Art Carney (1918-2003)
Art Carney, who achieved TV stardom as Jackie Gleason's neighbor on The Honeymooners, has died. He was 85. Carney died on Nov. 16 in Chester, Conn. He had been ill for some time.
Carney won seven Emmys, five of them for his portrayal of the hapless sewer worker Ed Norton, whose simple-minded antics caused his neighbor, Ralph Kramden, countless conniptions. Carney's Norton and Gleason's Kramden were one of the greatest duos in TV comedy. Later in his career, Carney won a best actor Oscar for Harry and Tonto (1974), portraying an old man who hits the road with his pet cat. It was Carney's first movie performance as a leading man.
Throughout his career, Carney's greatest association was with sidekick roles, using his considerable talents to spark a wide range of partners, from Gleason to a feline. On Broadway, Carney was the original Felix Unger, and his fussbudget ways paved the way for the TV and film adaptations for The Odd Couple. Carney also won two more Emmys for guest performer in a comedy series for Terrible Joe Morgan and supporting actor in a special for The Cavanaughs.
For his film acting, Carney won the National Society of Films Critics best actor honor for The Late Show and the Venice International Film Festival's best actor award for Going in Style, which he shared with George Burns and Lee Strasberg.
He showed his talents in such offbeat films as W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975), in which he played a fundamentalist preacher and lawman, and The Late Show (1977), in which he played an elderly private eye. Following his Oscar performance, his movie career accelerated with juicy oddball roles in the late 1970s: a senile surgeon in House Calls, a shady doctor in Movie Movie, and one of a threesome of geriatric robbers in Going in Style (1979).
His other films covered a wide range of genres: The Yellow Rolls Royce, A Guide for the Married Man, Won Ton Ton: the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, Take This Job and Shove It, Firestarter, Roadie, Bitter Harvest, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Naked Face. Carney's last movie performance was in The Last Action Hero (1993).
On TV, he most recently starred in the series Lanigan's Rabbi, in the part of a police detective. Carney reunited with Jackie Gleason for the telefilm Izzy and Moe.
Although he was hugely popular for his comedic skills on The Honeymooners, Carney showed his range on high-quality dramatic fare. He performed as a "serious" actor on such programs as Suspense, Kraft Theatre, Studio One, Playhouse 90, and Climax!
On Broadway, he was best-known for his hilarious turns in Neil Simon comedies, namely The Odd Couple and The Prisoner of Second Avenue. He also starred in such shows as The Rope Dancers and Take Her, She's Mine.
Arthur William Matthew Carney was born Nov. 4, 1918, in Mount Vernon, N.Y., son of actor Brian Carney. During high school he developed skills as a tap dancer and vocal impressionist. After graduation he toured for three years with orchestra leader Horace Heidt and performed on Heidt's radio show. His versatile vocal skills, especially his range of dialects, landed him other radio jobs. He worked on such popular radio series as Gangbusters during the 1930s. Carney voiced for The Land of the Lost, a popular children's radio show on the ABC Radio Network during the 1940s. He also voiced for radio soaps and became a popular comic sidekick for such radio luminaries as Fred Allen, Edgar Bergen, and Bert Lahr.
Two of his children, Brian and Barbara, became actors. His brother Fred was an actor and director. In recent years, Carney lived in retirement in Westchester County, N.Y.
Dorothy Loudon (1933-2003)
Broadway star Dorothy Loudon, winner of the 1977 Tony Award for her portrayal of the mean-spirited orphanage manager in Annie, died on Nov. 15 at a New York hospital. She was 70.
Loudon, who lived in New York, had been battling cancer, said her manager and longtime friend, Lionel Larner.
The three-time Tony nominee landed her most famous role as the result of a chance encounter with an old friend, director Mike Nichols, who had taken over as producer of the show. He quickly offered her the role of Miss Hannigan, the nemesis of the show's orphaned star.
Loudon was an instant success, winning the Tony, a Drama Desk Award, and the Outer Critics' Circle Award.
Prior to her success in Annie, Loudon was repeatedly cited as a shining star in a series of Broadway flops, including The Fig Leaves Are Falling, a musical comedy that closed after just four performances, in 1969.
In spite of that show's demise, Loudon received a Drama Desk Award for her performance and was nominated for a Tony as best actress in a musical. She was also nominated in 1979 for her work in Ballroom; in both cases, she lost out to Angela Lansbury.
Loudon later took over for Lansbury in the Broadway hit Sweeney Todd, and she received rave reviews for her 1983 performance as a washed-up television comedienne in Noises Off.
Loudon was born Sept. 17, 1933, in Boston, where her mother taught her to sing. She moved to New York as a teenager and received her big show business break when a nightclub owner made her a featured performer. She developed a lounge act, mixing comedy and singing, and often appeared on The Perry Como Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1962, Loudon made her stage debut in a Jules Feiffer play directed by Nichols. Her Broadway debut came a short time later in the musical comedy Nowhere to Go But Up, which lasted just two weeks but earned her a nod as most promising newcomer in an annual survey.
Loudon is survived by two stepchildren from her marriage to the late Emmy Award-winning composer Norman Paris. The couple was married for six years before his death in 1977.
Dorothy Fay Ritter (1915-2003)
Dorothy Fay Ritter, the mother of late actor John Ritter and star of several B-movie Westerns in the 1930s and '40s, died Nov. 5. She was 88.
The wife of singing cowboy Tex Ritter played opposite Buck Jones, William "Wild Bill" Elliott, and other Western stars. She had a stroke in 1987 and moved to a retirement home two years later.
Born Dorothy Fay Southworth in Prescott, Ariz., Ritter attended the USC and studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
She made four movies with Tex Ritter but gave up show business shortly after they married in 1941. They were living in Nashville when Tex Ritter died in 1974. Dorothy moved back to California in 1981.
Ritter is survived by four grandchildren.
Penny Singleton (1908-2003)
Penny Singleton, who brought the comic strip character Blondie to life in a popular series of films and was the voice of Jane Jetson on The Jetsons, has died. She was 95.
Singleton died on Nov. 12 at Sherman Oaks Hospital, two weeks after suffering a stroke, said longtime friend Dick Sheehan.
The Blondie series, which had 28 films from 1938 to 1950, was based on the cartoon strip about the misadventures of a small town family created by Chic Young in 1930.
Singleton also appeared in the 1964 film The Best Man but spent most of her time touring in nightclubs and roadshows of plays and musicals such as Call Me Madam.
She became active in the American Guild of Variety Artists, the union representing touring performers, chorus girls, and other entertainers. She pushed for union reforms and, as union vice president in the 1960s, helped lead a strike by the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
Singleton was born in 1908—some references say 1909—daughter of a Philadelphia newspaperman. She got her start in show business by winning an amateur contest and was touring in vaudeville by her early teens.
After debuting on Broadway in the late 1920s, she began appearing in films, at first under her real name, Dorothy McNulty. She took the name Singleton after marrying dentist Lawrence Singleton in 1937.
In the mid-'30s she played several roles as shady characters, and got worried she would be typecast.