Parsons in a Love, American Style episode in 1973.
Estelle Margaret Parsons
November 20, 1927
Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, singer, stage director|
(m. 1953; div. 1958)
After studying law, Parsons became a singer before deciding to pursue a career in acting. She worked for the television program Today and made her stage debut in 1961. During the 1960s, Parsons established her career on Broadway before progressing to film. She received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and was also nominated for her work in Rachel, Rachel (1968).
She worked extensively in film and theatre during the 1970s and later directed several Broadway productions. More recently her television work included her most well-known role, playing Beverly Harris, mother of the eponymous title character, on the sitcom Roseanne, and its spinoff The Conners. She has been nominated five times for the Tony Award (four times for Lead Actress of a Play and once for Featured Actress). In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
She attended Oak Grove School for Girls in Maine. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1949, Parsons initially studied law at Boston University, and then worked as a singer with a band before settling on an acting career in the early 1950s. In 1983, when co-starring with fellow Academy Award-winning actor Jack Lemmon in a new Ernest Thompson stage play in Los Angeles, Parsons appeared on the November 1 episode of The Tonight Show, telling Johnny Carson that Lemmon had been her first boyfriend, when they were both teenagers in the 1940s.
Moving to New York City, Parsons worked as a writer, producer and commentator for The Today Show. She made her Broadway debut in 1956 in the ensemble of the Ethel Merman musical Happy Hunting. She began performing Off-Broadway in 1961, and received a Theatre World Award in 1963 for her performance in Whisper into My Good Ear/Mrs. Dally Has a Lover (1962).
In 1964, Parsons won an Obie Award for Best Actress for her performance in two Off-Broadway plays, Next Time I'll Sing to You and In the Summer House. In 1967, she starred with Stacy Keach in the premiere of Joseph Heller's play We Bombed in New Haven at the Yale Repertory Theater.
Parsons has received Tony Award nominations for her work in The Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), Miss Margarida's Way (1978), Morning's at Seven (2002), and The Velocity of Autumn (2014). She played Leokadia Begbick in the American premiere of the Weill–Brecht opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1970), and performed as Mrs. Peachum to Lotte Lenya's Jenny in Threepenny Opera on tour and in New York City. In 1978 she played Lady MacBeth in the Kauai Community Players production. She also played Ruth in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway in 1981. From June 17, 2008 through May 17, 2009, she played the role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County. She continued playing the role during the show's national tour beginning July 24, 2009, in Denver.
As a director, Parsons has a number of Broadway credits, including a production of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and As You Like It in 1986. Off-Broadway, she directed Dario Fo's Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo (1983). She served as the Artistic Director of the Actors Studio for five years, ending in 2003.
In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Her film career includes an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and a nomination for Rachel, Rachel (1968). She received a BAFTA Award nomination for her role in Watermelon Man (1970), and appeared in I Never Sang for My Father (1970), Two People (1973), A Memory of Two Mondays (1974), For Pete's Sake (1974), Dick Tracy (1990) and Boys on the Side (1995).
On television, Parsons played the recurring role of Beverly Harris, the mother of the title character on Roseanne; her Beverly character is the daughter of character Nana Mary, played by fellow Academy Award winner Shelley Winters. Other television credits include appearances in The Patty Duke Show, Love, American Style, All In The Family, Archie Bunker's Place, Open Admissions, Frasier, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Good Wife, as well as The UFO Incident: The Story of Betty and Barney Hill and the PBS production of June Moon. She played the part of Babe in two episodes of the second season of Grace and Frankie.
She was honored with a Woman of Achievement Award from the Women's Project Theater in 2009. In 2010, she appeared in London, playing psychic Helga ten Dorp in Deathtrap at the Noël Coward Theatre in the West End.
Parsons married author Richard Gehman in 1953. They had twin daughters, reporter Abbie and actress Martha Gehman (born 1955), before divorcing in 1958. Her grandson, Abbie's son, is former Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars guard/tackle, Eben Britton, named for his great-grandfather, Estelle's father. In January 1983 she married her partner of 10 years, Peter Zimroth, who has served as Assistant U.S. Attorney, Assistant District Attorney and court-appointed monitor of the NYPD's policies and practices regarding stop-and-frisk. Their marriage honoured the pending adoption of their child, son Abraham (born February 1983).
|1963||Ladybug Ladybug||JoAnn's Mother|
|1967||Bonnie and Clyde||Blanche||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress |
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
|1968||Rachel, Rachel||Calla Mackie||Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance|
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
|1969||Don't Drink the Water||Marion Hollander|
|1970||Watermelon Man||Althea Gerber||Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role|
|1970||I Walk the Line||Ellen Haney|
|1970||I Never Sang for My Father||Alice|
|1973||Two People||Barbara Newman|
|1974||For Pete's Sake||Helen Robbins|
|1975||Fore Play||1st Lady / Barmaid|
|1989||The Lemon Sisters||Mrs. Kupchak|
|1990||The Blue Men||May|
|1990||Dick Tracy||Mrs. Trueheart|
|1995||Boys on the Side||Louise|
|1996||Looking for Richard||Margaret|
|1997||That Darn Cat||Old Lady McCracken|
|1954||Today||Self||Episode dated 6 September 1954|
|1963||The Defenders||Mrs. Martin||"Metamorphosis"|
|1964||The DuPont Show of the Week||Carrie Bernice||"The Gambling Heart"|
|The Patty Duke Show||Mrs. Appleton||"The Con Artist"|
|1965||The Doctors and the Nurses||Mrs. Meyers||"Where There's Smoke"|
|1966||The Trials of O'Brien||Miss Baines||"Alarums and Excursions"|
|1968||Snap Judgment||Self||Episode dated 18 November 1968|
|Hemingway's Spain: A Love Affair||Self (voice only)|
|Kraft Music Hall||Self||Episode #11.30|
|The 40th Annual Academy Awards||Self||Oscar winner|
|1970||The Front Page||Mollie Malloy|
|The David Frost Show||Self||Episode #2.240|
|1971||25th Tony Awards||Self||Nominee|
|Great Performances||Agnes||A Memory of Two Mondays|
|1972||Love, American Style||Bernice||"Love and the Clinic/Love and the Perfect Wedding/Love and the President/Love and the Return of Raymond"|
|Medical Center||Bev||"Wall of Silence"|
|1973||Terror on the Beach||Arlene Glynn|
|1974||The Gun and the Pulpit||Sadie Underwood|
|Great Performances||Lucille||"June Moon"|
|1975||The UFO Incident||Betty Hill|
|1976||The Tenth Level||Crossland|
|NBC Special Treat||Edwina Kemp||"Big Henry and the Polka Dot Kid"|
|All in the Family||Dolores Mancheney Fencel||"Archie's Secret Passion"|
|1978||All in the Family||Blanche Hefner||2 episodes|
|1979||Archie Bunker's Place||Blanche Hefner||"Blanche and Murray"|
|Backstairs at the White House||Bess Truman||Four episodes|
|1981||The Gentleman Bandit||Marjorie Seebode|
|Guests of the Nation||Kate O'Connell|
|1982||Today||Self||Episode dated 14 January 1982|
|American Playhouse||Mabel Lederer/Angela Motorman||"Come Along with Me"|
|1987||American Playhouse||"Waiting for the Moon" (the producers wish to thank)|
|1988||Open Admissions||Clare Block|
|1989–1997, 2018||Roseanne||Beverly Harris||61 episodes|
Nominated for TV Land Award
|1990||Everyday Heroes||Matty Jennings|
|1992||A Private Matter||Mary Chessen||Nominated—CableACE Award Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries|
|1993||The American Clock||Older Doris|
|Family Feud||Self||"Roseanne vs. Jackie Thomas Sitcoms"|
|1994||Inside the Actors Studio||Self|
|1997||Touched by an Angel||Jeannette Fisher||"Sandcastles"|
|1998||The Love Letter||Beatrice Corrigan|
|The 70th Annual Academy Awards||Self|
|1999||Freak City||Mrs. Stanapolous|
|2000||Backstory||Self||"Bonnie and Clyde"|
|2001||100 Center Street||Esther O'Neill||"The Fix"|
|2002||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Rose Rinato||"Denial"|
|The 56th Annual Tony Awards||Self|
|2004||Frasier||Celeste's Mother (voice)|
"Coots and Ladders"
|Strip Search||Roberta Gray|
|Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde||Self|
|2005||Empire Falls||Bea||2 episodes|
|2013||The Good Wife||Nana Joe||Episode: "What's in the Box?"|
|2016–2019||Grace and Frankie||Babe||3 episodes|
|2018–present||The Conners||Beverly Harris||4 episodes|
- Profile, playbillvault.com; accessed November 18, 2016.
- "The Passion of Estelle Parsons" Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, nyc-plus.com; accessed 3 May 2014.
- Estelle Parsons profile, Filmreference.com; accessed May 3, 2014.
- Estelle Parsons profile, Yahoo! Movies; accessed May 3, 2014.
- Buckley, Michael (July 27, 2008). "STAGE TO SCREENS: Chats with Estelle Parsons, Mary McCormack and Bryan Batt". Playbill. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
- Kahn, Toby (September 26, 1983). "Actress Estelle Parsons Tackles Her Toughest Role: At 55, She's a Mom Again". People. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- "We Bombed in New Haven". Original Yale Repertory Program. December 4–23, 1967. Archived from the original on February 26, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
- "Cherry Lane Theatre". Cherrylanetheatre.org. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
- "Hall of Fame honors hoofer" Variety, October 24, 2004.
- "Women of Achievement Honorees | Women's Project Theater". Wptheater.org. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
- "Deathtrap, With Jonathan Groff, Simon Russell Beale, Estelle Parsons, Opens in London". Playbill. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
- Profile, broadwayworld.com; accessed October 16, 2014.
- Vick, Megan (April 13, 2018). "Roseanne Exclusive: Bev Is Back!". tvguide.com. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- "Player Bio - Eben Britton". chicagobears.com. Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- "About Us". NYPD Monitor. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "Oscar-Estelle Parsons". Academy Awards. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
- Estelle Parsons on IMDb
- Estelle Parsons at the Internet Broadway Database
- Estelle Parsons at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Estelle Parsons at the University of Wisconsin's Actors Studio audio collection
- Estelle Parsons at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
- Estelle Parsons reading Flannery O'Connor's story "Everything That Rises Must Converge" on YouTube
| Artistic Director of the Actors Studio