Dixie Carter, best known for her role on the Eighties sitcom Designing Women, passed yesterday at the age of 70. The cause was endometrial cancer.
Dixie Carter was born on May 25, 1939 in McLemoresville, Tennessee. It was when she was four years old, after hearing a broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera, that she decided she wanted to be an opera singer. She attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Southwestern at Memphis. She graduated from Memphis State University. In 1959 she competed in the Miss Tennessee pageant, where she took first runner up.
Dixie Carter made her professional debut in a production of Carousel in Memphis in 1960. In 1963 she moved to New York City. She appeared in a production of A Winter's Tale in Central Park. She joined the Music Theatre of Lincoln Centre, but never rose above the level of understudy. She left the Musical Theatre of Lincoln Centre in 1966 for the revues at the Upstairs at the Downstairs nightclub.
Dixie Carter made her television debut on The Edge of Night, on which she played Assistant District Attorney Brandy Henderson from 1974 to 1976. In 1974 she made her Broadway debut in Sextet. In 1976 Miss Carter appeared on Broadway in a revival of Pal Joey. In 1977 she guest starred on The Andros Targets. That same year she joined the cast of the short lived show On Our Own. In 1979 she was part of the cast of the short lived sitcom Out of the Blue. The early Eighties saw Miss Carter guest star in such shows as Cassie & Co., Brett Maverick, Best of the West, Quincy M.E., The Greatest American Hero, and Lou Grant. From 1982 to 1983 she was a regular on the series Filthy Rich. From 1984 to 1985 she was a regular on Diff'rent Strokes.
In 1986 Dixie Carter guest starred on Crazy Like a Fox. It was that same year that she was cast in her best known role, as Julia Sugarbaker on the series Designing Women. Julia was the head of a four woman interior design firm in Atlanta, gifted with both beauty and sarcasm. The series proved to be a hit, running until 1993. In the Nineties Miss Carter appeared in the television movies Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, Dazzle, and Gone in the Night She guest starred on Christy, Diagnosis: Murder, and Fired Up. From 1999 to 2000 she was a regular on the short lived series Ladies Man. From 1999 to 2002 she played lawyer Randi King on the series Family Law. Miss Carter also returned to Broadway. She appeared in the play Master Class.
The Naughts saw Dixie Carter on Broadway one last time, in a revival of Thoroughly Modern Millie. She guest starred on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Hope and Faith. She had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives as the mother-in-law of Marcia Cross. She appeared in the film That Evening Sun, released in 2009. It was her last appearance on film. From the Eighties onwards she had a career as a cabaret singer.
Dixie Carter was undoubtedly beautiful. She was also very talented. Although best known as Julia Sugarbaker, she played a number of different roles. In Thoroughly Modern Millie she played the fiendish Mrs.Meers. On Desperate Housewives she played the sometimes frightening Gloria Hodge. She could play far more than Southern belles. She was also a talented singer, a craft she was able to display on Designing Women. There can be little doubt that the reason for much of that series' success was Dixie Carter.