Pat Carroll, the Emmy-winning gregarious comedian who was a TV mainstay for decades before embarking on a voice-over career that included portraying the Wicked Sea Witch Ursula in The little Mermaid, is dead. She was 95 years old.
Carroll died Saturday of pneumonia at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, her daughter Kerry Karsian said. The Hollywood Reporter.
Carroll’s perky personality, twisted wit and impeccable timing made him an excellent second banana, and Red Buttons, Jimmy During, Mickey Rooney, Steve Allen and Charley Weaver are among those who have called on her to make their programs funnier. His antics on Caesar’s hour won her an Emmy in 1957 and she was nominated for her work on the classic variety show the following year.
In a 2013 interview with Kliph NesteroffCarroll compared Howard Morris, Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar on Caesar’s hour to the legendary Chicago Cubs double-play combination from Tinkers to Evers to Chance.
“I learned so much about acting watching these three work together. It was foolproof,” Carroll said. “They worked together for so long that they had this innate sense of each other’s timing. It was impossible for them to grope. We did two shows every Saturday night because one was for the west coast and the other was for the east coast. If they totally abhorred a skit they were doing, these three would sit in Sid’s dressing room with the writers and write a whole new skit. Yes, amazing.
For the next two decades, the bubbly blonde always seemed to pop up on TV.
Carroll played Bunny Halpthe high spirited wife of nightclub owner Charley Halp (Sid Melton), over three seasons of The Danny Thomas Show at first ‘60s; was Hope Stinson, who shared ownership of a newspaper with Ted Knight’s character, in the final season (1986-87) of Too close for comfort; and appeared opposite Suzanne Somers in the 1987-89 series It’s the sheriff.
Carroll stood out as a grumpy patient who shared a hospital room with Mary Richards (the latter was there to have her tonsils removed) on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1971, and she played Lily Feeneythe mother of Cindy Williams’ character, in a 1976 episode of lichens & Shirley.
His TV credits also included Cinderella, Please don’t eat the daisies, love, american style, My three sons, Police woman, bulk buster, The ship of love, Trapper John, MD, evening shade, design women and IS.
Carroll was also a favorite game show. Tell the truth, The match game, I have a secret, All-Star Password, You don’t say and The $10,000 Pyramid – you name it, she played it.
And she played Doris Day’s matchmaker sister in With six you get Egg roll (1968).
Carroll’s throaty laugh and fiery intonations made him a natural for animation work.
She first slipped into the recording booth in 1966 for the animated series The Super 6. But it was during the ‘80 years that his voice-over career skyrocketed; you could hear it on the cartoons Yogi’s Scavenger Hunt, Galaxy High School, Foofur, pound puppies and Super Momnm
Without a doubt, her most memorable character was Ursula for the 1989 Disney feature film. The little Mermaid. It would be one of his favorite roles. “It was my lifelong ambition to make a Disney movie,” she told author Allan Neuwirth in Do‘ Cartoons: Inside the Most Popular TV Shows and Anime Movies. “So I was their hook, line and sinker.”
Carroll’s enthusiasm made the octopus-like character unique, and Ursula would go on to become one of Disney’s most memorable villains. However, she only landed the role after an arduous search by the studio.
Little Mermaid producer and lyricist Howard Ashtray was a big TV fan Dynasty and envisioned Ursula as a type of Joan Collins. And who better to play it than Collins herself? Alas, his agent quickly dismissed the idea.
Writer-directors Ron Clements and John lizard saw Ursula more as a bellowing aquatic version of Bea Arthur, but her agent took offense when the script compared the actress to a witch – and moved on. Roseanne, Nancy Wilson and Nancy from the Heart Merchant of The Sopranos fame would then have read for the role, but neither was quite right.
Charlotte Rae and Elaine Stritch auditioned, but Rae lacked the vocal range for Ursula’s signature song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, and Stritch I couldn’t deliver the song like that Ashtray sought.
Carroll, however, immediately understood at Ashman approach. The key was a recording he had made of him singing the song. Once Carroll heard and saw that, the rest was easy.
“He gave me this performance! Come on, I’m honest enough to say that,” she said in Do‘ Cartoons. “I got the whole attitude from him…his shoulders would twitch a certain way, and his eyes would go a certain way…I got more about that Howard character singing that song than anything else .”
Carroll won the role and went on to voice the character in multiple video games and a 1993 Little Mermaid CBS series. (She also provided the voice of Morgan in the direct-to-video version of 2000 The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea.)
Patricia Ann Carroll was born on May 5, 1927 in Shreveport, Louisiana. When she was 5, she and her family moved to Los Angeles. At age 20, she served as a civilian acting technician for the military, writing, producing, and directing all-military productions. She graduated from the Catholic University in Washington, DC in 1949.
Carroll’s first professional appearance was in 1947 alongside Gloria Swanson in a regional stock production of A goose for a gander. This led to more roles in stock companies, and she also honed her comedic chops by performing at nightclubs and resorts.
Carroll’s off-Broadway debut was in 1950 in Whatever happens. Soon after, she started landing TV work on Goodyear Television Theater, The red button show and Saturday night review.
Carroll first performed on Broadway in 1955 in the Musical Revue Catch a star! written by Danny and Neil Simon. The performance earned him a Tony nomination. Decades later, Carroll received rave reviews for his off-Broadway solo show Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein: a play with one character.
In his 1979 review for The New York TimesWalter Kerr wrote: “Miss Carroll, working from a text prepared by Marty Martin, gives us the strange, chokerrichly-dressed woman who could be – and once was – mistaken for a bishop with a zest that is brilliant… I’m not sure exactly how Miss Carroll is able to do this, but she manages – with no effort at all – to do share Gertrude Stein’s attitude to herself.
Carroll received a Drama Desk Award for her portrayal of the author; she beat out fellow nominees Moore, Susan SarandonPhillis Frelich and Blythe Shapes for honor.
Carroll was married to Lee karsian from 1955 until their divorce in 1976, and they had three children: Tara, an actress; his daughter Kerry, casting director; and his son Sean (he died on the same date as his mother 13 years ago).