Flinty blonde actress Susan Tyrell specialized in spangly film femmes since she made her screen debut in "Shoot Out" (1971). Ironically, Susan Tyrrell began her career as a teenager playing the ingénue in the stage comedy "Time Out for Ginger" opposite Art Carney. After settling in New York City, however, she began to excel at playing women of questionable virtue in stage productions like "The Time of Your Life" and "Camino Real." In John Huston's "Fat City" (1972), Tyrrell offered a brilliant characterization of an alcoholic involved in an interracial romance, for which she won a richly deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Like many female actors, however, she found good roles were few and far between as the years went by. Tyrrell was relegated to portraying hardened women, like George C. Scott's mistress in "Islands in the Stream" (1976). Capitalizing on these qualities, she played Carroll Baker's daughter-in-law in "Andy Warhol's Bad" (1976) and a lesbian apartment building manager in "Angel" (1984) and its sequel "Avenging Angel" (1985). She was delightful as Johnny Depp's acid-breathing grandmother with a soft spot for a bad kid in John Waters' "Cry Baby" (1990). Her performances as motorchicks or 1950s-style moms in films that were either self-consciously campy - like her turn as Midge in "Big Top Pee-Wee" (1988) - or so delirious that they descended into camp, as in "Rockula" (1990). Much of her small screen work was in a similar vein like her performance as a prisoner in "Willow B: Women in Prison" (ABC, 1980) and the lady of the evening who engages in fisticuffs with Elizabeth Taylor's "Poker Alice" (CBS, 1987). The beloved character actress passed away on June 18, 2012.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Won lead role in the touring company of "Time Out for Ginger", co-starring Art Carney; profiled by <i>LOOK</i> magazine
Worked off-Broadway and in Lincoln Center productions, frequently cast as trollops and fallen women in such plays as "Camino Real" and "The Time of Your Life"
Made feature film debut in "The Steagle"
Landed breakthrough film role in "Fat City," directed by John Huston; received Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as the blowsy alcoholic involved in an interracial romance
Co-starred in "Catch My Soul," a musical based on Shakespeare's "Othello"
Made TV debut in the NBC movie "Lady of the House"
Co-starred in the Broadway play "Father's Day"; opened and closed on the same night
Appeared with Anne Archer in "A Couple of White Chicks Sitting Around Talking"
Series debut as a regular, played George Dzundza's wife on the ABC sitcom "Open All Night"
Provided character voices for the animated feature "Fire and Ice"
Cast as the lesbian landlady to the titular "Angel," a teenaged hooker played by Donna Wilkes
Acted in the ABC crime drama "MacGruder and Loud"
Reprised her role as the lesbian landlady in the sequel "Avenging Angel"
Starred in the acclaimed L.A. production of Tom Eyen's "Why Hanna's Skirt Won't Stay Down" staged by Ron Link
Appeared opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the CBS movie "Poker Alice"
Co-starred in CBS miniseries "Sidney Sheldon's Windmills of the Gods"
Played Midge Montana in the comedy sequel "Big Top Pee-wee"
Played the title character's (Johnny Depp) grandmother in "Cry-Baby," written and directed by John Waters
Wrote and performed the one-woman show "My Rotten Life"
Co-starred in HBO original film "Comes the Dawn"
Voiced the character Achira on the syndicated animated series "Extreme Ghostbusters"
Stared in the L.A. premiere of Martin Sherman's play "A Table for a King"
Acted in the psychological thriller "Buddy Boy"
Made cameo as the mother of a lesbian in "Relax, It's Just Sex"
Cast as Ella the Fortune Teller in Larry Charles' "Masked and Anonymous"