Alice Ghostley

Last updated
Alice Ghostley
Alice Ghostley Cousin Alice Mayberry RFD 1970.JPG
Ghostley as Cousin Alice in Mayberry R.F.D. , 1970
Alice Margaret Ghostley

(1923-08-14)August 14, 1923
DiedSeptember 21, 2007(2007-09-21) (aged 84)
OccupationActress, singer [1]
Years active1953–2000
Spouse(s) Felice Orlandi (1953–2003; his death)

Alice Margaret Ghostley (August 14, 1923 – September 21, 2007) [2] was an American actress and singer. She was best known for her roles as the bungling insecure Esmeralda (1969–70; 1972) on Bewitched , as Cousin Alice (1970–71) on Mayberry R.F.D. , and as Bernice Clifton (1986–93) on Designing Women , for which she received an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1992. She was a regular on Nichols (1971–72) and The Julie Andrews Hour (1972–73). [3]

<i>Bewitched</i> American sitcom (1964-1972)

Bewitched is an American television sitcom fantasy series, originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from September 17, 1964, to March 25, 1972. It is about a witch who marries an ordinary mortal man, and vows to lead the life of a typical suburban housewife. The show enjoyed great popularity, finishing as the number two-rated show in America during its debut season, staying in the top ten for its first three seasons, and just missing this mark with an eleventh place ranking for both seasons four and five. The show continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and on recorded media.

<i>Mayberry R.F.D.</i> American television series

Mayberry R.F.D. is an American television series produced as a spin-off and direct continuation of The Andy Griffith Show. When star Andy Griffith decided to leave his series, most of the supporting characters returned for the retitled program, which ran for three seasons on the CBS Television Network from 1968–1971.

<i>Designing Women</i> television program

Designing Women is an American sitcom created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that aired on CBS from September 29, 1986, until May 24, 1993, producing seven seasons and 163 episodes. The comedy series Designing Women was a joint production of Bloodworth/Thomason Mozark Productions in association with Columbia Pictures Television for CBS.


Early life

Ghostley was born in Eve, Missouri, in 1923 to Edna Muriel (née Rooney) and Harry Francis Ghostley, [4] who worked as a telegraph operator. She grew up in Henryetta, Oklahoma. She attended the University of Oklahoma, but dropped out to pursue a career in theater. [5]

Eve is an unincorporated community in Vernon County, in the U.S. state of Missouri.

Henryetta, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Henryetta is a city in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 5,510 at the 2010 census, down 9.6 percent from 6,096 at the 2000 census.

University of Oklahoma public research university in Norman, Oklahoma, United States

The University of Oklahoma (OU) is a public research university in Norman, Oklahoma. Founded in 1890, it had existed in Oklahoma Territory near Indian Territory for 17 years before the two became the state of Oklahoma. In Fall 2018 the university had 31,702 students enrolled, most at its main campus in Norman. Employing nearly 3,000 faculty members, the school offers 152 baccalaureate programs, 160 master's programs, 75 doctorate programs, and 20 majors at the first professional level.



Ghostley first came to Broadway in Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1952 and in the film version released in 1954. [1] She appeared in the 1960 revue A Thurber Carnival and in The Beauty Part (1962), playing several distinct roles in each. She also performed in several musical comedies, including Shangri-La (1956). In 1978, she succeeded Dorothy Loudon, who had created the role of Miss Hannigan in the original Broadway run of the musical Annie .[ citation needed ]

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

Leonard Sillman was an American Broadway producer. Born in Detroit, Michigan on May 9, 1908, he was the brother of June Carroll, the brother-in-law of Sidney Carroll and the uncle of Steve Reich and Jonathan Carroll. He is perhaps best known for his series of musical revues, Leonard Sillman's New Faces, which introduced many major stars to Broadway audiences, such as Eartha Kitt, Inga Swenson, Paul Lynde and Maggie Smith. Versions of New Faces were produced in 1934, 1936, 1943, 1952, 1956, 1962 and 1968. The very first New Faces in 1934 included actors Henry Fonda, Imogene Coca and Frances Dewey Wormser.

<i>New Faces of 1952</i> musical

New Faces of 1952 is a musical revue with songs and comedy skits. It ran on Broadway for nearly a year in 1952 and was then made into a motion picture in 1954. It helped launch the careers of several young performers including Paul Lynde, Alice Ghostley, Eartha Kitt, Robert Clary, Carol Lawrence, Ronny Graham, performer/writer Mel Brooks, and lyricist Sheldon Harnick.


A veteran of early television, Ghostley appeared as Joy, one of the ugly stepsisters in the 1957 musical television production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Cinderella , which starred Julie Andrews in the title role. The other stepsister was played by actress Kaye Ballard. Twelve years later, Ghostley guest-starred as a harried maternity nurse on Ballard's comedy series, The Mothers-in-Law . [6] Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine (TV Series) Agnes / Guest Vocalist - Episode #2.21 (1964) ... Agnes - Episode #2.11 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #2.10 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #2.4 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #2.2 (1963) ... Agnes - Gleason Gaities 1963 (1963) ... Guest Vocalist - Episode #1.26 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.22 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.21 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.19 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.14 (1962) ... Agnes - Episode #1.8 (1962) ... Agnes - Episode #1.7 (1962) ... Agnes

Richard Rodgers American composer of songs and Broadway musicals

Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer of music, with over 900 songs and 43 Broadway musicals, leaving a legacy as one of the most significant composers of 20th-century American music. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. His compositions have had a significant impact on popular music.

Oscar Hammerstein II American librettist, lyricist, theatrical producer, and (usually uncredited) theatre director of musicals

Oscar Greeley Clendenning Ritter von Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost 40 years. He won eight Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Many of his songs are standard repertoire for vocalists and jazz musicians. He co-wrote 850 songs.

<i>Cinderella</i> (musical) musical written for television, with music by Richard Rodgers and a book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II in 1957

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is a musical written for television, but later played on stage, with music by Richard Rodgers and a book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. It is based upon the fairy tale Cinderella, particularly the French version Cendrillon, ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre, by Charles Perrault. The story concerns a young woman forced into a life of servitude by her cruel stepmother and self-centered stepsisters, who dreams of a better life. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, Cinderella is transformed into a Princess and finds her Prince.

Ghostley guest-starred on the NBC police comedy, Car 54, Where Are You?, with Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne. She portrayed recurring characters on several situation comedies, beginning with Bewitched in 1966 in "Maid To Order", in which Ghostley played an inept maid named Naomi, who was hired by Darrin Stephens (played by Dick York) to assist his wife Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) during her pregnancy. Towards the end of the 1965-66 season, actress-comedian Alice Pearce, who was featured as nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched, died. The producers of the series immediately offered the role of Gladys to Ghostley, who refused it. As a result, in the fall of 1966, character actress Sandra Gould assumed the role of Gladys. In September 1969, after the death of actress Marion Lorne, who played Aunt Clara, Ghostley joined Bewitched as a semiregular in the role of Esmeralda, a shy witch who served as a maid and babysitter to the Stephens' household. [3] Ghostley's character of Esmeralda was created to replace Aunt Clara's role as a bumbler of magic. (Coincidentally, Ghostley and Lorne shared a brief scene together in the 1967 film The Graduate, a few months prior to Lorne's death and before Ghostley was cast in Bewitched.)

NBC American television and radio network

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.

Joe E. Ross American comic actor

Joe E. Ross was an American actor known for his trademark "Ooh! Ooh!" exclamation, which he used in many of his roles. He starred in such TV sitcoms as The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You?.

Ghostley's Esmeralda appeared in 15 episodes of Bewitched between 1969 and 1972. [7] During her two years on Bewitched, Ghostley also joined the cast of Mayberry R.F.D. , playing Cousin Alice (the namesake of rock singer Alice Cooper) after Frances Bavier's character, Aunt Bee, was written out of the series. She appeared in 14 episodes.

Alice Cooper American rock singer, songwriter and musician

Alice Cooper is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. With his distinctive raspy voice and a stage show that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, deadly snakes, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by music journalists and peers alike to be "The Godfather of Shock Rock". He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock designed to shock people.

Frances Bavier American stage and television actress

Frances Elizabeth Bavier was an American stage and television actress. Originally from New York theatre, she worked in film and television from the 1950s until the 1970s. She is best known for her role of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. from 1960 to 1970. Aunt Bee logged more Mayberry years (ten) than any other character. She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Comedy Actress for the role in 1967.

Aunt Bee

Aunt Bee is a fictional character from the 1960 American television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Played by Frances Bavier, the character migrated to the spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. (1968–1971) when The Andy Griffith Show ended its run in 1968, and remained for two years. Though she was the aunt of Sheriff Andy Taylor, virtually every character in Mayberry called her "Aunt Bee".

On February 22, 1969, she appeared as Aggie on The Ghost & Mrs Muir (starring Edward Mulhare and Hope Lange). The episode was entitled "Make Me A Match". The captain and Mrs. Muir matched her with Claymore Gregg (Charles Nelson Reilly). On March 6, 1970, she appeared on another episode of The Ghost & Mrs Muir, "Curious Cousin". She played nosey Cousin Harriet. She interferes with Mrs Muir's private life. To divert her excessive attention, Claymore, posing as Captain Gregg, comes to court her.

After eight years, Bewitched was cancelled by ABC in the spring of 1972. Later that year in September, Ghostley was hired as a semiregular for the ABC-TV variety series, The Julie Andrews Hour ; in addition to participating in songs and sketches, Andrews and Ghostley were featured in a recurring segment as roommates sharing a small apartment. The Julie Andrews Hour was cancelled by ABC in the spring of 1973 after 24 episodes. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ghostley appeared in episodes of situation comedies such as Hogan's Heroes (alternating with Kathleen Freeman playing Gertrude Linkmaier, General Burkhalter's sister), Good Times , Maude , One Day at a Time , The Odd Couple , and What's Happening!! .

Between 1986 and 1993, Ghostley portrayed Bernice Clifton, the slightly off-kilter, eccentric friend of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker's mother, Perky, on Designing Women . [8] She later played Irna Wallingsford in six episodes of Evening Shade . She also had a recurring role of Ida Mae Brindle in the sitcom Small Wonder , which ran from 1985 to 1989. Among many other guest roles, she appeared in a flashback episode as the crazed mother-in-law of Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) on The Golden Girls . She made a one-time appearance as Great-Grandma in Sabrina the Teenage Witch . Ghostley also made a few guest appearances on the daytime drama Passions in 2000, playing the ghost of Matilda Matthews.


Among her roles in motion pictures, Ghostley appeared in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), [3] playing Stephanie Crawford, the neighborhood gossip. She appeared in the film version of Grease as shop teacher Mrs. Murdock. In 1985, she had a supporting role in the Nancy Allen comedy Not for Publication . Alice played Grandmama in the direct-to-video movie Addams Family Reunion .[ citation needed ]


Ghostley received a Tony nomination in the late 1960s for different roles she played in the Broadway comedy The Beauty Part. She also received a Tony award for Best Featured Actress for her role in The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window . [5] In 1992, she earned an Emmy nomination for her role in Designing Women. [5]

Personal life

Ghostley was married to Felice Orlandi, an Italian-American actor, from 1953 until his death in 2003. [5]

Ghostley died at her home in Studio City, California, on September 21, 2007, after a long battle with colon cancer and a series of strokes. [9] On August 20, 2009, her ashes were taken to Oak Hill Cemetery in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and buried with her sister Gladys (died June 21, 2009). The sisters are interred next to their parents and near Alice’s husband, Felice Orlandi.

Selected filmography

Select television credits

Agnes / Guest Vocalist - Episode #2.21 (1964) ... Agnes - Episode #2.11 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #2.10 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #2.4 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #2.2 (1963) ... Agnes - Gleason Gaities 1963 (1963) ... Guest Vocalist - Episode #1.26 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.22 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.21 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.19 (1963) ... Agnes - Episode #1.14 (1962) ... Agnes - Episode #1.8 (1962) ... Agnes - Episode #1.7 (1962) ... Agnes </IMDB>

Related Research Articles

Gladys Cooper British actress

Dame Gladys Constance Cooper, was an English actress whose career spanned seven decades on stage, in films and on television.

Alice Pearce American actress

Alice Pearce was an American actress. She was brought to Hollywood by Gene Kelly to reprise her Broadway performance in the film version of On the Town (1949). Pearce played comedic supporting roles in several films, before being cast as nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz in the television sitcom Bewitched in 1964. She won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series posthumously after the second season of the series. She died from ovarian cancer in 1966.

Jane Darwell actress

Jane Darwell was an American actress of stage, film, and television. With appearances in more than one hundred major motion pictures spanning half a century, Darwell is perhaps best-remembered for her poignant portrayal of the matriarch and leader of the Joad family in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and her role as the Bird Woman in Disney's musical family film Mary Poppins. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Irene Ryan American actress

Irene Ryan was an American actress who found success in vaudeville, radio, film, television, and Broadway.

Ellen Corby American actress

Ellen Hansen Corby was an American actress. She is best remembered for the role of Esther "Grandma" Walton on the CBS television series The Waltons, for which she won three Emmy Awards. She was also nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe Award for her performance as Aunt Trina in I Remember Mama (1948).

Mary Grace Canfield was an American theatre, film and television actress.

Marion Lorne actress

Marion Lorne MacDougal or MacDougall, known professionally as Marion Lorne, was an American actress of stage, film, and television. After a career in theatre in New York and London, Lorne made her first film in 1951, and for the remainder of her life played small roles in films and television. Her recurring role as Aunt Clara in the comedy series Bewitched, between 1964 and her death in 1968, brought her widespread recognition, and she was posthumously awarded an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

Kathleen Freeman American actress

Kathleen Freeman was an American film, television, voice actress, and stage actress. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, she portrayed acerbic maids, secretaries, teachers, busybodies, nurses, and battle-axe neighbors and relatives, almost invariably to comic effect.

Sandra Gould Actress, writer

Sandra Gould was an American actress, perhaps best known for her role as Gladys Kravitz on the sitcom Bewitched. Gould was the second actress to portray the role, debuting in the third season.

Ellen Jane Carr is an English actress. She is well known for the voice role of "Pud'n" on the animated The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. She also played a character called "Pudding" in the Jilly Cooper-penned BBC sitcom It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling.

Mildred Natwick American actress

Mildred Natwick was an American stage, film and television actress. In 1967, she earned an Academy Award nomination for her supporting role in Barefoot in the Park. She was nominated for two Tony Awards in 1957 and 1972 and won a Primetime Emmy Award for her work in the miniseries The Snoop Sisters, opposite Helen Hayes.

Clarice Taylor was an American stage, film and television actress.

Reta Shaw American actress

Reta Shaw was an American character actress known for playing strong, working women in film and on many of the most popular television programs of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. She may be best remembered as the housekeeper, Martha Grant, on the television series The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and as the cook, Mrs. Brill, in the 1964 film Mary Poppins.

Nydia Westman American actress

Nydia Eileen Westman was an American actress and singer of stage, screen, and television.

Maudie Prickett American actress

Maudie Prickett was an American character actress who performed in over 300 stage, film, and television productions during a career that spanned nearly four decades.

Joan Tompkins American actress

Joan Tompkins, Mrs. Joan Swenson was an American actress of television, film, radio, and stage, who co-founded with her husband, Karl Swenson, an acting company in Beverly Hills, California.

Mary Treen American actress

Mary Treen was an American film and television actress, a familiar face who brought levity to the screen. A minor actress for much of her career, she managed to secure a plain, unassuming niche for herself in the Hollywood of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

Paulene Myers American actress

Paulene Elenora Myers was an American actress. Variations on the spelling of her name include Pauline Myers and Pauline Meyers. She was a pioneer among African–American actors who performed on Broadway stage and appeared on many television series throughout her long career. Myers' career spanned over six decades.


  1. 1 2 Arnold, Gary (October 18, 2007). "Familiar New Faces: Spoofs Endure For Cast, Films". The Washington Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  2. Stuart Lavietes (September 22, 2007). "Alice Ghostley, Comic TV and Stage Actress, Is Dead". The New York Times . Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  3. 1 2 3 Lavietes, Stuart (September 22, 2007). "Alice Ghostley, Comic TV and Stage Actress, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  4. Profile,; accessed May 11, 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Bewitched Actress Alice Ghostley Dies". Sunday Gazette-Mail. September 23, 2007. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  6. Foster, Catherine (December 5, 2004). "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Musical Cinderella Story Returns". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  7. Paul. "When Esmeralda Sneezed". Archived from the original on June 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-27.
  8. Bornfeld, Steve (July 3, 1990). "Quality-Television Group Picks Nominees For Its Own Awards". Albany Times. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  9. "Alice Ghostley obituary". The Advocate. November 6, 2007. Archived from the original on February 28, 2011. Retrieved November 27, 2012.