Born in August in Eve, Missouri, Alice Ghostley spent most of her childhood in Arkansas and Oklahoma. It was in a small Oklahoma town that her high school speech teacher inspired her to pursue her dream of an acting career. Following graduation from the University of Oklahoma, where she minored in drama, she headed for New Jersey and eventually New York to pursue a career on stage.
To pay for drama and singing lessons, Miss Ghostley worked in a restaurant, cosmetic factory, detective agency and motion picture theater. Her big break came singing "The Boston Beguine" in the now legendary Broadway production of Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1952 --- which made her an overnight sensation along with Eartha Kitt and Paul Lynde.
Alice's natural comic talents and fine singing voice subsequently led her to starring roles in numerous Broadway musicals including The Beauty Part opposite Bert Lahr (which earned her a Tony nomination), Shangri-La, Living the Life, Sandhog, Trouble in Tahiti, Annie (in the venerable role of Miss Hannigan), and the musical spoof Nunsense, which she has performed in theaters all over the United States. Non-musical credits include roles in Maybe Tuesday, Thurber Carnival, The House of Blue Leaves, and The Sign in Brustein's Window, for which she won the coveted Tony Award in 1965, as well as the Saturday Review Award and the New York Critics Circle Award for best actress.
On the big screen, Alice has been featured in such films as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Flim-Flam Man, The Graduate, Gator, Rabbit Test, Grease, Deathtrap, and B.L. Stryker. Her television credits include the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of The Twelfth Night with Maurice Adams, The Julia Andrews Show, Maude, Big Eddie, What's Happening!, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, The Jackie Gleason Show, and Good Times.
But it was her role as Esmerelda, the nervous supernatural babysitting maid on the popular series Bewitched, that first brought Alice national popularity and recognition. Esmerelda was a shy sorceress who faded from sight when she got nervous. "That seems to happen continually", laughed the talented comedienne during the series. "I disappear so regularly, I may end up as only a voice-over".
Alice's recurring character of wacky Bernice on Designing Women became so popular that she appeared as a semi-regular during the series final two seasons --- a performance for which she received an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Married to actor Felice Orlandi for over 50 years, the two made their home in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles until his passing in May, 2003. Alice Ghostley passed away on September 21, 2007 at her home in Studio City after a long battle with colon cancer and complications from a series of strokes. She was 81.
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