Actress, comedian Anne Meara, nominated for 4 Emmys, dies

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actress and comedian Anne Meara, mother of Ben Stiller, dies at 85.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anne Meara, the loopy, lovable comedian who launched a standup career with husband Jerry Stiller in the 1950s and found success as an actress in films, on TV and the stage, has died.Meara, who was also a comedienne, had recurring roles on shows such as “The King of Queens and Sex and the City” and often appeared with her family on screen. “The Stiller family is deeply saddened to share the beloved Anne Meara passed away last night at the age of 85.

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. 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. The couple performed as Stiller & Meara on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other programs in the 1960s and won awards for the radio and TV commercials they made together. 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.

Jerry Stiller and his son Ben Stiller say Meara died Saturday, May 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal, File) (Marty Reichenthal/AP) As Stiller and Meara, they appeared in comedy routines that joked about married life and their respective ethnic backgrounds. Meara and her husband co-starred with their son in several movies, including “Heavy Weights”, “Highway to Hell”, “The Independent”, which also featured Amy, and “Zoolander”, the latter of which Ben helmed. Although Meara had converted to Judaism when the couple got married, Stiller and Meara’s material centred on the differences in their ethnic backgrounds, epitomised by their signature Hershey Horowitz/Mary Elizabeth Doyle routines. He also directed Meara in the cult 1994 movie “Reality Bites”, in which she played a newspaper editor who tells Winona Ryder’s main character LeLaina to “define irony”.

She was also well known for her recurring role on daytime soap All My Children from 1993-98 as Peggy Moody; for her work on Archie Bunker’s Place, for which she received two of her four Emmy nominations; and for her bravura performance as the indefatigable suburban mother in Greg Mottola’s 1997 indie The Daytrippers. 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. In 1984 Meara shared a Writers Guild Award for penning the telepic The Other Woman, in which Hal Linden played a widower who toys with the notion of romance with his daughter’s sexy roommate but ultimately finds love with a woman played by Meara.

She played Mary Finnegan (the mother of Spence, played by Patton Oswalt); then she had a recurring role as Veronica, who married Stiller’s character in the final season of the series. In 2004 she played the mother of a serial killer who, with anguish, helps the police apprehend her son before he can kill again; in a 2012 episode she played the mother of a prostitute (played by Patricia Arquette) who’s involved with an armed and dangerous man and then goes missing.

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. They created routines and began touring, as well as landing gigs in New York clubs and coffee houses. “He scared the stuff out of me,” Meara recalled in a 2010 interview. “I wasn’t the only one.

In his 2001 comedy Zoolander, Meara and Amy had cameos, while Jerry played Zoolander’s manager and Ben’s wife Christine Taylor played a Time magazine reporter. Jerry was the star of 2000 mockumentary The Independent, in which he played Morty Fineman, a director of comically bizarre exploitation films with a message such as 1969’s Groovy Hippie Slumber Party, Kent State Nurses and — taking credit for the use of Roman numerals in film titles — war epic World War III II. 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 1998’s Southie, starring Donnie Wahlberg in the story of hoods in Boston’s famous working-class Irish neighbourhood, Meara played the Wahlberg character’s ailing mother “with warm grit”, according to the Boston Phoenix. 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.

Meara wrote and starred in the hit Off Broadway play Afterplay (1995), which also starred, at various times, Jerry Stiller, Rita Moreno, Rue McClanahan and Barbara Barrie. In 2011 Meara and Conchata Farrell were brought in as replacements in an Off Broadway staging of Love, Loss, and What I Wore, the Nora and Delia Ephron play based on Ilene Beckerman’s book. She also appeared on an Arthur Penn-directed The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse adaptation of Robert Alan Arthur’s Man on the Mountaintop and, in 1959, in an ABC adaptation of Ninotchka that starred Maria Schell.

Meara was also busy in the 1970s guesting on the likes of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Paul Lynde Show, Love, American Style and Medical Center. Meara’s early feature work included roles in Arthur Hiller’s adaptation of Neil Simon’s The Out of Towners and Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor’s adaptation of their own play Lovers and Other Strangers, both in 1970; in 1977’s Nasty Habits, a satire of Watergate applied to the politics of a convent, both Meara and Stiller appeared, with the New York Times applauding Meara’s efforts as the “Gerald Ford of Crewe Abbey”.

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