One of the most well-known and beloved character actors, Alice Ghostley, has died.
Though she won a Tony Award in 1965 for the Broadway play The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and appeared in 30 movies (like To Kill a Mockingbird, Grease, and The Graduate), Ghostley is best known for her hundreds of memorable appearances on television.
Looking at her resume, you’ll find a virtual who’s who of classic television shows. Ghostley almost always played dim-witted and flustered characters but she played them oh so well. Scanning the channels of late-night TV, you’ll be able to find Ghostley’s guest spots on episodes of Mayberry RFD (where she took over for Frances Bavier’s Aunt Bee), Maude, Evening Shade, The Golden Girls, Get Smart, and many others.
In her career that spanned six decades, it’s interesting that Ghostley was rarely hired as a regular cast member. One exception was in Designing Women’s final season (1992-93). The series had been through several highly-publicized cast changes and not even Ghostley could halt its decline.
Ghostley will be remembered best for her role as the overly shy witch Esmerelda on the 1960s sitcom Bewitched. She wasn’t a series regular (appearing in only 16 episodes) but it certainly seemed like she was since many episodes were centered on her character. So memorable was Ghostley’s role that she later appeared in witch roles in several supernatural-themed shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1997), the direct-to-DVD Addams Family Reunion (1998), and Passions (2000). Passions has had a longstanding connection with Bewitched and frequently alludes to the sitcom.
Ghostley passed away at home at the age of 81 on Friday, September 21st. She had been fighting a long battle with colon cancer and a series of strokes had been married to actor Felice Orlandi until his death in 2003.
A longtime friend was actress Kaye Ballard who played a stepsister alongside Ghostley in the televised musical Cinderella. Ballard said, “She was an exceptional actress… [she] was gentle and she was sincere and she was kind and she never said a cruel thing about anyone — ever. I feel humor has changed today; everyone has mean humor. Alice was the epitome of class when it came to comedy. But Alice was superior in everything she did. She was a very special, special person.” Stay tuned!