December 24, 1940
Chicago, Illinois. U.S.
|Died||May 22, 2012
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Janet Carroll's career spanned more than four decades and included major roles in Broadway musicals and Hollywood productions, but was perhaps most recognized for her portrayal of the oblivious mother of Joel (Tom Cruise) in the 1983 film Risky Business.
Life and career
Carroll was born Janet Thiese in Chicago, the daughter of Hilda Catherine (Patton) and George Nicholas Thiese. She received formal theatrical training and began acting professionally in the late 1960s, appearing in numerous productions in local theaters. She then became a regular at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, where she acted during five seasons.
Vocally, she began classical training at age 12 with Dr. Greta Allum in Chicago. Over the years she continued building and expanding her voice and repertoire in formal study with Douglas Susu-Mago. With a fluent 3½ octave vocal range she was able to sing everything from opera to jazz and Broadway style to gospel music and Dixieland genre.
Notably, Carroll sang as a first soprano with the esteemed Canterbury Choral Society in New York City featuring sacred choral masterpieces of J. S. Bach, Antonín Dvořák and Gustav Mahler at Carnegie Hall and other venues across NYC.
Carroll then performed in Kansas City and Chicago, assuming significant roles in such musicals as Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, South Pacific and The Pajama Game, before moving to California, where she continued her stage work, winning a Drama-Logue Award for her performance as Klytemnestra in Ezra Pound’s Elektra.
Besides Risky Business, Carroll appeared in more than 20 other films over the next three decades, including Secret Admirer (1985), The Killing Time (1987), Memories of Me (1988), Family Business (1989), Talent for the Game (1991), Destiny Turns on the Radio (1995), Forces of Nature (1999), The Omega Code and Enough (2002), among others. She developed her television career with recurring roles on the series Hill Street Blues (1983, 1986 as Peggy LaRue Nelson), The Bronx Zoo (1987 as Carol Danzig), Murphy Brown (1990–96, as Doris Dial, stoic anchorman Charles Kimbrough's wife), Married... with Children (1994–97, as Gary, owner of Gary's Shoes and Al Bundy's boss), Melrose Place (1993–97, as Marion Shaw, Kimberly's mother), and Still Standing (2002–04, as Helen Michaels, Judy and Linda's mother).
Other television roles included guest appearances in Knight Rider (1982), Cagney & Lacey (1985), The Twilight Zone (1985), The Golden Girls (1987), L.A. Law (1988), Life Goes On (1990), Empty Nest (1990), Reasonable Doubts (1992), Matlock (1995), Coach (1996), Pacific Blue (1996), Touched by an Angel (1996), 3rd Rock From the Sun (1999), 7th Heaven (1999), Beverly Hills, 90210 (1999), The Norm Show (1999), Ally McBeal (2002), Judging Amy (2003), Brothers and Sisters (2006), Scrubs (2006), Six Degrees (2007) and Law & Order: SVU (2010).
From 2004 through 2005, Carroll starred on Broadway creating the role of Aunt March in the original musical Little Women, which is based in the 1869 novel of the same title written by American author Louisa May Alcott. She promoted brands such as Century 21, Diet Coke, Outback Steakhouse and Holiday Inn, among others, in television advertisement spots.
In addition to her acting career, since 1982, she performed as a singer at Jazz Festivals throughout the United States and Canada, being accompanied by her seven piece format, while interpreting traditional jazz, swing, blues, and classic ballads or the Great American Songbook.
She performed in Victoria and Vancouver summer festivals in British Columbia, as well as in Monterey, Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Santa Catalina Island, and New Orleans stages, along with concerts at United Service Organizations shows, the Palmer House in Chicago, the Fountaineblue in Miami Beach, the Ritz-Carlton chain, the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and the San Antonio River Walk (San Antonio, Texas). At the Redding Jazz Festival, she was honored with an award for Best Vocalist. In 2004, she was the featured performer at the Porrath Foundation for Cancer Patient Advocacy Event tribute to film star Rhonda Fleming.
After twelve years of formal training Janet Carroll was ordained and licensed at the West Los Angeles' Church of Inner Light. An active participant in social issues, Carroll was a longstanding member of the Screen Actor's Guild and American Federation of Radio Artists and Actors Equity Association. She also served as the Artistic Director of The Jazz Series at Simi Valley's Cultural Arts Center. She was a V.P. on the Executive Board Of Directors of The Society of Singers, and founder and co-chair of The Victory Ball in Westport, Connecticut, annually benefiting the ALS Foundation (ALS is also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease).
In 1992, Carroll collaborated as a singer on the album This Joint Is Jumpin' Live! – Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band, a recording project led by dixieland trombonist and actor Conrad Janis. She later released her solo albums Presenting... Janet Carroll and the Hollywood Jazz Cats (1992), I Can't Give You Anything But Love (2000), I'll Be Seeing You (2000) and Lady Be Good (2010).
By 2011, she was preparing the production of her fourth and fifth records titled A Tribute to the Great Ladies of Song! and Scorch Your Shorts Torch Songs!. She was diagnosed with brain cancer later that year and took a leave of absence. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy without success.
- Janet Carroll at the Internet Broadway Database
- Risky Business at the Internet Movie Database
- "Janet Carroll Biography". Film Reference. Retrieved 2014-12-09.
- "Feinstein's at Loews Regency – Janet Carroll biography".
- Canterbury Choral Society official website
- "Actress Janet Carroll dies at 71". Variety.
- Janet Carroll at the Internet Movie Database
- "Little Women: The Broadway Musical – The Cast: Janet Carroll as Aunt March".
- "Times Square Chronicles – Janet Carroll passes away".
- Amazon.com – This Joint Is Jumpin Live! info
- "Janet Carroll official website".
- I Can't Give You Anything But Love at AllMusic
- I'll Be Seeing You at AllMusic
- Lady Be Good at AllMusic