Estelle Parsons


Actor
Estelle Parsons

About

Also Known As
Estelle Margaret Parsons
Birth Place
Marblehead, Massachusetts, USA
Born
November 20, 1927

Biography

The first female political reporter on network TV during her five-year stint with "The Today Show" (NBC) in the early 1950s, Estelle Parsons made her Broadway debut as a reporter in the Ethel Merman musical "Happy Hunting" (1956) and later won a Theatre World Award in the title role of "Mrs. Dally Takes a Lover" (1962). Although she had acted in the feature "Ladybug, Ladybug" (1963), it ...

Family & Companions

Richard Gehman
Husband
Writer. Married on December 19, 1953; divorced in August 1958.
Peter L Zimroth
Husband
Lawyer. Second husband; married on January 2, 1983; adoptive father of Abraham.

Notes

"Actually, if I had my life to live over, I think I'd like to be a philosopher. I was so dumb, I didn't realize I could get a job teaching and then do my thinking. I just thought you can't get paid to be thinking all the time. But acting has always excited me. I never had to look at the clock. And it keeps me from being bored."All my life I've done what I wanted to do. I think people don't like me for it. I've never had a desire to be successful. I never wanted fame, I never wanted awards, I never wanted to be in the movies. But I've paid a price. I'm not as famous as some of my contemporaries. I told you I'm weird." --Estelle Parsons to Daily News, June 23, 1996.

Biography

The first female political reporter on network TV during her five-year stint with "The Today Show" (NBC) in the early 1950s, Estelle Parsons made her Broadway debut as a reporter in the Ethel Merman musical "Happy Hunting" (1956) and later won a Theatre World Award in the title role of "Mrs. Dally Takes a Lover" (1962). Although she had acted in the feature "Ladybug, Ladybug" (1963), it was her second film (and first Hollywood movie) role as the shrewish Blanche Barrow in Arthur Penn's landmark "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) that established her credentials as a wonderful screen character actress. Hysterical with bullets whizzing by and grief-stricken after the shoot-out that blinded her in one eye and left her husband Buck (Gene Hackman) dead, she unwittingly provided law enforcement with the info that would lead to the demise of Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde (Warren Beatty). Her tour de force performance earned that year's Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and her next outing as Joanne Woodward's schoolteacher colleague in Paul Newman's directing debut, "Rachel, Rachel" (1968), garnered another Academy Award nomination in the category.

Parsons acted opposite Jackie Gleason in the uninspired film version of Woody Allen's play "Don't Drink the Water" (1969), then portrayed Hackman's sister and Melvyn Douglas' daughter in Gilbert Cates' sensitive adaptation (written by the playwright) of Robert Anderson's "I Never Sang for My Father" (1970). After supporting Barbra Streisand in "For Pete's Sake" (1974), Parsons made only small screen appearances during the late 70s and 80s (i.e., in episodes of CBS' "All in the Family," as Bess Truman in the 1979 NBC miniseries "Backstairs at the White House" and portraying teacher Clare Block in the 1988 CBS-movie "Open Admissions") before returning to features as Mrs. Truehart in "Dick Tracy" (1990), which reteamed her with Warren Beatty, who both starred and directed. Since then, she has turned up as Louise in Herbert Ross' extremely likable "Boys on the Side" (1995), as Queen Margaret in Al Pacino's inventive documentary about acting Shakespeare "Looking for Richard" (1996) and as Old Lady McCracken in the disappointing remake of "That Darn Cat" (1997).

Parsons never abandoned the stage, carving a niche with quality performances like her Tony-nominated turns as the title characters of Tennessee Williams' "The Seven Descents of Myrtle" (1968) and Paul Zindel's "And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" (1971) as well as the dictatorial schoolteacher of "Miss Margarida's Way" (1977). She branched into directing with NYC productions of "Voices" (1978) and "Antony and Cleopatra" (1979), and adapted, co-directed and performed the seven monologues that comprised Dario Fo and Franco Rame's "Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo" (1983). In the mid-80s, producer Joseph Papp selected her to direct a company of young actors in Shakespearean roles in an effort to bring the Bard to NYC schoolchildren. One of her more recent theatrical triumphs was as Winnie in Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days," which she performed in a variety of venues. But her recurring role as Bev Harris, the busybody mother of Roseanne and Jackie, on the ABC sitcom "Roseanne" (1989-97) has undoubtedly provided the greatest exposure of her distinguished career.

Life Events

1950

Worked as a commentator, production assistant, feature producer and writer for NBC's "The Today Show"

1956

Broadway stage debut, "Happy Hunting" starring Ethel Merman

1962

Won a Theatre World Award for her performance in "Mrs. Dally Has a Lover"

1963

Film acting debut, "Ladybug, Ladybug"

1967

Portrayed the sister-in-law of Clyde Barrow in "Bonnie and Clyde"; first collaboration with Gene Hackman

1967

Starred opposite Anthony Quayle in Bertolt Brecht's "Galileo" in New York

1968

Appeared in Tennessee Williams' "The Seven Descents of Myrtle" on Broadway; received first Tony nomination

1968

Received second Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for "Rachel, Rachel"

1969

Acted opposite Jackie Gleason in "Don't Drink the Water"; scripted by Woody Allen and directed by Howard Morris

1970

Co-starred with Hackman in "I Never Sang for My Father"

1971

Earned second Tony nomination for the title role in Paul Zindel's "And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little"

1977

Had stage triumph playing the title role in "Miss Margarida's Way"; received third Tony nomination

1978

Off-Broadway directing debut, "Voices"

1979

Starred as Bess Truman in the NBC miniseries, "Backstairs at the White House"

1982

Starred with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith in the Broadway revival of "The Pirates of Penzance"

1983

Directed (also adapted and performed) Dario Fo's "Orgasmo Adulto Escapes From the Zoo"

1985

Hosted the PBS series "Mothers By Daughters"

1989

Had recurring role as Bev Harris, Roseanne's mother on the ABC sitcom, "Roseanne"

1990

First movie role in more than 15 years, Mrs. Truehart in Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy"

1993

Acted in the TNT presentation of Arthur Miller's "The American Clock"

1995

Essayed the part of Louise in "Boys on the Side"

1996

Portrayed Winnie in the Chicago stage production of Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days"

1996

Turned up as Queen Margaret in Al Pacino's exploration of Shakespeare, "Looking for Richard"

1997

Played Old Lady McCracken in remake of "That Darn Cat"

1998

Reprised Winnie for Hartford Stage Company production of "Happy Days"

1999

Had featured role in Showtime's "Freak City"

1999

Portrayed a 99-year-old silent film director recalling her life in the stage play "The First Picture Show"

2002

Received a Tony nominations for her role in "Morning's at Seven"

2005

Co-starred in the HBO miniseries, "Empire Falls"

2008

Joined the Broadway cast of "August: Osage County" as matriarch Violet Weston

Photo Collections

Bonnie and Clyde - Publicity Still
Here is a photo taken to help publicize Warner Bros' Bonnie and Clyde (1967), starring Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Gene Hackman. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Watermelon Man (1970) - No Wonder Negroes Riot! Having turned black, Gerber (Godfrey Cambridge) grabs a cab to the drug store to buy skin treatments, getting help from wife Althea (Estelle Parsons) in director Mario Van Peebles' Watermelon Man, 1970.
Watermelon Man (1970) - How Now Brown Cow? As wife Althea (Estelle Parsons) bemoans their failing sex life, Jeff (Godfrey Cambridge, in white-face) demurs, then wakes up black, in Mario Van Peebles' Watermelon Man, 1970.
Bonnie And Clyde (1967) - Isn't That Your Car, Eugene? The happenstance appearance of Gene Wilder and Evans Evans as Eugene and Velma, interrupted by the Barrow gang (producer Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard as Clyde, Bonnie, Buck, Blanche and C.W.) who need another car, in Arthur Penn’s landmark Bonnie And Clyde, 1967.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) - Frank Here's A Texas Ranger! Title characters (Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty) with brother Buck (Gene Hackman), C-W (Michael J Pollard) and Blanche (Estelle Parsons) are fortunate to turn the tables on Texas lawman Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle), an inflated version of a real event, in Bonnie And Clyde, 1967.
Bonnie And Clyde (1967) - Let Me Get The Kodak! Big event for the Barrow family as older brother and fellow ex-con Buck (Gene Hackman), with wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) joins the newly notorious Clyde (producer Warren Beatty) and Bonnie (Faye Dunaway), wheel-man C.W. (Michael J. Pollard) a little behind the social curve, in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie And Clyde, 1967.
Rachel, Rachel (1968) - Hold It Up To The Light New England schoolteachers on the last day of the term, Joanne Woodward (title character) at the piano, then with her much more outgoing friend Calla (Estelle Parsons), Woodward's husband Paul Newman directing, from Rachel, Rachel, 1968.
Rachel, Rachel (1968) - Don't You Love The Lord? Paul Newman directing his wife Joanne Woodward, the title character, a shy schoolteacher and very reluctant participant in an evangelical Christian meeting, Estelle Parsons her friend watching, Terry Kiser the preacher, in Rachel, Rachel, 1968.

Trailer

Family

Eben Parsons
Father
Elinor Parsons
Mother
Martha Gehman
Daughter
Actor. Twin of Abbie.
Abbie Gehman
Daughter
Writer. Twin of Martha.
Abraham Zimroth
Son
Born c. 1983; adopted.

Companions

Richard Gehman
Husband
Writer. Married on December 19, 1953; divorced in August 1958.
Peter L Zimroth
Husband
Lawyer. Second husband; married on January 2, 1983; adoptive father of Abraham.

Bibliography

Notes

"Actually, if I had my life to live over, I think I'd like to be a philosopher. I was so dumb, I didn't realize I could get a job teaching and then do my thinking. I just thought you can't get paid to be thinking all the time. But acting has always excited me. I never had to look at the clock. And it keeps me from being bored."All my life I've done what I wanted to do. I think people don't like me for it. I've never had a desire to be successful. I never wanted fame, I never wanted awards, I never wanted to be in the movies. But I've paid a price. I'm not as famous as some of my contemporaries. I told you I'm weird." --Estelle Parsons to Daily News, June 23, 1996.