Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Comedian and Actress Dody Goodman Passes On

Comedian and character actress Dody Goodman, well known for her appearances on Tonight Show when it was hosted by Jack Paar, passed Sunday. She is believed to have been 93.

Dody Goodman was born Dolores Goodman on October 28, either in 1914 or 1915, in Columbus, Ohio. After graduating from high school she moved to New York where she hoped to become a ballerina. Instead she found herself dancing in chorus lines on Broadway. She appeared in a variety of Broadway plays as a cancer, first receiving her first credit in Viva O'Brien in 1941. She would also appear in such musicals as Miss Liberty, Call Me Madam, and My Darlin' Aida. She played the character Violet in Wonderful Town in 1953. Its director, George Abbot, convinced her that she should focus on comedy. To this end, Goodman developed a new persona of a ditzy, very talkative woman not unlike Gracie Allen.

Goodman's gift for comedy would come to the attention of Tonight Show host Jack Paar, and she was invited to appear on The Tonight Show. She first appeared on the show in 1957 and her appearances there brought her fame and an Emmy nomination for Best Continuing Performance (Female) in a Series by a Comedienne, Singer, Hostess, Dancer, M.C., Announcer, Narrator, Panelist, or any Person who Essentially Plays Herself. Unfortunately, Jack Paar began to feel that Goodman was upstaging him and the two had a falling out. After appearing frequently in 1958, she would only appear on Jack Paar;s show two more times in 1960 and 1961. Goodman would go onto make several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, also appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and The Mike Douglas Show. She also guest starred on The Phil Silvers Show and The Defenders. She appeared in the film Bedtime Story. She was a regular for a while in 1968 on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow.

Goodman would return to Broadway in the Sixties, appearing in A Rainy Day in Newark, My Daughter, Your Son, and a revival of The Front Page. It was in the Seventies that she appeared on the show other than The Tonight Show for which she is most famous. She played Martha Shumway, the title character's mother on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. She appeared in the movies Silent Movie and Grease, playing the high school secretary Blanche. She also appeared on Broadway in Lorelei.

During the Eighties, Goodman reprised her role of Blanche for Grease 2 and also appeared in the movies Max Dugan Returns, Splash, and Private Resort. She guest starred on the shows St. Elsewhere, Crazy Like a Fox, and Murder She Wrote. She was a semi-regular on Diff'rent Strokes. She provided the voice of Miss Miller on the Eighties Saturday morning cartoon Alvin and the Chipmunks.

From the Nineties into the Naughts, Dody Goodman appeared less frequently on television, although she would play in the long running Broadway revival of Grease. She also appeared in the films Cool as Ice, Frozen Assets, Samantha, Cops and Roberts, and Black Ribbon (relased in 2007, it was her last appearance on screen).

Dody Goodman was easily one of the funniest comedians from the early days of television. Her voice alone, which was somewhere between Scarlet O'Hara and Tweety Pie, was funny. And while the persona she created was ditzy, when Goodman talked her speech was peppered with wit and a natural gift for absurdity. I was not alive to see her on The Jack Paar Show, but I have seen clips. She was truly hilarious on the show. Goodman would bring her gift for comedy to her various roles as an actress as well. I believe only Goodman could have played Martha Shumway. She made the character all her own. Singer, dancer, actress, and, above all else, comedian, Dody Goodman will be remembered.


Toby said...

I've added "Dody Goodman on Jack Paar's show" to my list of things to look for at the Paley Center the next time I head over there. From what I've read, she sounds like she'd be delightful to watch on that show.

Mercurie said...

Years ago the PBS show American Masters did an episode on Jack Paar, which where they had some clips of Dody Goodman. I don't know if it's out on DVD, although I know a lot of the episodes are.