|Born||December 29, 1932 (some sources say 1934)|
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Lowell M. Harris (an actor and singer), m. February 21, 1953|
Inga Swenson graduated from Omaha Central High School in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1950. She studied drama at Northwestern University under Alvina Krause, among others, and was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. Early in her career, Swenson had supporting roles in the films Advise and Consent (1962) and The Miracle Worker (1962) in which she played Helen Keller's mother. Swenson is a trained lyric soprano and starred on Broadway in New Faces (c. 1956), and The First Gentleman (1959), receiving Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Musical for her performances in 110 in the Shade (1964) and Baker Street (1965).
Swenson had a role in the TV western series Bonanza in two episodes: "Inger, My Love" (1962) and "Journey Remembered" (1963). Swenson is best known for her portrayal of Gretchen Kraus, the autocratic and acerbic German cook (later head housekeeper and budget director) in the TV sitcom Benson. She received the part by appearing in a multi-episode stint as Ingrid Svenson, the Swedish birth mother of Corinne Tate (Diana Canova), on the TV sitcom Soap, which had the same producers. She also appeared as northern matriarch Maude Hazard in the mini-series North and South in 1985 and again in 1986.
Swenson is married to actor and singer Lowell Harris, with whom she had two children, sons Mark and James Harris; the latter died in a motorcycle crash in 1987, at age 26.
- Stage debut – Maid, Peg O' My Heart, Berkshire Playhouse, Stockbridge, MA, 1949.
- Broadway debut – Singer, New Faces of '56 (revue), Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 1956.
- London debut – Lizzie Currie, 110 in the Shade, Palace Theatre, 1967.
Principal stage appearances
- Princess Alexandria, The Swan, Minnie Fay, The Merchant of Yonkers, singer, Sing Out, Sweet Land, and extra, Othello, all Playhouse Theatre, Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, 1952.
- Aunt Anna Rose, Treasure Hunt, Monica, The Medium, Lucy, The Telephone, Dunyasha, The Cherry Orchard, Alizon Elliot, The Lady's Not for Burning, and Isabelle, Ring 'round the Moon, all Playhouse Theatre, Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, 1953.
- Georgie Elgin, The Country Girl, Celia Copplestone, The Cocktail Party, Mrs. Larue, Mrs. McThing, Countess Aurelia, The Madwoman of Chaillot, and Angelique, The Imaginary Invalid, all Playhouse Theatre, Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, 1954.
- Olivia, Twelfth Night, Jan Hus Playhouse, New York City, 1954.
- Princess Charlotte, The First Gentleman, Belasco Theatre, New York City, 1957.
- Madge, Picnic, and Amy Kittridge, A Swim in the Sea, both Royal Poinciana Playhouse, Palm Beach, FL, 1958.
- Ophelia, Hamlet, Helena, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Perdita, The Winter's Tale, all American Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, CT, 1958.
- Amy Kittridge, A Swim in the Sea, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, 1958.
- Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, American Shakespeare Festival, 1959.
- Solveig, Peer Gynt, Phoenix Theatre, New York City, 1960.
- Julie Jordan, Carousel, Melody Top Theatre, Hillside, IL, 1962.
- Gillian, Bell, Book, and Candle, Kiamesha Playhouse, Kiamesha Lake, New York, 1962.
- Desdemona, Othello, Arena Stage, Washington, DC, 1963.
- Magnolia, Show Boat, Kenley Players, Warren, OH, then Columbus, OH, both 1963.
- Lizzie Currie, 110 in the Shade, Broadhurst Theatre, New York City, 1963.
- Irene Adler, Baker Street, Broadway Theatre, New York City, 1965.
- title role, Mary Stuart, Parker Playhouse, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1967.
- Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady, City Center Light Opera Company, City center theater, New York City, 1968.
- Lady Alice More, A Man for All Seasons, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, 1979.
- The Crucible, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre, 1972
- The Four Poster, New Stage Theatre, Jackson, MS, 1979.
Television debut – Singer, Chrysler Special, CBC (Canadian television), 1957.
- Amelia Foster, Testimony of Two Men, syndicated, 1977.
- Maude Hazard, North and South, ABC, 1985.
- Maude Hazard, North and South, Book II, ABC, 1986.
- Liza, "The Best Wine", Goodyear Playhouse, NBC, 1957
- Marjorie, "The World of Nick Adams", The Seven Lively Arts, CBS, 1957
- Maria, "Heart of Darkness", Playhouse 90, CBS, 1958
- Milly Theale, "Wings of the Dove", Playhouse 90, CBS, 1958
- Vera, "Goodbye, But It Doesn't Go Away", U.S. Steel Hour, CBS, 1958
- Rose Maylie, "Oliver Twist", DuPont Show of the Month, CBS, 1959
- Lady Jane, "Victoria Regina", Hallmark Hall of Fame, NBC, 1961
- Inger, "Inger, My Love", Bonanza, NBC, 1962
- Henrietta Higgins, "The Sod House Woman", Sara, CBS, 1976
- Ingrid Swenson, Soap, 1978, 1979
- Helen's mother, "Sex & Violence" (unaired), Highcliffe Manor, NBC, 1979
- Sonya Green, Hotel, ABC, 1988
- Holly Lindstrom, The Golden Girls, NBC, 1989
- Madelyn Stone, Newhart, CBS, 1989.
- The Defenders, CBS, 1961 and 1962
- Dr. Kildare, NBC, 1962
- Bonanza, NBC, 1963
- The Nurses, CBS, 1963
- American Musical Theatre, CBS, 1964
- The Tonight Show, NBC, 1964
- My Father and My Mother, CBS Playhouse, CBS, 1968
- Medical Center, CBS, 1970 and 1971
- The Tape Recorder, NET Playhouse, PBS, 1970
- Ingrid, Soap, ABC.
- Lavinia, Androcles and the Lion, NBC, 1967.
- Mrs. Trimble, My Dear Uncle Sherlock, ABC Short Story Specials, ABC, 1977.
- Mrs. Marston, The Terrible Secret. ABC Afterschool Special, ABC, 1979.
- Kate, The Gay Deceivers, CBC, 1956.
- "Inga Swenson". Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television (fee, via Fairfax County Public Library). 7. Detroit: Gale. 1989. Gale Document Number: GALE|K1609002225. Retrieved December 4, 2013. Biography in Context. (subscription required)
Goode, James (December 15, 2004). "Ms. Alvina Krause". Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved December 2, 2013. Please see also www
.bte .org /alvina-krause /
- "New Theater Honors Alvina Krause". Northwestern (magazine). Spring 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Gaver, Jack. "What Price Praise?". The Oxnard Press-Courier. March 21, 1964.
- Witbeck, Charles. "Gretchen is Thawing". The Hendersonville Times-News. January 19, 1983.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
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