Linda Purl

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Linda Purl
Born (1955-09-02) September 2, 1955 (age 60)
Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.
Alma mater Finch College
Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute
Occupation Actress
Years active 1966–present

Linda Purl (born September 2, 1955) is an American actress and singer, perhaps best known for portraying Ben Matlock's daughter Charlene Matlock in season one of Matlock.

Early life[edit]

Purl was born in Greenwich, Connecticut into a theatrical family, her mother being a Broadway actress, her father an actor, and her grandmother the founder of the Actors' Equity Association.[1] At age five,[1] she moved to Japan, where she spent her childhood, becoming the only foreigner to train at the Toho Geino Academy.[citation needed] While at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo, Purl performed in several plays, gaining the role of Louis in The King and I, Bet in Oliver!, and the role of Helen in The Miracle Worker. Furthermore, she was discovered by Toho and appeared in several films.[1]

At age 15, Purl returned to the United States.[1] She attended high school at Wykeham Rise School, a private boarding school for girls, specializing in creative and performing arts, in Washington, Connecticut. While still in High School at Wykeham Rise, she had a role on the soap opera The Guiding Light. After attending Finch College, Ms. Purl went to England to study under Marguerite Beale, before returning to the United States to study at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, and later with Robert Lewis.

Acting career[edit]


After playing a small role in Jory (1973), Purl's first major movie role was in Jonathan Demme's 1975 comedy, Crazy Mama. Subsequent movie appearances have included W.C. Fields and Me (1976), Leo and Loree (1980), Visiting Hours (1982), The High Country (1984), Viper (1988), Natural Causes (1994), Mighty Joe Young (1998), The Perfect Tenant (2000), and Fear of the Dark (2003).


Linda Purl has played several roles on television series, starting with The Secret Storm—a daytime drama (1973–74). In 1978, she appeared as newlywed Molly Beaton in the ABC western drama series, The Young Pioneers, set in the Dakota Territory of the 1870s and based on the novels of Rose Wilder Lane. She also acted alongside Shaun Cassidy in the 1979 TV movie Like Normal People. On Happy Days she played two different roles: Richie's occasional girlfriend Gloria in season two of the show (1974), and Fonzie's steady girlfriend Ashley eight seasons later (1982–83). She also played secret agent Kate Del'Amico in the short-lived series Under Cover, and played Brett Robin in the 1994-95 series Robin's Hoods.

She has also featured in many movies made for television, including Testimony of Two Men, The Night the City Screamed, Little Ladies of the Night, and Spies, Lies & Naked Thighs. She voiced Delilah in a 1985 direct-to-video episode of The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.

As a guest star, Purl has appeared in a 1974 episode of Hawaii Five-O called "The Hostage", as teenage babysitter "Ruthie" held captive by a deranged veteran. She played two different roles on The Waltons; in 1974 where she played sophisticate Alica in the season three episode, "The Spoilers", and in the season five episode, "The Heartbreaker" (1977), where she played Mary Ellen's sister-in-law (and Jason's love interest) Vanessa, and sang a couple songs in this episode. In 1981 she starred in Manions of America. In 1985, she appeared in Murder, She Wrote - episode entitled "Murder at the Oasis". In the first season of Matlock (1986–87), she played Charlene, Ben Matlock's lawyer daughter.

More recently Purl appeared in the role of Pam Beesly's mother on NBC's The Office, starting with the season six episode "Niagara."[2] In May 2010, Purl made a guest appearance on Desperate Housewives. In 2011, Purl made guest appearances on Showtime's Homeland, playing Elizabeth Gaines. She played Barbara Pelt, mother of Debbie Pelt, in two episodes of HBO's True Blood in 2012.


Purl has been a regular performer (and part of the original cast) of the international touring play Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners. In November 2007, she appeared at the Théâtre Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo, directed by Marc Sinden, as part of his British Theatre Season, Monaco.

In 2008, Linda Purl opened at the Cleveland Play House in Cleveland, Ohio in the production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, playing Amanda.


Purl launched a jazz music career after leaving Matlock and has released several albums of music, most recently Out of This World – LIVE.

Personal life[edit]

Purl has been married four times: in 1980 to Desi Arnaz, Jr. (son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz); in 1988 to William Broyles Jr. (screenwriter); in 1993 to Alexander Cary (screenwriter, producer) (one son together) and to James Vinson Adams in 2006.

Partial filmography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Introducing Linda Purl (Doreen Post on The Secret Storm)", Daytime TV, November 1973
  2. ^ Ausiello. "'Office' exclusive: Meet Pam's mom!". 

External links[edit]