Jane Connell (1925 - 2013)

Jane Sperry (Bennett) Connell
1925 - 2013
updated November 27, 2020
Jane Connell was born on October 27, 1925 in Oakland, California. She was born into the Bennett family and married into the Connell family. She had sibling Maggie. Jane married Gordon Connell. She died on September 22, 2013 at Englewood, NJ, New Jersey at 87 years old.

Jane Connell, Agnes Gooch of ‘Mame,’ Is Dead at 87
By JOHN SCHWARTZSEPT. 25, 2013
Jane Connell, a character actress best known for her portrayal of Agnes Gooch, the mousy secretary to the title character in the musical “Mame,” died on Sunday in Englewood, N.J. She was 87.
Her daughter Maggie Connell confirmed the death, at the Lillian Booth Actors Home of the Actors Fund.
Ms. Connell’s comedic flair tickled audiences for nearly six decades as she made her way from California nightclubs to the Broadway stage and beyond. In 1971, writing in The New York Times, Mel Gussow applauded her portrayal of Mrs. Hardcastle in a production of “She Stoops to Conquer.”
“She strides through this production with grace and confidence, never playing for laughs, but getting most of them,” he wrote, adding, “One would like to see her in Molière, Sheridan and Shaw.”
She performed in a dozen Broadway shows, including the revue “New Faces of 1956” and two productions of Jerry Herman’s “Mame,” with Angela Lansbury, in 1966 and 1983.
She also played Agnes Gooch in the 1974 movie version, starring Lucille Ball as Mame. There were nearly as many Off Broadway shows, including the acclaimed 1954 production of “The Threepenny Opera,” starring Lotte Lenya, as well as national tours, regional productions and a great deal of television. She appeared on sitcoms like “All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H” and “Bewitched” (she played Queen Victoria, among other roles) and, perhaps inevitably, “Law & Order.”
Jane Connell, left, sings "Gooch's Song" to Angela Lansbury in the 1967 Broadway production of "Mame." Credit Leo Friedman
“Being a child of the Depression, she said, ‘I never, ever want to be out of work,’ ” the actor Peter Ratray, a close friend of the Connell family, recounted. Jane Sperry Bennett was born on Oct. 27, 1925, in Oakland, Calif. In 1948 she married Gordon Connell, a fellow actor and musician, who survives her, along with her daughters, Maggie and Melissa Connell.
The Connells worked in some of the most famous nightclubs of the day, performing musical revues at clubs including the Purple Onion and the hungry i in San Francisco and Le Ruban Bleu and Upstairs at the Downstairs in New York. A Times review by Arthur Gelb of a 1962 Off Broadway revue, “No Shoestrings,” called Ms. Connell “one of our most gifted comediennes.”
“She has a comical way of puffing up her face like a pouter pigeon and of hitting a high note with a kind of hysterical relief that she got there,” Mr. Gelb wrote.
In later years Ms. Connell had a wealth of Broadway roles. “Everybody was rediscovering this funny older actress,” her agent, Steven Unger, said.She appeared on Broadway in three shows written by Ken Ludwig: “Lend Me a Tenor” in 1989, the Gershwin musical “Crazy for You” in 1992 and “Moon Over Buffalo,” starring Carol Burnett, in 1995. She was also in Mr. Ludwig’s “Leading Ladies,” which did not reach Broadway, in 2004. Her last Broadway role, in 2001, was in “The Full Monty,” a musical adaptation of the hit 1997 film; she took over as Jeanette, the jaded pianist, after the death of Kathleen Freeman, who created the role on Broadway. Maggie Connell said that her mother loved the life of a character actor,
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Jane Sperry (Bennett) Connell Biography

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Jane Connell
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Female
Gender
Jane
First name
Sperry
Middle name
Bennett
Maiden name
Jane Connell (Sperry)
Nickname(s) or aliases
Unknown. Did Jane move a lot? Where was her last known location?
Last known residence
Jane Connell was born on in Oakland, Alameda County, California United States
Birth
Jane Connell died on at Englewood, NJ, in New Jersey
Death
Jane Connell was born on in Oakland, Alameda County, California United States
Jane Connell died on at Englewood, NJ, in New Jersey
Birth
Death
Heart failure
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Jane Connell - Actor
Born October 27, 1925 in Berkeley, California, USA
Died September 22, 2013 in Englewood, New Jersey, USA (undisclosed)
Birth Name Jane Sperry Bennett
Height 4' 11" (1.5 m)
Mini Bio (1)
Jane Connell was born on October 27, 1925 in Berkeley, California, USA as Jane Sperry Bennett. She was an actress, known for Mame (1974), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Sedgewick Hawk-Styles: Prince of Danger (1966). She was married to Gordon Connell. She died on September 22, 2013 in Englewood, New Jersey, USA.
Spouse (1)
Gordon Connell (1948 - 23 September 2013) ( her death) ( 2 children)
Trivia (6)
Jane Connell was interviewed by author Craig Hamrick for his book "Big Lou", the biography of actor Louis Edmonds. Many of her comments, plus a mini-bio at the end, appear in the book. Jane and Louis costarred in a lively 1960s musical that died on its way to Broadway and starred Kaye Ballard. It was called "Royal Flush," and Hamrick devotes several pages to coverage of this otherwise fairly obscure musical.
For nearly 50 years, she was a New York theater fixture, which includes Broadway musicals, summer stock, national tours, and cabaret. Best known on stage for her Mrs. Peachum in "The Threepenny Opera" and Agnes Gooch in "Mame", which she also played on film in the Lucille Ball version, after Madeline Kahn was fired from the role. In addition she played Carol Burnett's famed role of Princess Winifred in the original London version of "Once Upon a Mattress".
Born and raised in Berkeley, California, she married college sweetheart and fellow performer Gordon Connell. One of their first billings together was at San Francisco's Purple Onion on a billing with Maya Angelou who was at that time a calypso singer. They appeared together for years with the "Straw Hat Revue" and wed in 1948. They had two daughters, Melissa and Margaret.
Assumed the role of feisty accompanist Jeannette in the Broadway production of "The Full Monty" in 2001 when its originator, Kathleen Freeman, became ill with cancer. After Freeman's death, Connell played it for a year on Broadway, then toured for more than a year.
Nominated for the 1987 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actress in a Musical for "Me and My Girl".
Appeared in six different episodes of Bewitched (1964) playing four different characters including Queen Victoria, Martha Washington and Mother Goose.
Personal Quotes (2)
There's no question that theater has changed through the years. The one thing that bothers me is that so many of today's young actors come from television and have not been taught theater technique. They don't realize when they're upstaging you. It's not done out of meanness or trickery. They just think there's a camera over their shoulder that is filming the other actor. But I don't complain about it. I just look out front and deliver the lines.
I was born a character person. I was always eccentric, never a conventional beauty. I grew up in the Depression, the youngest of four kids. I wanted to make people laugh, because making my family laugh helped us forget our concerns. And I found that I could do it.

Personal Life & Organizations

Born and raised in Berkeley, California, she married college sweetheart and fellow performer Gordon Connell. One of their first billings together was at San Francisco's Purple Onion on a billing with Maya Angelou who was at that time a calypso singer. They appeared together for years with the "Straw Hat Revue" and wed in 1948. They had two daughters, Melissa and Margaret.

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Amanda S. Stevenson
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Jane Connell, Agnes Gooch of 'Mame,' Is Dead at 87 - The New York ...
www.nytimes.com/2013/09/.../jane-connell-agnes-gooch-of-mame-is-dead-at-87.html
Sep 25, 2013 - Jane Connell, a character actress best known for her portrayal of Agnes Gooch, the mousy secretary to the title character in the musical “Mame,” died on Sunday in Englewood, N.J. She was 87. Her daughter Maggie Connell confirmed the death, at the Lillian Booth Actors Home of the Actors Fund.
Dec 15, 2017 · Reply

Jane Connell Obituary

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Jane Connell - Obituary

Jane Connell, a career character stage actress who, despite her diminutive stature, commanded many a musical comedy stage—most notably, through her portrayal of the daffy Agnes Gooch in the original stage production of Jerry Herman's Mame—died Sept. 22. She was 87.

Only four-foot-eleven, Ms. Connell was nonetheless a master of the large comic gesture. The Oxford Companion to American Theatre described her as "a tiny woman with a giant, squeaking voice." As the meek, frumpy Gooch in Mame, she was the mouse to Auntie Mame's lion, and the actress made the most of the comic difference between the characters. "Miss Connell…plays it better than it deserves," wrote Stanley Kauffmann in the New York Times, "with the caricature rather than character that it asks."

So identified with the role did she become that, for a time, she was often cast in similar parts. "In recent years, she hasn't appeared often enough on the New York stage," complained Mel Gussow in The New York Times in 1971, "and when she has, she has tended to be type-cast. Would she always play Agnes Gooch to someone else's Auntie Mame?" It was a production of She Stoops to Conquer Gussow was reviewing at the time, and the critic found Ms. Connell conquered the assignment. "She strides through this production with grace and confidence, never playing for laughs, but getting most of them."

Ms. Connell played Gooch again in a 1983 revival of the show, again opposite Angela Lansbury. She was also one of the few players from the original staging who reprised her part in the poorly received 1974 film version. (She replaced the fired Madeline Kahn.)

She enjoyed a stage comeback and won a Tony Award nomination in 1987 for her performance as the snooty Dutchess of Dene in Me and My Girl.

Jane Sperry Bennett was born in Berkeley, CA, on Oct. 27, 1927. She became Jane Connell when she married Gordon Connell, an actor and musician. She and her husband began their careers working at the famous San Francisco nightclubs The Purple Onion and The Hungry I. Upon moving to New York, Ms. Connell found work in the long-running revival of The Threepenny Opera at the Theatre de Lys. Not yet 30, she played the middle-aged Mrs. Peachum.

She portrayed the hapless Princess Winnifred (the role that made Carol Burnett a star) in the London premiere of Once Upon a Mattress. She was part of the Leonard Stillman revue New Faces of 1956, alongside Maggie Smith and Virginia Martin, and in the short-lived musical Drat! The Cat!

While never an above-the-marquee star or household name, Ms. Connell was respected in theatre circles. The actress also knew where her talents lay early on. "I was always eccentric, never a conventional beauty," she told the Houston Chronicle in 2004. "I grew up in the Depression, the youngest of four kids. I wanted to make people laugh, because making my family laugh helped us forget our concerns. And I found that I could do it."

Following the success of Mame, Jerry Herman used her again in 1970's Dear World, a musical adaptation of The Madwoman of Chaillot. She found another champion in playwright Ken Ludwig. She starred in Ludwig's hit farce Lend Me a Tenor on Broadway in 1989. The writer was so impressed with her audition that he jumped over a row of seats to get the ear of the director, Jerry Zaks. She would return to work in Ludwig's less successful Moon Over Buffalo in 1995. In between, she was cast in director Mike Ockrent and choreographer Susan Stroman's revivifying treatment of the old Gershwin musical Crazy for You, which had a reworked book by Ludwig.

Off-Broadway credits included The Golden Apple, No Shoestrings, Put It in Writing, Drat!, The Rivals and the one-person show The Singular Dorothy Parker in 1985.

In 2001, after actress Kathleen Freeman died in the midst of the Broadway run of the musical The Full Monty, Jane Connell assumed her role of the salty, seen-it-all accompanist attempting to turn a group of blue-collar workers into credible male strippers.

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1925 - 2013 World Events

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In 1925, in the year that Jane Connell was born, in July, the Scopes Trial - often called the Scopes Monkey Trial - took place, prosecuting a substitute teacher for teaching evolution in school. Tennessee had enacted a law that said it was "unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school". William Jennings Bryan headed the prosecution and Clarence Darrow headed the defense. The teacher was found guilty and fined $100. An appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee upheld the law but overturned the guilty verdict.

In 1942, at the age of 17 years old, Jane was alive when due to World War II, automobile production in the United States was stopped on February 1st. A tire rationing program had begun the month before. Detroit - the main hub of car manufacturing - was ordered to free up assembly lines for military production. The president of the Automobile Manufacturers Association said “The automotive industry is in this war all the way". Some dealerships had to close and others expanded their repair shops. The used car market boomed (as did a black market in used cars).

In 1958, by the time she was 33 years old, on March 24th, Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army. Although he could have served in Special Services as an entertainer, he chose to become a regular soldier. Almost everyone thought it would be the end of his career - it wasn't.

In 1978, Jane was 53 years old when on November 18th, Jim Jones's Peoples Temple followers committed mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana - where they had moved, from San Francisco, as a group. Jones was the leader of the cult and ordered his followers to drink cyanide-laced punch, which they did. Whole families (women and children included) died - more than 900 people in all.

In 1984, when she was 59 years old, on January 1, "Baby Bells" were created. AT&T had been the provider of telephone service (and equipment) in the United States. The company kept Western Electric, Bell Labs, and AT&T Long Distance. Seven new regional companies (the Baby Bells) covered local telephone service and were separately owned. AT&T lost 70% of its book value due to this move.

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Aug 24, 1913 - Aug 24, 1982
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Jan 12, 1961 - Unknown
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1906 - Jan 31, 1988
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Nov 12, 1899 - Jul 1, 1970
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Dec 13, 1958 - Unknown

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1895 - 1954
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