Lasser as Mary Hartman, 1977
April 11, 1939 |
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, television writer|
(m. 1966; div. 1970)
Louise Lasser (born April 11, 1939) is an American actress and television writer. She is known for her portrayal of the title character on the soap opera satire Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. She was married to Woody Allen and appeared in several of his early films.
Lasser was born in New York City, the daughter of Paula and S. Jay Lasser, a tax expert. Her family is Jewish. She studied political science at Brandeis University. She was married to Woody Allen from 1966 to 1970. She lives in Manhattan and teaches acting technique at HB Studio.
Lasser was the understudy for Barbra Streisand in the Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale. She also appeared on the soap opera The Doctors and television commercials. She appeared in the Woody Allen films Take the Money and Run (1969), Bananas (1971), and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972), as well as being one of the voices for his earlier spoof dubbing of a Japanese spy movie, What's Up Tiger Lily? (1966). She also appeared in comedies such as Such Good Friends (1971) and Slither (1973). In 1973, she appeared in the episode "The Roller Coaster Stops Here" of the NBC romantic anthology television series Love Story.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Lasser became a household name for starring as the neurotic, unhappy housewife Mary Hartman in the serialized satire Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman appearing on the covers of Newsweek, People Magazine, and Rolling Stone during the run of the show. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman aired five nights a week for two seasons from 1976-1977. In his autobiography, producer Norman Lear says that the casting of Lasser took less than a minute after Charles H. Joffe told him there was only one actress to play the part of Mary Hartman and Lear met the former Mrs. Woody Allen. Lasser refused the role at first. Of the casting process, Lear says, "when she read a bit of the script for me, I all but cried for joy ... Louise brought with her the persona that fit Mary Hartman like a corset." 
Exhausted from the grueling schedule, Lasser left the series after two seasons (325 episodes), and the serial was re-branded Forever Fernwood, which continued on for 26 weeks focusing on the trials and tribulations of the other Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman characters.
In 2000, Lasser appeared on a panel with her former cast members at the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills (taped for the museum archives). Lasser was also interviewed about the series in the bonus features of the Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Complete Series DVD box-set from Shout Factory which was released December 2013. In it, she reveals that the idea for Mary Hartman's infamous nervous breakdown at the end of the first season came after she wrote a 12-page letter suggesting the idea to Norman Lear.
Other roles and appearances
On July 24, 1976, Lasser hosted Saturday Night Live at the end of the first season. Her performance is best known for her opening monologue in which she re-creates a Mary Hartman-esque nervous breakdown and locks herself in her dressing room. She is then coaxed out by Chevy Chase/Land Shark and the promise of appearing on the cover of Time Magazine. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman producer Norman Lear and co-star Mary Kay Place also hosted Saturday Night Live during the run of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
Following her departure from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Lasser wrote an NBC made-for-TV movie Just Me and You (1978), starring in it alongside Charles Grodin. She had a recurring role as Alex's ex-wife on the hit series Taxi and starred in the 1981–82 season of It's a Living, playing waitress Maggie McBurney.
Lasser had a recurring role as Victor Erlich's Aunt Charise, a neurotic comic character on St. Elsewhere in the mid-1980s. Her 1980s film appearances included In God We Tru$t (1980), Crimewave (1985), Blood Rage (1987), Surrender (1987), Rude Awakening (1989), and as the mother of the main character in Sing (1989).
Her 1990s films included Frankenhooker (1990), The Night We Never Met (1993), Sudden Manhattan (1996), Layin' Low (1996), and as the mother of the three main female characters in Todd Solondz's film Happiness. She appeared in Mystery Men (1999) as the mother of Hank Azaria's character. She also had a role in Darren Aronofsky's film Requiem for a Dream (2000), and co-starred with Renée Taylor in National Lampoon's Gold Diggers (2003). Lasser acted in two episodes of HBO's Girls as a Manhattan artist for the series' 3rd season (2014).
She is currently a member of faculty at HB Studio, where she teaches acting technique.
- "Woody Allen: Rabbit Running". Time. July 3, 1972.
- Peter Filichia (October 23, 2006). "Jeez, Louise". TheaterMania.com.
- Louise Lasser Biography, Yahoo! Movies; accessed August 12, 2015.
- Lear, Norman (2014). Even This I Get to Experience. p. 293.
- Louise Lasser at the Internet Movie Database
- IMDB (2012). Saturday Night Live: Season 1, Episode 23 – Louise Lasser/Preservation Hall Jazz Band (1976).