Actress and comedian Anne Meara dies aged 85

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actress Anne Meara, wife of Jerry Stiller, dies.

FILE- An Oct. 7, 2008, file photo, from left, Actors Anne Meara, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor and Jerry Stiller attend the 11th Annual Project A.L.S. “Tomorrow is Tonight” benefit gala in New York. She was best known to the 1960s television generation as the comic partner of her husband Jerry Stiller, with whom she appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 36 times.The Sex in the City actress and mother of Hollywood star Ben Stiller passed away on Saturday, according to her husband, the comic and actor Jerry Stiller.

Yet two of her four Emmy nominations were for dramatic roles, one in the short-lived legal show “Kate McShane” and one for an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Stiller and Meara’s comedy often poked fun at popular culture, yet they starred for years in TV and radio ads, perhaps most famously for Blue Nun wine. She had been a regular on TV and the silver screen for decades, appearing alongside Jerry as one half of the comedy double-act Stiller & Meara in the 1960 and 70s. Their commercial persona was built on good-natured, wry, droll fun — in some contrast to their stage act, where they were known to outdo each other with the hatred they felt at the moment. “If it was possible to write the word ‘hate’ on each grain of sand in the Sahara Desert,” part of their repartee went, “it wouldn’t equal one-millionth of the hate with which I’m hating you right now.” Meara converted to Judaism after she married Stiller in 1954, yet many of their best-known bits played off the notion of an Irish Catholic girl marrying a brash New York Jew.

More recently she played Mary Brady – the mother of bartender Steve Brady – who was in an on off relationship with Miranda Hobbes played by Cynthia Nixon in Sex and the City. She also made a guest appearance on Will & Grace in 2001 and made a comeback with “Stiller & Meara,” in 2010 in a Yahoo comedy series produced in part by son Ben who has starred in scores of A-list films. She can’t come because she can’t eat meat that day, she says, so why doesn’t he come over on Sunday? “My mother always has a big spread,” she says. “Roast stuffed pork, baked Virginia ham.

Born in Brooklyn on Sept. 20, 1929, she was a red-haired, Irish-Catholic girl who struck a vivid contrast to Stiller, a Jewish guy from Manhattan’s Lower East Side who was two years older and four inches shorter. I’ll fix you bacon and eggs.” Meara met Jerry Stiller when they were both self-described “struggling actors” and they stayed together long after they stopped struggling. They were married 61 years and were performance partners on and off for almost all of those years — though, ironically, their only personal sitcom, the 1986 “Stiller and Meara Show,” was one of their few flops.

She made her off-Broadway debut in 1971 in John Guare’s award-winning play “The House of Blue Leaves.” A quarter-century later, she made her off-Broadway bow as a playwright with her comedy-drama, “After-Play.” Meara was an aspiring 23-year-old actress in 1953 when she responded to a “cattle call” by a New York agent casting for summer stock. After the agent chased her around his office, she burst into the waiting room, crying and out of breath, where she found Stiller, a fellow out-of-work actor then 25. “I took her out for coffee,” Stiller recalled decades later for The Associated Press. “She seemed to sense I had no money, so she just ordered coffee.

I picked up her check for 10 cents and thought, ‘This is a girl I’d like to hang out with.'” But this was a mixed marriage — referring to their respective families, Meara said, “Nobody was thrilled when we got married, absolutely nobody.” But they accepted it, she added with perfect comic timing: “Nobody sat shiva.” Despite her theater background, Meara, with her bright eyes and cheeky smile, was a quick study as a comedian when she and Stiller performed in improv groups. While she didn’t shy away from roles with no laughs, like episodes of “Oz” and “Law & Order,” she regularly returned to comedy — like the 2001 movie “Zoolander,” which her son directed and starred in. Over her long career, Meara personified the concept of “working actress.” She took numerous small roles in movies she liked, including “The Boys from Brazil” with Laurence Olivier and “Fame,” where she played an English teacher. You think, during the Renaissance, people called it ‘The Renaissance’?” The husband-and-wife act was born of desperation shortly after the birth of their first child, Amy, in 1961.

In one routine, which Stiller considered “a breakthrough,” they played two single people (a Jewish lad and Catholic gal) matched by a computer — and discovering what, in those days, were the sort of problematic differences they had surmounted in real life: Then quickly the pair realize they have plenty in common: They live on the same New York City block, and both love to dance. In 2010, the pair reunited on-screen for “Stiller & Meara: A Show About Everything,” a chatty Web series produced by their son and shot in their longtime home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Their off-the-cuff banter was informed by their lifetime partnership: Mearer: “A person who is very bright, and figured a lot of people want to share the mundane, miserable moments of their lives with other people: ‘I’m your friend, and I just came back from going to the john. I thought you’d want to know.'” The family statement said: “Anne’s memory lives on in the hearts of daughter Amy, son Ben, her grandchildren, her extended family and friends, and the millions she entertained as an actress, writer and comedienne.”

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