Actress Doris Belack dies at 85

Appeared in 'One Life to Live,' 'Tootsie'

Actress Doris Belack, who appeared as the original Anna Wolek Craig on “One Life to Live” and recurred as a judge on “Law and Order” during a long career in television, film and onstage, died of natural causes in Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 4. She was 85.

Belack’s feature film credits included “Tootsie,” in which she played the exasperated producer of the soap opera within the movie, and “What About Bob?” She often played professional or authority figures, frequently in comedy.

Her husband, theatrical producer Philip Rose, to whom she was married for 65 years, died just four months ago.

In 1955 she performed with Sidney Poitier on the record “Poetry of the Negro,” produced by Rose. She also appeared on Broadway in plays produced by Rose including “Semi-Detached” in 1960, “The Heroine” in 1963, “Nathan Weinstein, Mystic, Connecticut” in 1966, “The Ninety Day Mistress,” which Rose also directed, in 1967. She was a replacement in the 1974 Terrence McNally twin bill “Bad Habits” and appeared in 1977 in the Rose-produced “The Trip Back Down.”

Off Broadway she starred in “P.S. 193” in 1962 and “Letters Home,” a two-hander in which she played Mrs. Plath to Mary McDonnell’s Sylvia, in 1979;

Belack appeared in an episode of “Treasury Men in Action” in 1951, but her TV career really got going with a 1963 appearance on “East Side/West Side,” a guest role on two episodes of “The Patty Duke Show” and subsequent work in daytime soap operas. She recurred on “One Life to Live” from 1968-77 and also appeared on “The Edge of Night,” “Another World” and “The Doctors.”

Belack appeared in a 1975 episode of “Barney Miller” as Fish’s wife Bernice and had a starring role as a police captain in brief CBS sitcom “Baker’s Dozen” in 1982.

The actress made her feature debut with a leading role in the 1977 family drama “Looking Up,” and she made an impression in 1982’s “Tootsie,” where her performance as a strong female leader echoed and reinforced some of the film’s themes.

Other movies during the 1980s included “Fast Forward,” “*Batteries Not Included,” and “She-Devil.”

On TV she was busy guested on the likes of “Family Ties,” “The Cosby Show,” “Cagney and Lacey,” “Remington Steele” and “The Golden Girls” during this period.

She was a series regular on ABC’s brief 1992 series “Laurie Hill,” and the next year she starred in another brief comedy, CBS’ “Family Album.” Belack played Judge Margaret Barry on 10 episodes of “Law and Order” from 1990-2001 and two episode of “Law and Order: SVU” in 2000-01.

She guested on “Picket Fences,” “Chicago Hope,” “Sisters” and “Ellen,” among other shows, during the ’90s.

Her last TV appearance was in an episode of “Sex and the City” in 2003.

Belack continued her stage work as well. Off Broadway she starred in “Emerald City” in 1988, and she starred on Broadway in “The Cemetery Club” in 1990.In 2002 she starred with Illeana Douglas Off Broadway in “Surviving Grace,” and she made her last stage appearance in 2006 starring in Charles Grodin’s “The Right Kind of People.”

Film work in the 1990s included the comedies “Opportunity Knocks,” “What About Bob?,” “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” and “Krippendorf’s Tribe.” In 1999 she did voicework for “Doug’s 1st Movie” after having done so for the Disney Channel series.

Belack’s last films were “Prime,” with Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep; “Delirious,” with Steve Buscemi; and “Arranged.”

The actress even contributed to videogames, voicing characters in “True Crime: New York City” and, in her final credit, “Grand Theft Auto IV” in 2008.

A joint memorial for Belack and Rose will be held Oct. 17 at noon at the Ambassador Theater. It will be open to the public.

More Scene

  • Laverne Cox Charlie's Angels

    How Laverne Cox Landed a Cameo in Elizabeth Banks' 'Charlie’s Angels'

    Laverne Cox officially earned her wings, scoring a role in Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels.” But she revealed her cameo almost didn’t happen. When the Emmy-nominee heard that Elizabeth Banks was directing the film, the longtime fan of the franchise (and of Banks herself) reached out about being part of the project. Cox had previously worked with [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Cybill ShepherdTrevorLIVE, Show, The Beverly Hilton,

    'The L Word' Co-Stars Cybill Shepherd and Jane Lynch Reunite at TrevorLive

    Fans of Showtime’s “The L Word” will be happy to hear that Cybill Shepherd eagerly reprised her on-screen romance with former co-star Jane Lynch on Sunday night at the TrevorLive Gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. While accepting the champion Award, Shepherd kissed Lynch not one, but twice. The “Moonlighting” star was recognized [...]

  • Rami Malek, Robert Pattinson and John

    Robert Pattinson Praises Fans for Raising Funds for Go Campaign: ‘It’s So Sweet’

    Robert Pattinson is giving back, but he’s even more impressed that his friends and fans are joining him in the fight. “It’s amazing,” Pattinson told Variety on the black carpet outside Neuehouse in Hollywood at the Go Campaign’s annual gala. “And they’ve done it every year. It’s kind of — it’s so sweet and I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content