Anne Meara

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Anne Meara
Anne Meara 1975.JPG
Meara in 1975
Born (1929-09-20)September 20, 1929
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died May 23, 2015(2015-05-23) (aged 85)
New York, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1954–2015
Spouse(s) Jerry Stiller
(1954–2015; her death)
Children Amy and Ben

Anne Meara (September 20, 1929 – May 23, 2015) was an American actress and comedian. Along with her husband, Jerry Stiller, she was one-half of a prominent 1960s comedy team, Stiller and Meara. She was also featured on stage, television, in numerous films, and later became a playwright.

During her career, Meara was nominated for four Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, and won a Writers Guild Award as a co-writer for the TV movie, The Other Woman. She was the mother of actors Amy and Ben Stiller.

Early years[edit]

Meara was born in Brooklyn, New York to [1] the daughter of parents of Irish descent,[2] Mary (née Dempsey)[3] and Edward Joseph Meara, a lawyer.[4] She was raised in Rockville Centre, New York on Long Island, an only child. When Anne was 11 years old, her mother committed suicide.[1]

When she was 18, Meara spent a year studying acting at the Dramatic Workshop at The New School in Manhattan. The following year, 1948, she began her career as an actress in summer stock.[1]

Career[edit]

Comedy team[edit]

Meara met actor-comedian Jerry Stiller in 1953 and they married the following year. Until he suggested it, she had never thought of doing comedy. "Jerry started us being a comedy team," she said. "He always thought I would be a great comedy partner."[1] They joined the improvisational company The Compass Players (which later became The Second City), and after leaving, formed the comedy team of Stiller and Meara. In 1961 they were performing in nightclubs in New York, and by the following year were considered a "national phenomenon," said the New York Times.[1]

Their often-improvised comedy routines brought many of their real-life relationship foibles to live audiences. Their skits focused on domestic themes, as did Nichols and May, another comedy team during that period. "They were Nichols and May without the acid and with warmth," notes author Lawrence Epstein.[5] They also added a new twist to their comedy act, he adds, by sometimes playing up the fact that Stiller was Jewish and Meara was Catholic.[6] After Nichols and May broke up as a team in 1961, Stiller and Meara were the number one couple comedy team by the late 1960s. And as Mike Nichols and Elaine May were not married, Stiller and Meara became the most famous married couple comedy team since Burns and Allen.[7]

After some years honing the act, Stiller and Meara became regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show, with 36 appearances,[7] and other TV programs, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. They released their first LP in 1963, "Presenting America’s New Comedy Sensation: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara Live at The Hungry I," which became a hit. By 1970, however, they broke up their act because it was affecting their marriage: "I didn't know where the act ended and our marriage began," complained Meara in 1977.[7] Stiller agreed, fearing "I would have lost her as a wife."[7]

Television, stage, film, video[edit]

During the 1970s, Meara and Stiller wrote and performed many radio commercials together for Blue Nun Wine. She had a recurring role on the sitcom Rhoda as airline stewardess Sally Gallagher, one of the title character's best friends. She also had a small role as "Mrs Curry" opposite Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil (1978). In 1975 she starred in her own series Kate McShane on CBS, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award, but the series was cancelled after only 10 episodes.[citation needed]

Meara costarred with Carroll O'Connor and Martin Balsam in the early 1980s hit sitcom Archie Bunker's Place, which was a continuation of the influential 1970s sitcom All in the Family. She played the role of Veronica Rooney, the bar's cook, for the show's first three seasons (1979–1982). During that time, she acted in the movie Fame (1980), in which she played English teacher Elizabeth Sherwood.[8] She also appeared as the grandmother in the TV series ALF in the late 1980s. Her own 1986 TV sitcom, The Stiller and Meara Show, in which Stiller played the deputy mayor of New York City and Meara portrayed his wife, a television commercial actress, was unsuccessful.

Starting in October 2010, Meara and her husband Jerry Stiller began starring in a Yahoo! web series called Stiller & Meara produced by Red Hour Digital, a production company owned by their son Ben Stiller.[9][10]

She accepted a role in the Off-Broadway play Love, Loss, and What I Wore for an April 27 through May 29, 2011, run with Conchata Ferrell, AnnaLynne McCord, Minka Kelly and B. Smith.[11] She continued actively developing the next generation as demonstrated by teaching a technique and scene study class at HB Studio up until her death.[citation needed]

Writing and consulting[edit]

In 1995, Meara branched out to writing with the comedy, After-Play, which became an Off-Broadway production.[1][12] In her later years she portrayed recurring roles on the television shows Sex and the City (as Mary Brady) and The King of Queens (as Veronica Olchin). During 2004–05 season series run, she appeared in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

She was the consulting director of J.A.P. – The Jewish American Princesses of Comedy, a 2007 Off-Broadway production that featured live stand-up routines by four female Jewish comics juxtaposed with the stories of legendary performers from the 1950s and 1960s: Totie Fields, Jean Carroll, Pearl Williams, Betty Walker and Belle Barth.[citation needed]

In 2009, Meara wrote her personal life reflections in an New York-focused online blog, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood -- New York City Stories. In it, Meara recalled her mother's death and her childhood experiences at Catholic boarding school.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Religion and marriage[edit]

Although Meara was raised a Roman Catholic, she converted to Reform Judaism six years after marrying Stiller.[14][15] She insisted that she did not convert at Stiller's request, explaining, "Catholicism was dead to me." She took her conversion seriously and studied the Jewish faith in such depth that her Jewish-born husband quipped, "Being married to Anne has made me more Jewish."[16] They discussed how they met and their early career during a guest appearance on the TV game show, What's My Line? in 1968.[17]

Family[edit]

With husband Jerry Stiller, Meara had two children, Amy (born 1961) and Ben (born 1965).

Death[edit]

Meara died on May 23, 2015 at her home in Manhattan, at the age of 85. No exact cause was provided but some sources cite "natural causes".[18] She is survived by her husband, two children, and two grandchildren.[1]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1970 The Out-of-Towners Woman in Police Station
1970 Lovers and Other Strangers Wilma
1972 Irish Whiskey Rebellion Goldie Fain-Follies Star
1977 Nasty Habits Sister Geraldine
1978 The Boys from Brazil Mrs. Curry
1980 Fame Mrs. Sherwood
1984 In Our Hands documentary
1986 The Longshot Madge
1986 The Perils of P.K.
1987 My Little Girl Mrs. Shopper
1989 That's Adequate Charlene Lane
1990 Awakenings Miriam
1992 Through an Open Window 24-minute short
1992 Highway to Hell Medea
1993 So You Want to Be an Actor herself short subject
1994 Reality Bites Louise
1994 The Search for One-Eye Jimmy Holly Hoyt
1995 Heavyweights Alice Bushkin
1995 Kiss of Death Bev's Mother
1996 The Daytrippers Rita Malone
1998 The Thin Pink Line Mrs. Langstrom
1998 Southie Mrs. Quinn
1999 The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man
1999 Judy Berlin Bea
1999 Brooklyn Thrill Killers 29-minute short
1999 A Fish in the Bathtub Molly
2000 Amy Stiller's Breast herself short subject
2000 The Independent Rita
2001 Zoolander Protestor Uncredited
2001 Keeping It Real: The Adventures of Greg Walloch documentary
2001 Get Well Soon Linda
2002 Like Mike Sister Theresa
2002 The Yard Sale 19-minute short
2003 Crooked Lines Hard Boiled
2004 Chump Change Casting Director
2006 Night at the Museum Debbie
2007 The Mirror
2007 The Shallow End of the Ocean voice of Alice 28-minute short
2008 Sex and the City: The Movie
2009 When the Evening Comes Marion Corrado
2009 The Queen of Greenwich Village 13-minute short
2009 Another Harvest Moon Ella
2014 Simpler Times 33-minute short with Jerry Stiller
2014 Planes: Fire & Rescue Winnie Voice only

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1954–1955 The Greatest Gift Harriet
1954 The Philco Television Playhouse Betty Blake 1 episode: "Man on the Mountaintop" 10/17/54
1959 The DuPont Show of the Month 1 episode: "Oliver Twist" 12/4/59
1960 Ninotchka Anna
1964-1965 Linus! The Lion Hearted animated TV series, 3 episodes
1971 Dames at Sea Joan 1 episode; November 15, 1971
1971, 1972 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Bunny Sterling (1971) / Annie Dempsey (1972) 2 episodes
1971, 1973 Love, American Style 2 episodes
1973 The Paul Lynde Show Grace Dickerson 3 episodes
1973 The Corner Bar Mae / Jennifer Bradley cast member, 7 episodes
1974 Medical Center Rose Miller 1 episode
1975 Kate McShane Kate McShane cancelled after 10 episodes
1976-77 Rhoda Sally Gallagher 7 episodes
1977-1978 Take Five with Stiller & Meara
1979, 1981, 1983 Love Boat 3 episodes: 1979, "Super Mom"; 1981: "Love, Honor & Obey"; 1983: "We, the Jury"
1979-1982 Archie Bunker's Place Veronica Rooney 52 episodes
1979-1982 HBO Sneak Previews costarred with Jerry Stiller
1983 The Other Woman Peg Gilford TV movie; Meara co-wrote the teleplay with Lila Garrett
1986 The Stiller and Meara Show canceled after a few weeks, cast member and co-writer
1987-1989 ALF Dorothy Halligan appeared in 7 episodes; wrote one episode in 1989
1987-1989 CBS Schoolbreak Special Mrs. Salters 1/27/87 episode "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book"
1988, 1993 Murder, She Wrote Winnie Tupper Banner (1988) / Mae Shaughnessy (1993) 2 episodes
1991 The General Motors Playwrights Theater Rose Finker 1 episode: "Avenue Z Afternoon
1991 American Playhouse "The Sunset Gang" (4/5/91); Bernice Shapiro in segment "The Detective"
1992-1999 All My Children Erica Kane's maid Peggy Moody
1992-1999 CBS Schoolbreak Special Patricia Lennon 1/19/93 episode "Love off Limits"
1994 In the Heat of the Night Roda 1 episode
1994 Great Performances: "The Mother" TV movie, Oct. 24, 1994
1994 Murphy Brown Reena Bernecky 2 episodes
1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Donna DiGrazi 2 episodes
1997 Jitters
1999 After Play writer and cast member
1999, 2002 Oz Aunt Brenda O'Reily 2 episodes
1999, 2003–2007 The King of Queens Mary Finnegan (1999) / Veronica Olchin (2003-7) 10 episodes
2001 What Makes a Family Evelyn Cataldi TV movie
2001 Will & Grace Mrs. Friedman 1 episode
2001 Ed Barbara Gennacarro 1 episode
2002-2004 Sex and the City Mary Brady 4 episodes
2003 Crooked Lines Hard Boiled
2003 Good Morning, Miami Claire's Friend 1 episode
2003 Charlie Lawrence Charlie's Mother 1 episode
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Ida Becker 10/19/04 episode called "Scavenger"
2006 Four Kings Ruth 1 episode
2009 Mercy Estelle Thalberg 1 episode
2009-2010 Wonder Pets! Granny Jenny/Linny's Grandmother 2 episodes
2010 Gravity Mrs. Talbot 1 episode
2011 Rip City Myrt TVLand sitcom pilot that did not sell
2015 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Irene Kerns 12/5/12 episode called "Dreams Deferred"

Theatre[edit]

  • Love, Loss and What I Wore (April 27, 2011 – May 28, 2011, rotating cast)
  • "Down the Garden Paths" (November 19, 2000 – January 14, 2001, playwright)
  • "After-Play" (1995, playwright & and also played Terry Guteman from May 16, 1995 – April 28, 1996, As playwright, she won the 1995 Outer Critics Circle Award John Gassner Award)
  • "Anna Christie" (1993, as Marthy Owen; Tony Award nominee for Best Featured Actress in a Play)
  • "Eastern Standard" (1988, as May Logan)
  • "Romeo and Juliet" (1988, 9 performances, as Nurse, Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival)
  • "A... My Name Is Alice" (1984, co-writer; Women's Project & Productions)
  • "Spookhouse" (1984, Harvey Fierstein comedy closed after 6 performances)
  • "The House of Blue Leaves" (February 10, 1971 – December 3, 1971, as Bunny Flingus)
  • "Ulysseys in Nightown" (1958)
  • "As You Like It" (1958, as Audrey; Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival)
  • "Miss Loneyhearts" (1957, as Sick-of-it-All)
  • "The Good Woman of Setzuan" (1956 as Niece)
  • "A Month in the Country" (1956, as Katina, a maid)

Radio[edit]

  • I'd Rather Eat Pants, National Public Radio, 2002
  • Dining Alone (Blue Nun wine ad with Jerry Stiller, winner Clio Award, 1975)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Anne Meara, Comedian and Actress, Dies at 85". The New York Times. May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  2. ^ Bloom, Nate (March 17, 2009). "A Pint of Guinness, A Cup of Manischevitz: Some Irish/Jewish Connections". InterfaithFamily.com. Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Anne Meara profile". FilmReference.com. Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  4. ^ "E.J. Meara, Creator Of Comedy Skits, 73". The New York Times. December 16, 1966. 
  5. ^ Epstein, Lawrence. Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams, PublicAffairs, Perseus Book (2004) p. 224
  6. ^ "Stiller & Meara on Computer Dating"
  7. ^ a b c d "Anne Meara, Comedian of Stiller & Meara Fame, Dies at 85", Hollywood Reporter, May 24, 2015
  8. ^ "Mrs. Sherwood's Classroom in Fame, video clip
  9. ^ "Meet Ben Stiller's Parents on New Yahoo! Web Show". TVGuide.com. 
  10. ^ "Stiller & Meara". Yahoo!. 
  11. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 14, 2011). "Minka Kelly, Susan Sullivan Set for Love, Loss... Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  12. ^ "After-Play" script, Dramatists Play Service (1996)
  13. ^ Meara, Anne (June 8, 2009). "Old Nuns". 
  14. ^ O'Toole, Lesley (December 22, 2006). "Ben Stiller : 'Doing Comedy Is Scary'". The Independent. Archived from the original on January 8, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2006. 
  15. ^ LA Times
  16. ^ Elkin, Michael (July 28, 1995). "ON THE SCENE: Stiller and Meara marry comedy and a home life". Jewish Exponent. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  17. ^ "Stiller & Meara on "What's My Line?" (1968), video
  18. ^ "Actress and Comedian Anne Meara, Mother of Ben Stiller, Dies at 85". Variety. May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 

External links[edit]