Beauty Part (1962-1963); and Annie (1977-1983).

In 1965 she won a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her role in The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. She had been previously nominated in 1963 for her role in The Beauty Part.

Film

Even though she had been appearing on stage and television shows, Ghostley did not make her film debut until 1962 when she appeared as Stephanie Crawford in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Other films she appeared in were My Six Loves (1963); One Born Every Minute (1967); The Graduate (1967); With Six You Get Eggroll (1968); Viva Max (1969); Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (1973); Gator (1976); Blue Sunshine (1977); Record City (1978); Rabbit Test (1978); Grease (1978); Not For Publication (1984); The Odd Couple II (1998); Palmer's Pick-Up (1999); and Mothers and Daughters (2006).

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

as Stephanie Crawford
as Stephanie Crawford

Television

Ghostley made her debut on television in 1951 in an episode of the TV series Lights Out. She had a regular role in a number of TV shows...

  • Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine (1962-1966) as Agnes (16 episodes)
  • Captain Nice (1967) as Mrs. Nash
  • Bewitched (1964-1972) as Esmeralda (15 episodes)
  • The New Temperatures Rising Show (1972-1974) as Edwina Moffett (7 episodes)
  • Small Wonder (1985-1989) as Ida Mae Brindle (4 episodes)
  • Designing Women (1986-1993) as Bernice Clifton (48 episodes)
  • Evening Shade (1990-1994) as Irna Wallingsford (6 episodes)
  • Passions (1999-2008) as Matilda Matthews (4 episodes)

Some of the Made for Television movies she appeared in were Twelfth Night (1957); Hooray for Love (1960); Two on a Bench (1971); 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (1971); The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (1984); Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer (1990); Izzy's Quest for Olympic Gold (1995); and Addams Family Reunion (1998).

TV shows she guest starred on included The Best of Broadway; The Tom Ewell Show; Car 54, Where Are You?; The United States Steel Hour; Get Smart; The Ghost & Mrs. Muir; Mayberry R.F.D.; Nichols; Love, American Style; Good Times; One Day at a Time; Highway to Heaven; The Golden Girls; Daddy Dearest; Touched by an Angel; Aaahh!! Real Monsters; and Dharma & Greg.

Diagnosis Murder (1993-2002)

as Mrs. Groviak in the episode "You Can Call Me Johnson" (season 2)
as Mrs. Groviak in the episode "You Can Call Me Johnson" (season 2)

Towards the end of her career, Ghostley became a voice actor for episodes of animated TV shows Rugrats, Channel Umptee-3, Hercules and for the film Whispers: An Elephant's Tale (2000).

For her role in Designing Women, she was nominated three times...

  • 1990: Viewers for Quality Television Awards - Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series
  • 1991: Viewers for Quality Television Awards - Specialty Player (Winner)
  • 1992: Primetime Emmy Awards - Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

On 15 May 1992, her hometown of Henryetta proclaimed it "Alice Ghostley Day" and they re-named the high school auditorium in her honour.

She was married in 1951 to Italian-American actor Felice Orlandi. They remained married until his death in 2003. They never had children.

Alice Ghostley died on 21 September 2007 and was later buried next to her sister at Oak Hill Cemetery in Siloam Springs, Benton County, Arkansas.

Cinderella (1957)

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1957 Television Production)
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1957 Television Production)

Alice Ghostley appeared as Stepsister Joy in this TV special.

 

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      Michele O'Farrell 17 months ago

      awesome writeup on these fabulous dramatic artists in theatre and music. well done Julie-ann.