×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Elaine Stritch, Acerbic Tony and Emmy Winner, Dies at 89

Actress Elaine Stritch, star of Broadway hits including “Elaine Stritch at Liberty” and “Show Boat,” who was nominated for multiple Tonys and Emmys, winning three of the latter, has died. She was 89.

Stritch, an atypical star of stage and screen known for her association with Stephen Sondheim, quickly gained a reputation for the worldly, acerbic wit that often defined her characters. In her one-woman show “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” Stritch talked candidly about battling the bottle and her colorful, albeit destructive, love life. Her role as the drunk yet lucid Claire in “A Delicate Balance” earned her a 1996 Tony nomination for best actress. Roles in “Bus Stop,” “Sail Away” and “Company” snagged her three other noms while “Elaine Stritch at Liberty” won her the 2002 award for special theatrical event.

SEE ALSO: Elaine Stritch’s Career in Pictures

On television, Stritch was memorable late in her career for her recurring role on NBC’s “30 Rock” as the crusty, goofy mother to Alec Baldwin’s character, drawing five nominations for the role and winning in 2007. She was also impressive as a fierce but notably ethical defense attorney on two episodes of “Law & Order,” winning an Emmy for the role in 1993. A P.A. Pennebaker documentary of her “At Liberty” stage show won several Emmys in 2004, including for her the award for outstanding individual performance in a variety program.

Stritch did not restrict her candor to the stage, once telling Variety’s Army Archerd that she “flipped over Rock Hudson — and we all know what a bum decision that turned out to be,” referring to her failed romance with the closeted actor. These gritty, honest revelations contributed to the unique style Stritch brought to her work.

SEE ALSO: Hollywood Reacts to Elaine Stritch’s Death on Twitter

Born in Detroit, Stritch ironically attended finishing school before landing the abrasive, tough-as-nails roles for which she became known. She studied acting at the New School’s Dramatic Workshop with Marlon Brando and once said of performing: “There are a lot of things I do that I don’t want to, but I have to. It’s truly an emotional need for me to perform.” This necessity was reflected in her career, which spanned several decades and two oceans, leading her to stages in London’s West End and dozens of appearances on the small and silver screen.

On TV, she racked up credits in the episodic anthologies of the 1950s, appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” starred in a TV series version of “My Sister Eileen” in 1960-61, starred in the U.K. sitcom “Two’s Company” in the late ’70s and had a role on “The Ellen Burstyn Show” in 1986-87; she also recurred on “The Cosby Show.”

SEE ALSO: Elaine Stritch’s Last Interview with Variety

Film credits include the 1957 film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” Woody Allen’s 1987 film “September,” the Robin Williams comedy “Cadillac Man,” Allen’s “Small Time Crooks” and romancer “Autumn in New York.”

Stritch made her stage debut at New York’s New School in 1944. The actress understudied Ethel Merman for “Call Me Madam” while simultaneously appearing in the 1952 revival of “Pal Joey”; later she starred in the national tour of “Call Me Madam.”

Her professional relationship with Sondheim lasted decades. She made famous Sondheim’s sneeringly witty tune “The Ladies Who Lunch” in 1970’s “Company,” sang his enduring “I’m Still Here” in her 2002 solo show and performed in a 2010 revue of his tunes called “At Home at the Carlyle: Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time.” The actress appeared in Garth Drabinsky’s smash hit “Show Boat” in 1994 and in Edward Albee’s play “A Delicate Balance” in 1996.

In 2010 Stritch replaced Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt in “A Little Night Music” on Broadway.

The actress was profiled in the 2013 feature documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” (photo above), directed by Chiemi Karasawa.

More Legit

  • Sutton Foster

    Sutton Foster Starring Opposite Hugh Jackman in Broadway's 'The Music Man'

    “The Music Man” has found its Marian, the librarian. Sutton Foster, the two-time Tony Award winner, will star opposite Hugh Jackman in the upcoming revival of “The Music Man.” She will play Marian Paroo, a small-town librarian who is initially immune to Professor Harold Hill’s charms. It’s a role that was previously performed by the [...]

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content