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Actress Katherine Helmond (1929-2019)


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The veteran actress Katherine Helmond, who played the sweet housewife Jessica Tate on TV's "Soap" and a hip grandmother on "Who's the Boss?," has died at the age of 89.

Her talent agency APA said Friday that Helmond died at her home in Los Angeles on February 23, 2019 of complications from Alzheimer's disease.

The Galveston, Texas native received a 1973 Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in revival of Eugene O'Neill's drama "The Great God Brown." On television, she earned seven Primetime Emmy nominations for her work on "Soap" and "Who's the Boss?" She received two Golden Globes -- one for each television series.

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Helmond was one of the key characters in "Soap," the groundbreaking sitcom that aired on ABC from 1977 to 1981. Created by Susan Harris, the spoof of daytime dramas focused on two suburban Connecticut families -- the wealthy Tates and the working-class Campbells. Helmond's Jessica was the matriarch of the Tate family. Her sister Mary (played by Cathryn Damon) was the lady of the Campbell house. Both households were filled with zany characters.

The series was controversial during its run. Billy Crystal, who played Jody Dallas -- Mary Tate's younger son from a previous marriage -- was one of the first openly gay characters on a network series. Meanwhile Jessica's daughter Corinne, played by Diana Canova, fell in love with a Catholic priest. By the way, Mary's second husband Burt Campbell (played by Richard Mulligan) went through a phase in which he thought he could become invisible.

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When the series ended in 1981, Jessica -- who had cancer -- was supposedly killed in South America. But her storyline briefly wafted over to "Benson," the ABC spinoff that starred Robert  Guillaume -- who had played the Tate family's opinionated butler on "Soap." Only Benson could see and communicate with Jessica.

In 1984, Helmond co-starred in the ABC sitcom "Who's the Boss?" -- which featured Tony Danza as Tony Micelli, a former Major League Baseball player turned fulltime housekeeper for a Connecticut family. Judith Light also starred as Angela Bowers, the divorced working mother who hired Micelli to run the household. Helmond had the role of Mona Robinson, Angela's mother. The future sex symbol and political activist Alyssa Milano played Micelli's daughter Samantha; Danny Pintauro appeared as Angela's son, Jonathan. The series ran eight seasons, ending in April 1992.

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The series primarily was about the sexual tension between Tony and Angela. But Mona livened up episodes with her active social life.

Helmond also made occasional appearances in motion pictures, including three collaborations with Terry Gilliam -- "Time Bandits" (1981), "Brazil" (1985, in which she played the mother of Jonathan Pryce's character -- a woman addicted to plastic surgery in a dystopian society) and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998). Among her other films were "The Hospital" (1971), "Family Plot" (1976, Sir Alfred Hitchcock's last film) and "Overboard" (1987). 

She also provided the voice of Lizzie, a 1923 Ford Model T Coupe, in the three animated installments of the Disney-Pixar "Cars" movie series.

We all lost a national treasure today. No words can measure my love.

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Katherine Helmond has passed away.

My beautiful, kind, funny, gracious, compassionate, rock. You were an instrumental part of my life. You taught me to hold my head above the marsh! You taught me to do anything for a laugh! What an example you were!

Rest In Peace, Katherine.

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RIP Katherine Helmond, blithe spirit of Soap. She beautifully embodied an airy, throwaway style of sitcom acting that doesn't really exist anymore and that I suspect was much harder than it appeared to be.

Patricia Heaton Retweeted Deadline Hollywood

Katherine Helmond was such a class act and incredibly down to earth. She was terrific as my mother on #EveryboyLovesRaymond and I looked up to her as a role model. #RIPKatherineHelmond

c48eKogh_bigger.jpgJoe MantegnaVerified account@JoeMantegna

R.I.P. dear Katherine Helmond. You were a joy and an inspiration in my career and my life.

robin strasser Retweeted Alan Sepinwall

#KatherineHelmond what a marvelous actor! Her work always sharp & smart! #Overboard as #GoldieHawn's impossibly spoiled brat of a mother-who couldn't help but love her? RIP may your costumes always glitter & the lighting always be good...

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Sorry to read this. The first time I'm learning of a passing on the TCM site. I remember her also from Hitchock's last film "Family Plot" and as a villain on the original "Bionic Woman" before "Soap" made her a household name. She had great comedic timing and could play menace as well. I'll miss her a lot.

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My favorite Katherine Heklmond roles- Time Bandits as Mrs. Ogre

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and Sam's aging mother with dreams of youth in Brazil

 

"MOTHER! MOTHER!"

"Shhhhhhh... Don't call me that. ;) "

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29 minutes ago, drednm said:

Always liked Katherine Helmond. That silky smooth voice will be missed. rIP

Same here;  In addition to the shows listed above,  she was Debbie's mom in Everybody Loves Raymond and it was a treat to see Robert Culp (as the father) and her together.

I also loved her small role in the Goldie Hawn \ Kurt Russell comedy Overboard. 

RIP.

 

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She also had a featured role on the long-running sitcom Coach. In the final two seasons, Craig T. Nelson's character coached a fictional NFL team in Florida. Helmond played the owner of the team, a woman who enjoyed going into the locker room and letting everyone know she was boss.

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She was a great actress, perfect for television sitcoms.

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I loved Katherine Helmond in everything I saw her in. She had a dainty beauty and then she would give that smirk and suddenly make you think 'Oh, she's not as innocent as she looks!'

I'm sad to hear she had Alzheimer's disease. RIP, Ms Helmond.

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One of the first things I remember watching her in was a rerun of Gunsmoke (1972's The Judgment). This was before I had seen her on Soap. So I thought she was more of a dramatic actress at first. She was obviously typecast in comedy roles, which suited her particular brand of talent to a tee.

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14 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

One of the first things I remember watching her in was a rerun of Gunsmoke (1972's The Judgment). This was before I had seen her on Soap. So I thought she was more of a dramatic actress at first. She was obviously typecast in comedy roles, which suited her particular brand of talent to a tee.

I loved "Soap" one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, Helmond was a big part of why it was so good.

I recall a Steve Allen hosted show called "Meeting Of Minds" on PBS in the 1970s. It was a show in which actors portrayed historical figures and have a conversation. Helmond played Emily Dickinson and did a beautiful job reciting some of her poetry. I think that was the first time I saw her and she made a great impression on me.

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1 hour ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

I loved "Soap" one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, Helmond was a big part of why it was so good.

I recall a Steve Allen hosted show called "Meeting Of Minds" on PBS in the 1970s. It was a show in which actors portrayed historical figures and have a conversation. Helmond played Emily Dickinson and did a beautiful job reciting some of her poetry. I think that was the first time I saw her and she made a great impression on me.

She also had a supporting role in the 1975 TV movie THE LEGEND OF LIZZIE BORDEN. She played Liz Montgomery's older sister.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

One of the first things I remember watching her in was a rerun of Gunsmoke (1972's The Judgment). This was before I had seen her on Soap. So I thought she was more of a dramatic actress at first. She was obviously typecast in comedy roles, which suited her particular brand of talent to a tee.

Actually, comedy saved her from another kind of typecasting. Before she did "Soap," Helmond appeared in many small dramatic parts in which she played abused women. Here's what she said in a 2008 interview with the Archive of American Television. 

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Katherine Helmond was such a good actress, a top-notch professional and a beautiful lady.

She is what we used to call a real television star. Someone who repeatedly presented great acting in a number of series and guest star appearances.

When you saw her name in the cast or advertised in the TV promotion, you knew you were in for Quality entertainment and a memorable moment.

I think Everybody Loved Katherine.

 

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All sentiments expressed of this great lady & her works is truly touching. She was such a unique talent, I love that interview video to if only see her as a real person. You see her in a role and KNOW you're seeing Katherine Helmond, but you totally get sucked into believing the character. That's talent.

I'm so glad she was given so many diverse opportunities to show her talent. Although she is incredible in comedies, her dramatic roles show she could do it all & so well. 

Her talent was assisted by her high intelligence & appearance-her facial features & tiny physique were slightly exaggerated giving her an almost cartoony beauty. Top that off with a beautiful bell like voice that was always full of emotion. No one could resist her!

Anyone see her in Frank LaLoggia's 1988 LADY IN WHITE? She practically carries this atmospheric ghost story, her red hair symbolically standing out in a blue gray film. I'm so sorry we've lost her, but so grateful we had her!220px-Katherine_Helmond_Soap_1977_(cropp

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