Actress Ellen Albertini Dow, best known for her scene-stealing turn as rapping grandma Rosie in Adam Sandler’s “The Wedding Singer,” has died at age 101. Los Angeles’ Pierce College Theatre Department confirmed news of Dow’s death via Facebook on Monday evening. Dow’s late husband, Eugene, founded the LAPC Theatre Department.
Born November 16, 1913 in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, Dow got a late start on her entertainment career, with her first on-screen credit listed as 1985’s “American Drive-In.” Although she made guest appearances in a number of classic series throughout the ’80s and ’90s — including “The Twilight Zone,” “Moonlighting,” “Newhart,” “Mr. Belvedere,” “The Golden Girls” and “Family Matters” — her breakout role came in 1998’s “Wedding Singer,” in which she gave a memorable performance of “Rapper’s Delight.” A medley of Dow’s version of the song mixed with Sugarhill Gang’s original was included on the film’s soundtrack album, which hit Billboard’s top 5 in 1998.
Dow’s other big screen appearances included “Sister Act” and its sequel “Back in the Habit,” “Patch Adams” and “The Wedding Crashers.” On television, Dow appeared in series as ecletic as “Scrubs,” “Hannah Montana,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Seinfeld,” “Six Feet Under” and “Cold Case,” and was a regular on The WB’s shortlived comedy “Maybe It’s Me” in 2001. Dow continued working through 2013, making appearances on TV shows such as “Shameless,” “New Girl” and “Family Guy” within the last five years.
Dow earned a B.A. and M.A. in theater from Cornell University, moving to New York after graduation to study acting with Michael Shurtleff and Uta Hagen, and dancing with Hanya Holm and Martha Graham. She was also said to have studied mime in Paris with Marcel Marceau and Jacques Lecoq. Before moving in front of the camera, she worked as an acting and dance coach for 30 years, teaching children’s and musical theatre at Pierce College and directing the college’s original production of “The Fantasticks” in the late ’60s, which was remounted in Dow’s honor in the fall of 2014. In 1950 she married Eugene Dow, and they remained together until his death in 2004. The couple had no children, but are survived by numerous nieces and nephews, according to Pierce College.