Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Late Great Kaye Ballard

Kaye Ballard, an actress, comedian, and singer who had a career on Broadway, film, and television, died on January 21 2019 at the age of 93. Along with Eve Arden she was the star of the Sixties sitcom The Mothers-in-Law and in the Seventies she was a semi-regular on The Doris Day Show.

Kaye Ballard was born Catherine Gloria Balotta on November 20 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. She wanted to go into show business in childhood and passed up a scholarship to Cleveland Art College to do so. After graduating high school she got an agent and performed at various places around Cleveland. Initially she used the stage name Kay Ballad, which was soon changed to Kaye Ballard. She went on a burlesque tour and was then booked at the Bowery Room in Detroit. The Bowery Room's owner knew bandleader Spike Jones and recommended her to him. She was soon hired by Mr.  Jones. In addition to singing with Spike Jones's band, she also played the tuba, the flute, as well as engaging in comedy. She toured with Spike Jones for two years.

In 1946 she toured with the revue Three to Make Ready. In 1952 she made her debut on Broadway in Top Banana, as a replacement for the role of Betty Dillon (originally played by Rose Marie). In 1954 she appeared on Broadway in The Golden Apple. She made her television debut in 1950 on Abe Burrows' Almanac. She appeared on such variety and talk shows as The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Mel Torme Show, The Arthur Murray Party, The NBC Comedy Hour, and The Gary Moore Show. She made her debut in a dramatic role on television in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre. She played one of the ugly stepsisters in the 1957 television production of Cinderella (Julie Andrews played the title role). She made her film debut in 1958 in The Girl Most Likely.

In the Sixties she appeared on Broadway in Carnival! and The Beast in Me. In the Sixties she guest starred on the shows Play of the Week, The Patty Duke Show, The Red Skelton Show, and All My Children. She appeared on such variety shows and talk shows as Tonight Starring Jack Paar, The Perry Como Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Jerry Lewis Show, Della, and The Leslie Uggams Show. She appeared on several game shows through the decade, including Play Your Hunch, Password, I've Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth, and The Hollywood Squares. In 1967 she started playing the role of Kaye Buell on the sitcom The-Mothers-In-Law. While the show only lasted two years, it proved to be a success and has been seen in reruns in syndication ever since. In 1970 she started playing the recurring role of Angelea Pallucci on The Doris Day, a role she would play until 1972. She appeared in the films A House is Not a Home (1964) and Which Way to the Front (1970).

In the Seventies Kaye Ballard guest starred on the shows Love, American Style; The Montefuscos; Police Story; Alice; Flying High; Fantasy Island; The Dream Merchants; and The Love Boat. She appeared on such variety shows and talk shows as The David Frost Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Dinah!, The Merv Griffin Show, The Muppet Show, and The Mike Douglas Show. She appeared on such game shows as The $10,000 Pyramid, Match Game, and Hollywood Squares. She appeared on Broadway in Molly. She appeared in the films The Ritz (1976), Freaky Friday (1976), and Falling in Love Again (1980).

In the Eighties Kaye Ballard guest starred on such shows as The Love Boat, Here's Boomer, Trapper John M.D., The Law and Harry McGraw, Monsters, and The Munsters Today. She was a regular on the short-lived show What a Dummy. She appeared on Broadway in a revival of The Pirates of Penzance. She appeared in the films Pandemonium (1982), The Perils of P.K. (1986), Tiger Warsaw (1988), Modern Love (1990), Eternity (1990), and Fate (1990).

In the Nineties Miss Ballard appeared in the films Joey Takes a Cab (1991), Ava's Magical Adventure (1994), The Modern Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1998), Baby Geniuses (1999), and The Million Dollar Kid (2000). She provided a voice for the animated film Little Insects (2000). She guest starred on the TV shows Daddy Dearest and Due South.

Kaye Ballard was a woman of considerable talent. She had a gift for comedy. Miss Ballard was quite skilled at verbal comedy, always delivering lines with perfect timing. What is more, she had a great deal of wit, able to say the funniest things off the top of her head. At the same time she had a knack for physical comedy and could engage in slapstick with the best of them. Kaye Ballard was not a fantastic singer, but while she may not have had the best voice out there, but she could deliver a song with considerable feeling. In the end Kaye Ballard was a great, all-around entertainer.

1 comment:

Jon said...

RIP, Kaye! I've read a copy of her book, "How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years", and it was a lot of fun. I also have THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW on DVD, and I've seen each episode at least twice. I came across her movie "The Million Dollar Kid" someplace like Family Channel once. Who could resist a movie that had John-Boy Walton married to Marcia Brady? ;)