Jane Sperry Connell (1925 - 2013)

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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,

Jane Sperry Connell Biography & Family History

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Birth

Death

on at Englewood, NJ, in New Jersey
Cause of death: Heart failure

Cause of death

Heart failure

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Family

Siblings: Maggie Connell

Husband: Gordon Connell

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Middle name

Sperry

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Female

Timeline

1925 - In the year that Jane Sperry 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.

1959 - At the age of 34 years old, Jane was alive when on August 8th, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. The US flag was changed to show 50 stars.

1960 - When she was 35 years old, on September 26th, the first televised debate for a Presidential campaign in the United States - Kennedy vs Nixon - was held. Seventy million people watched the debate on TV. The debate pre-empted the very popular Andy Griffith Show.

1983 - She was 58 years old when "crack" cocaine was developed in the Bahamas and spread to the United States. Previously, cocaine had been cut with other substances, diluting it. Crack was 80% pure and therefore was more addictive. It was also cheaper, making it more easily available to low income neighborhoods.

1985 - When she was 60 years old, on March 7th, the song "We Are the World" was released as a charity effort to alleviate the African famine. The song was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones. They were joined by 37 other famous singers in the recording studio and a phenomena had begun

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Obituary

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Jane Sperry Connell died on September 22, 2013 at Englewood, NJ, New Jersey at 87 years of age. Her family lists the cause of death as: heart failure. Jane was born on October 27, 1925. She had sibling Maggie. She married Gordon Connell.

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Jane Connell, Agnes Gooch of 'Mame,' Is Dead at 87 - The New York ...
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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
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