May 24, 2012

Janet Carroll, Prolific Actress Known for Stage, Film, Television

In addition to roles in numerous feature films, Carroll appeared in many TV series, including Murphy Brown, Melrose Place and Married... with Children.

Janet Carroll, an actress whose career spanned film, television and stage, died May 22, 2012, after a long illness. She was 71.

Born in Chicago on Christmas Eve, 1940, Carroll began her stage career after graduating from high school. She got her start in local Chicago theaters and the legendary Kansas City Starlight Theatre. She appeared in productions of Mame, Hello, Dolly!, Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, The Pajama Game, Carousel, Gypsy and many others before moving to California and continuing her stage work there.

Other notable productions included Lady Windemere’s Fan, with Lynn Redgrave and John Lithgow; A Couple of White Chicks, co-starring Cloris Leachman; and Electra, for which she received the coveted Los Angeles Dramalogue Critics’ Award. She made her Broadway debut starring alongside Sutton Foster and Maureen McGovern in the original musical Little Women.

Carroll’s film break came when she was cast as Tom Cruise’s mother in Risky Business. From that point on she remained busy with feature films, and had roles in Memories of Me, Destiny Turns on the Radio, Family Business, Talent for the Game, Enough, The Killing Time, Forces of Nature and My Guaranteed Student Loan.

On television she had recurring or starring roles in Married… with Children, Murphy Brown, Melrose Place, The Bronx Zoo and The Bonnie Hunt Show, among others. She also guested on dozens of other shows, including Alice, Cagney & Lacey, The Golden Girls, 227, L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, Brothers and Sisters, Mary, Designing Women, Matlock, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Law & Order: SVU and Scrubs.

Over the course of her career she appeared with such stars as Sean Connery, Celeste Holm, Dustin Hoffman, Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner and Edward James Olmos.

Carroll was the artistic director of the Jazz Series at Simi Valley Cultural Center for eight years. She performed on tour with the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band and recorded a few albums — her latest was Lady Be Good, released in 2011. She was also the co-founder of the Victory Ball in Westport, Connecticut, an annual benefit for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and served on the executive board of directors for Ginny Mancini’s Society of Singers as vice president of development. Along the way, she became an ordained minister and performed many wedding and funeral services, and never passed up an opportunity to sing in the church choir.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 26, at Advent Lutheran Church, at 93rd St. and Broadway in New York City. Her ashes will be spread alongside her parents in the Edgebrook Lutheran Church Memorial Garden in Chicago, in a ceremony to take place on June 10.

Carroll was predeceased by a son, Tom Brown (1978), and her parents, George and Hilda Thiese (2010).

Survivors include a son, George Brown, daughter-in-law Lauren Shpall and many dear friends and family.

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