Sheree North, who aged gracefully from a platinum blond bombshell in the 1950s to older character roles in television productions including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Seinfeld,” died Friday of complication from surgery in Los Angeles. She was 72.
North initially was groomed as a glamor girl who could substitute for the often unreliable Marilyn Monroe, and did in fact replace Monroe in the 1955 film “How to Be Very, Very Popular.”
Her breakout role, which she got after an agent saw her dancing at a Santa Monica nightclub, came in the Broadway musical “Hazel Flagg.” She won a Theatre World award for that performance and repeated i t in “Living It Up,” the 1954 Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis musical comedy film version of the stage show.
She achieved leading lady status after getting rave reviews in the first episode of “The Bing Crosby Show” that same year.
She appeared in such popular stage musicals as “Can-Can” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” and in 2000 played the Southern belle Amanda in a production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” at the Laguna Playhouse.
Her decades-long film career included performances in “The Outfit” with Robert Duvall in 1973, “The Shootist” starring John Wayne in 1976 and “Defenseless” in 1991 with Barbara Hershey and Sam Shepard.
She earned Emmy Award nominations for appearances on “Marcus Welby, M.D.” and “Archie Bunker’s Place.”
North became part of television history in 1974 on the 100th episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” when Ed Asner’s character Lou Grant fell for her as a saloon singer with a past. She made guest appearances dozens of shows, including “Gunsmoke,” “Kojak” and “The Golden Girls.”
More recently, she had a recurring role in “Seinfeld” as Kramer’s mother, Babs.
She is survived by her husband, Philip Norman, two daughters a grandchild, her step-daughter Jessica Youd, and Youd’s three sons.