Actress-singer Tammy Grimes died Sunday, October 30, 2016, in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 82. Her theatrical career spanned — and soared — over half a century. Her two most celebrated roles were as the unsinkable Molly Brown on Broadway and as the voice of Molly Grue in the animated feature The Last Unicorn.
Tammy Grimes was a star of the legitimate theater, but far from unknown in movies, television, cabaret performances, and doing voice-overs. She recorded several record albums. She won two Tony Awards, one for originating the role of Molly Brown on Broadway, a part Debbie Reynolds played in the movie version, and one for starring in Noël Coward’s play Private Lives. She also won an Obie Award for her performance in Clerambard and a Theatre World Award for her work in Look After Lulu! She was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2003.
Tammy Grimes worked with a variety of co-stars and playwrights. Noël Coward discovered her in a New York cabaret, and insisted she star in several of his plays. She performed in plays by William Shakespeare and Neil Simon. She guest-starred on TV shows as diverse as Love American Style, Route 66, The Danny Kaye Show, Tarzan, The Love Boat, and The Young Riders. She turned down the chance to play Samantha Stevens on Bewitched (a role which went instead to Elizabeth Montgomery) to concentrate on her stage career.
Tammy Grimes acted in mystery, horror, and comedy movies, co-starring over the years with David McCallum, Eddie Albert, William Shatner, Steve Guttenberg, Bernadette Peters, Muppets, mice, and unicorns.
Her fantasy/science fiction roles include:
- Mrs. Pinder in The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)
- Homily Clock in The Borrowers (1973)
- Albert in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)
- Narrator in The Lord of the Rings (radio version, 1981)
- Molly Grue in The Last Unicorn (1982)
- Catrina in My Little Pony: Escape from Catrina (1985)
Because of her aristocratic accent, she was often cast to play royalty or nobility. Like Katherine Hepburn, Tammy Grimes was taught to speak in the Mid-Atlantic Accent, the American version of British Received Pronunciation beloved by Hollywood, in a girls’ boarding school.
- Lady Joan Mellon in Arthur? Arthur! (1969)
- Princess in The Practical Princess (1980)
- Princess in The Incredible Book Escape (1980)
- Queen Mother Estelle in Royal Match (1985)
Although many fans assumed she was British because of her accent, Tammy Grimes was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on January 30, 1934. She attended Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, where she was taught to speak with a Mid-Atlantic Accent, the American version of the British Received Pronunciation that was so popular in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1950s. She graduated from Stephens College, an all-female school in Columbia, Missouri, before going to New York City to pursue an acting career.
Tammy Grimes was thrice married, twice to actors and once to a composer. Her marriages to actor Christopher Plummer, CC, and Jeremy Slate were brief, ending in divorce. Her marriage to composer Richard Bell lasted from their wedding in 1971 to his death in 2005. She had only one child, award-winning actress Amanda Plummer. She is survived by her daughter, her brother Nick Grimes, and her nephew Duncan MacArthur.
Tammy Lee Grimes (January 30, 1934 – October 30, 2016) RIP