Katherine Helmond

Katherine Helmond Headshot

Actress

Birth Date: July 5, 1929

Death Date: February 23, 2019

Birth Place: Galveston, Texas

A spry and quick-witted comic presence on television for more than four decades, actress Katherine Helmond won critical praise and numerous Emmy nominations for playing society women whose well-bred veneer often obscured a wicked tongue or earthy interests on such series as "Soap" (ABC, 1977-1981) and "Who's the Boss" (ABC, 1984-1992). Born Katherine Marie Helmond on July 5, 1929 in Galveston, Texas, she was the eldest of three daughters by firefighter Patrick Helmond and his wife, Thelma. After her parents' divorce, Helmond was raised primarily by her mother and grandmother, and attended Catholic school; there, she gained her first acting experience in a school play when the teaching sisters assigned her a role to help wear down her shyness. Theater soon became her abiding interest, and Helmond performed in local theater productions and pageants while also learning the ins and outs of backstage work, which she credited as helping to ground her when she made acting her profession. After a semester at Bob Jones University - where she made her screen debut in a school-funded feature, "Wine of Morning" (1955) - Helmond performed with theater companies in Texas and New York; when work dried up in the latter location, she and a few friends opened their own theater upstate. By the mid-1960s, Helmond was drawing praise for roles for theater companies across the United States, most notably the Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut, where she spent seven years, and at the Trinity Square Repertory Theater in Providence, Rhode Island, where her turn as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" earned glowing praise from Boston Globe critic Kevin Kelly. Her performance in the New York premiere of John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves" in 1971 earned her a Drama Critics Award, which was followed by her first Tony nomination for the Broadway run of "The Great God Brown." When Helmond followed "Blue Leaves" to Los Angeles, California, she tried her hand at film and television, and soon became an in-demand character actor in both mediums. A supporting turn in the Paddy Chayefsky-scripted black comedy "The Hospital" (1971) led to a handful of additional film roles, including "The Hindenburg" (1975) and Alfred Hitchcock's "Family Plot" (1976), but television would prove to be a more consistent and rewarding showcase. Guest roles on "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975) were quickly eclipsed by supporting turns in Emmy-winning TV-movies like "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" (CBS, 1974) and "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" (ABC, 1976) and her first work as a series regular on "Soap" (ABC, 1977-1981). The comedy, a spoof of daytime soap opera excesses, cast her as wealthy Jessica Tate, who remained blithely unaware of the chaos that ensued around her; so convincing was her performance, which earned her a Golden Globe and four Emmy nominations, that Helmond told an interviewer that people were disappointed to find that she was not as flighty in real life as her screen character. When "Soap" ran its course in 1981, Helmond stepped in to replace an injured Ruth Gordon as the wife of grumpy ogre Peter Vaughn in Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" (1981); she would later appear in two other films for the "Monty Python" alum, most notably in "Brazil" (1985), as the plastic surgery-addicted mother of hero Jonathan Pryce. But Helmond remained a staple of television, and after numerous guest appearances - and several turns behind the camera as director on episodes of the "Soap" spinoff "Benson" (ABC, 1979-1986), she returned to series regular work on "Who's the Boss?" The comedy, with Tony Danza as housekeeper for divorced working mom Judith Light, cast Helmond as Light's amorous mother. It too proved remarkably successful for Helmond, earning her a second Golden Globe and two more Emmy nominations in 1988 and 1989. When "Boss" closed shop in 1992, Helmond moved into a recurring role on "Coach" (ABC, 1989-1997) as the owner of a fictional football team, and on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS, 1995-2005), where she and Robert Culp played the well-heeled parents of Patricia Heaton's Debra Barone. Helmond earned her seventh and final Emmy nomination for "Raymond," and remained active on television and stage and in the occasional feature for the next decade. She provided the voice of a weathered automobile in "Cars" (2006) and its two sequels (2011 and 2017), and enjoyed guest turns on "Providence" (NBC, 1999-2004) and "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-2014), among numerous other projects. Helmond logged her final screen appearance in the 2018 feature "Frank and Ava" (2018) before succumbing to complications from Alzheimer's disease at her home in Los Angeles on February 23, 2019 at the age of 89.

Credits

ORF III - Spezial

Actor
Mrs. Maloney
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2014

Collaborator

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Irene Longfellow
Movie
2011

Cars Toons

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Lizzie
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2010

A Grandpa for ChristmasStream

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2007

CarsStream

Voice
Lizzie
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2006
75%

The Strand

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Isabelle
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2006

Beethoven's 5th

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Cora Wilkens
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2003

Mr. St. Nick

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Carlotta
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2002

Living in FearStream

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Mrs. Ford
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2001

The Perfect Nanny

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Mrs. McBride
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2000

How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale

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2000

Providence

Guest Star
Series
1999

The Wild ThornberrysStream

Guest Voice
Series
1998

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasStream

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Movie
1998
50%

Ms. Scrooge

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1997

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1996

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1995

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1990

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1990

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1989

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1989

Lady in White

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1988

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1988

OverboardStream

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1987
46%

Christmas Snow

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1986

Shadey

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1986

Girls on Top

Guest Star
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1985

BrazilStream

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1985
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Who's the Boss?Stream

Actor
Mona Robinson
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1984

World War III

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Dorothy Longworth
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1982

Time BanditsStream

Actor
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Scout's Honor

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1980

BensonStream

Director
Series
1979

BensonStream

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Series
1979

Pat Boone and Family Easter Special

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Show
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PearlStream

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The Bionic WomanStream

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1976

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1976

Family PlotStream

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1976
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1976

L'Uniforme de la honte

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1976

The Blue Knight

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1975

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1975

The Legend of Lizzie BordenStream

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1975

The Hindenburg

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1975

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1975

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1974

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1974

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1974

Locusts

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1974

Dr. Max

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1974

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1973

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1973

The Six Million Dollar ManStream

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1973

The Bob Newhart ShowStream

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The RookiesStream

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1972

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

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