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Estelle Parsons

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Title: Estelle Parsons  
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Subject: Bonnie and Clyde (film), Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, I Never Sang for My Father, Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Ladybug Ladybug (film)
Collection: 1927 Births, 20Th-Century American Actresses, 21St-Century American Actresses, Actors from Lynn, Massachusetts, Actors Studio Members, Actresses from Boston, Massachusetts, American Female Singers, American Film Actresses, American People of English Descent, American People of Swedish Descent, American Shakespearean Actresses, American Television Actresses, American Theater Hall of Fame Inductees, Best Supporting Actress Academy Award Winners, Connecticut College Alumni, Living People, People from Lynn, Massachusetts, Singers from Massachusetts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Estelle Parsons

Estelle Parsons
Parsons in a Love, American Style episode in 1973.
Born Estelle Margaret Parsons
(1927-11-20) November 20, 1927
Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1956–present
Spouse(s) Richard Gehman (1953–1958; divorced); 2 children
Peter Zimroth (1983–present); 1 child

Estelle Margaret Parsons (born November 20, 1927) is an American stage, film and television actress, Today Show television presenter, and occasional stage director.[1]

After studying law, Parsons became a singer before deciding to pursue a career in acting. She worked for the television program Today and made her stage debut in 1961. During the 1960s, Parsons established her career on Broadway before progressing to film. She received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and was also nominated for her work in Rachel, Rachel (1968).

She worked extensively in film and theatre during the 1970s and later directed several Broadway productions. More recently her television work included playing Beverly Harris on the sitcom Roseanne. She has been nominated five times for the Tony Award, (four times for Lead Actress of a Play and once for Featured Actress). In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Filmography 3
    • Film 3.1
    • Television 3.2
  • Personal life 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Parsons was born in Lynn Hospital, née Mattsson), was a native of Sweden, and her father, Eben Parsons, was of English descent.[2][3][4]

She attended Oak Grove School for Girls in Maine. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1949, Parsons initially studied law at Boston University, and then worked as a singer with a band before settling on an acting career in the early 1950s.[5]


Moving to New York City, Parsons worked as a writer, producer and commentator for The Today Show. She made her Broadway debut in 1956 in the ensemble of the Ethel Merman musical Happy Hunting. She began performing Off-Broadway in 1961, and received a Theatre World Award in 1963 for her performance in Whisper into My Good Ear/Mrs. Dally Has a Lover (1962). In 1964, Parsons won an Obie Award for Best Actress her performance in two Off-Broadway plays, Next Time I'll Sing to You and In the Summer House.

Parsons has received Tony Award nominations for her work in The Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), Miss Margarida's Way (1978), and Morning's at Seven (2002). She played the Widow Begbick in the American premiere of the WeillBrecht opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1970), and performed as Mrs. Peacham to Lotte Lenya's Jenny in Threepenny Opera on tour and in New York City. In 1978 she played Lady MacBeth in the Kauai Community Players production. She also played Ruth in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway in 1981. From June 17, 2008 through May 17, 2009, she played the role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County. She continued playing the role during the show's national tour beginning July 24, 2009, in Denver.

As a director, Parsons has a number of Broadway credits, including a production of Actors Studio for five years, ending in 2003.

In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Parsons' film career includes an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and a nomination for Rachel, Rachel (1968). She received a BAFTA Award nomination for her role in Watermelon Man (1970), and appeared in I Never Sang for My Father (1970), Two People (1973), A Memory of Two Mondays (1974), For Pete's Sake (1974), Dick Tracy (1990) and Boys on the Side (1995). She was also the original choice to play the part of Pamela Voorhees in the 1980 film Friday the 13th; the part later went to Betsy Palmer.

On television, Parsons played the recurring role of Beverly, on Roseanne. Other television credits include appearances in The Patty Duke Show, Love, American Style, All In The Family, Archie Bunker's Place, Open Admissions, Frasier, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Good Wife, as well as The UFO Incident: The Story of Betty and Barney Hill and the PBS production of June Moon.

She was honored with a Woman of Achievement Award from the Women's Project Theater in 2009.[6] Parsons recently appeared in London playing psychic Helga ten Dorp in Deathtrap at the Noël Coward Theatre in the West End. She was recently seen on Broadway in David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People, and opened 24 April 2012, in Nice Work If You Can Get It.[7]



Year Title Role Notes
1963 Ladybug Ladybug JoAnn's Mother
1967 Bonnie and Clyde Blanche Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress [8]
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
1968 Rachel, Rachel Calla Mackie Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress[8]
1969 Don't Drink the Water Marion Hollander
1970 Watermelon Man Althea Gerber Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1970 I Never Sang for My Father Alice
1970 I Walk the Line Ellen Haney
1973 Two People Barbara Newman
1974 For Pete's Sake Helen Robbins
1975 Fore Play 1st Lady/Barmaid
1989 The Lemon Sisters Mrs. Kupchak
1990 Dick Tracy Mrs. Trueheart
1990 The Blue Men May
1996 Looking for Richard Margaret
1995 Boys on the Side Louise
1997 That Darn Cat Old Lady McCracken


Year Title Role Notes
1954 Today Self Episode dated 6 September 1954
1963 The Defenders Mrs. Martin Metamorphosis
1964 The DuPont Show of the Week Carrie Bernice The Gambling Heart
The Patty Duke Show Mrs. Appleton The Con Artist
1965 The Doctors and the Nurses Mrs. Meyers Where There's Smoke
1966 The Trials of O'Brien Miss Baines Alarums and Excursions
1968 Snap Judgment Self Episode dated 18 November 1968
Hemingway's Spain: A Love Affair Self (voice only)
Kraft Music Hall Self Episode #11.30
The 40th Annual Academy Awards Self Oscar winner
1970 The Front Page Mollie Malloy
The David Frost Show Self Episode #2.240
1971 25th Tony Awards Self Nominee
Great Performances Agnes A Memory of Two Mondays
1972 Love, American Style Bernice Love and the Clinic/Love and the Perfect Wedding/Love and the President/Love and the Return of Raymond
Medical Center Bev Wall of Silence
1973 Terror on the Beach Arlene Glynn
1974 The Gun and the Pulpit Sadie Underwood
Great Performances Lucille June Moon
1975 The UFO Incident Betty Hill
1976 The Tenth Level Crossland
NBC Special Treat Edwina Kemp Big Henry and the Polka Dot Kid
All in the Family Dolores Mancheney Fencel Archie's Secret Passion
1978 All in the Family Blanche Hefner Reunion on Hauser Street
All in the Family Blanche Hefner Weekend in the Country
1979 Archie Bunker's Place Blanche Hefner Blanche and Murray
Backstairs at the White House Bess Truman Four episodes
1981 The Gentleman Bandit Marjorie Seebode
Guests of the Nation Kate O'Connell
1982 Today Self Episode dated 14 January 1982
American Playhouse Mabel Lederer/Angela Motorman Come Along with Me
1987 American Playhouse Waiting for the Moon (the producers wish to thank)
1988 Open Admissions Clare Block
1989-1997 Roseanne Beverly Harris 59 episodes as the mother of Roseanne and Jackie
Nominated for TV Land Award
1990 Everyday Heroes Matty Jennings
1992 A Private Matter Mary Chessen Nominated CableACE Award Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
1993 The American Clock Older Doris
Family Feud Self Roseanne vs. Jackie Thomas Sitcoms
1994 Inside the Actors Studio Self
1997 Touched by an Angel Jeannette Fisher Sandcastles
1998 The Love Letter Beatrice Corrigan
The 70th Annual Academy Awards Self
1999 Freak City Mrs. Stanapolous
2000 Backstory Self Bonnie and Clyde
2001 100 Center Street Esther O'Neill The Fix
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Rose Rinato Denial
The 56th Annual Tony Awards Self
2004 Frasier Celeste's Mother (voice)
Herself (photograph)
Coots and Ladders
Goodnight, Seattle
Strip Search Roberta Gray
Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde Self
2005 Empire Falls Bea
2012 Today Self Episode dated 13 January 2012
2013 The Good Wife Nana Joe Episode 4.22 "What's in the Box?"

Personal life

Her grandson is Chicago Bears guard/tackle, Eben Britton. Her second husband Peter Zimroth was appointed police monitor for the NYPD in August 2013.


  1. ^ accessed 10/16/14
  2. ^ "The Passion of Estelle Parsons",; accessed 3 May 2014.
  3. ^ Estelle Parsons profile,; accessed May 3, 2014.
  4. ^ Estelle Parsons profile, Yahoo! Movies; accessed May 3, 2014.
  5. ^ accessed 10/16/14
  6. ^
  7. ^ accessed 10/16/14
  8. ^ a b "Oscar-Estelle Parsons". Academy Awards. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 

External links

Preceded by
Arthur Penn
Artistic Director of the Actors Studio
Succeeded by
Vacant (2003-2004)
Stephen Lang
Carlin Glynn
Lee Grant
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