Tammy Grimes

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Tammy Grimes
Tammy Grimes 1966.jpg
Grimes in 1966.
Born Tammy Lee Grimes
(1934-01-30) January 30, 1934 (age 82)
Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer
Spouse(s) Christopher Plummer (1956-1960; divorced); 1 child
Jeremy Slate (1966-1967; divorced)
Richard Bell (1971-2005; his death)

Tammy Lee Grimes (born January 30, 1934) is an American actress and singer.

Early life[edit]

Grimes was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the daughter of Eola Willard (née Niles), a naturalist and spiritualist, and Luther Nichols Grimes, an innkeeper, country-club manager, and farmer.[1][2] She attended high school at the then-all-girls school, Beaver Country Day School, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, and then studied acting at New York City's prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse.[3] She studied singing with Beverley Peck Johnson.[4]


Known for a speaking voice that has been compared to a buzz saw,[5] a "lyric baritone" singing voice that one critic called "a low, throaty quiver, a hum that takes wings",[6] and "the stage personality of a daffy but endearing pseudo-English eccentric",[7] Grimes made her debut on the New York stage at the Neighborhood Playhouse in May 1955 in Jonah and the Whale. She made her Broadway stage debut as an understudy for Kim Stanley in the starring role in Bus Stop in June 1955.[3][8] In 1956, she appeared in the off-Broadway production, The Littlest Revue, and in 1959 had the lead role in the Broadway production of Noël Coward's play Look After Lulu!, after she was discovered in a nightclub by the playwright.[9]

She starred in the 1960 musical comedy The Unsinkable Molly Brown for which she won a Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) for what The New York Times called her "buoyant" performance as a rough-hewn Colorado social climber. She portrayed the title character, a Western mining millionairess who survived the sinking of the Titanic. In 1964, she appeared in the episode "The He-She Chemistry" of Craig Stevens's CBS drama Mr. Broadway. She made two appearances on the early '60s TV series Route 66.[citation needed]

On May 16, 1960, Grimes acted and sang as Mehitabel in an abridged version of the musical Archy and Mehitabel as part of the syndicated TV anthology series Play of the Week presented by David Susskind. The cast included Bracken and Jules Munshin. Grimes was originally chosen to play the part given to Elizabeth Montgomery in the hit television situation comedy Bewitched, but she turned down the offer preferring to star in The Tammy Grimes Show.[10][11]

In 1966, Grimes starred in her own ABC television series, The Tammy Grimes Show, in which she played a modern-day heiress who loved to spend money. Receiving unfavorable critical reaction and poor ratings, it ran for only a month, although an additional six episodes had already been made.[12] In an era when even cancelled shows were routinely allowed to continue running until the end of the current television season, The Tammy Grimes Show remains one of the shortest-run series of its era.[13]

Returning to the Broadway stage in 1969 after almost a decade of performing in what The New York Times called "dubious delights", Grimes appeared in a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives as "Amanda", winning the Tony Award for Best Actress. Clive Barnes in a New York Times review called her performance "outrageously appealing. She plays every cheap trick in the histrionic book with supreme aplomb and adorable confidence. Her voice moans, purrs, splutters; she gesticulates with her eyes, almost shouts with her hair. She is all campy, impossible woman, a lovable phony with the hint of tigress about her, so ridiculously artificial that she just has to be for real."[14]

During her career, she spent several seasons at the Stratford Festival of Canada in Stratford, Ontario and has appeared in a number of television series and motion pictures. Grimes has also entertained at various New York City night clubs and recorded several albums of songs; she also recited poetry as part of a 1968 solo act in the Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel. Her voice can be heard in romantic duets on some of Ben Bagley's anthology albums of Broadway songs under his Painted Smiles record label. In 1982, she hosted the final season of CBS Radio Mystery Theater. In 1983 Grimes was dismissed from her co-starring role in the Neil Simon play Actors and Actresses, reportedly due to an inability to learn her lines.[15]

In 1974 Grimes provided the voice for Albert, the cerebral-minded mouse who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, in the animated Rankin-Bass annual television Christmas special, Twas the Night Before Christmas. In 1980, she starred in the original Broadway production of 42nd Street. In 2003, Grimes was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[16] She also appeared in the rotating cast of the Off-Broadway staged reading of Wit & Wisdom.[17]

In December 2003, Grimes was invited by The Noel Coward Society to be the first celebrity to lay flowers on the statue of Sir Noël Coward at The Gershwin Theatre in Manhattan to celebrate the 104th birthday of "The Master". In 2004 she joined the company of Tasting Memories, a "compilation of delicious reveries in poetry, song and prose", with a starry rotating cast including Kitty Carlisle Hart, Rosemary Harris, Philip Bosco, Alvin Epstein, Joy Franz and Kathleen Noone.[18]

In 2005 Grimes worked with director Brandon Jameson to voice UNICEF's multi-award winning tribute to Sesame Workshop. Two years later, in 2007, she returned to the cabaret stage in a critically acclaimed one-woman show.[19] Around this time, she was voted as Vice-President of The Noel Coward Society.

Personal life[edit]

Grimes married Christopher Plummer on August 16, 1956,[20][21] with whom she had a daughter, actress Amanda Plummer. They divorced in 1960. Her second husband was actor Jeremy Slate, whom she married in 1966 and divorced a year later. Her third husband was composer Richard Bell, whom she married in 1971; the couple remained wed until Bell's death in 2005. [22]

In 1965, Grimes made headlines after she had been beaten and injured twice in four days by what were described as "white racists." According to a report, Miss Grimes said she believed the attacks were related to her association with several black entertainers and recent appearances in public with Sammy Davis, Jr., who was said to be staging a nightclub act for her.[23]



Grimes released three known one-off singles during the 1960s, none of which charted:

  • "Home Sweet Heaven"/"You'd Better Love Me" (ABC-Paramount 10551) 1964, from High Spirits, 1964
  • "The Big Hurt"/"Nobody Needs Your Love More Than I Do" (Reprise 0487), 1966
  • "I Really Loved Harold"/"Father O'Conner" (Buddha 99), 1969

Her debut solo album, "Julius Monk presents Tammy Grimes" (1959), featured the music from her one-woman show at the NYC nightclub Downstairs at the Upstairs. The album was re-released on the AEI label in 1982. In the early 1960s, she recorded two more albums, one of which was Tammy Grimes, Columbia Records, 1962. They were re-released on one CD, as The Unmistakable Tammy Grimes. She is featured on the following Original Cast Recordings: The Littlest Revue, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, High Spirits, 42nd Street, and Sunset, as well as a TV cast album of the televised version of George M. Cohan's "45 Minutes from Broadway". All have been released on CD, although High Spirits in now out of print.[citation needed]

Grimes also did the introductory narration for the American rebroadcast of the BBC's 1981 radio production of The Lord of the Rings. She recorded an album of children's stories, read out loud, called "Hooray for Captain Jane" in the early 1970s.[citation needed]



  1. ^ "Tammy Grimes profile". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-06. 
  2. ^ Google Books
  3. ^ a b "Tammy Grimes biography", Allmusic.com, accessed January 9, 2009.
  4. ^ Anthony Tommasini (January 22, 2001). "Beverley Peck Johnson, 96, Voice Teacher". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Oxfordreference.com
  6. ^ John S. Wilson, "Cabaret: Tammy Grimes", The New York Times, 21 June 1981
  7. ^ Stephen Holden, "Theater: Tammy Grimes In British-Flavored Solo", The New York Times, 30 May 1988
  8. ^ Calta, Louis, "Kim Stanley Misses Show", The New York Times, June 25, 1955, p. 8
  9. ^ "Tammy Grimes in British-Flavored Solo", The New York Times, 30 May 1988
  10. ^ John Javna (1988). The Best of TV Sitcoms: The Critics' Choice : Burns and Allen to the Cosby Show, the Munsters to Mary Tyler Moore. Harmony Books. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-517-56922-1. Lucky break •The original star of "Bewitched" was to be Tammy Grimes, an English stage actress who'd just signed a deal with ScreenGems TV. •But she didn't like the script She turned it down in favor of a concept that became "The Tammy Grimes Show" 
  11. ^ Herbie J. Pilato (20 July 2016). Dashing, Daring, and Debonair: TV's Top Male Icons from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-63076-053-3. 
  12. ^ "A.B.C.-TV Ax Falls On 'Tammy Grimes'", The New York Times, September 28, 1966
  13. ^ Alex McNeil, Total Television, New York: Penguin Publishers, 1996, p. 258
  14. ^ Barnes, Clive. "Theater:Tammy Grimes Cavorts in 'Private Lives'", The New York Times, December 5, 1969, p. 52
  15. ^ "Tammy Grimes Dismissed From Play", The New York Times, 12 February 1983
  16. ^ "32nd Annual Theatre Hall of Fame Inductees Announced". Playbill.com. 
  17. ^ Theatermania.com
  18. ^ Simonson, Robert and Jones, Kenneth."Tasting Memories Brings Hart, Harris, Bosco and Grimes to Off-Broadway, May 19", Playbill.com, May 19, 2004.
  19. ^ Dale, Michael."Tammy Grimes @ The Metropolitan Room: Love Her While You May", broadwayworld.com, April 8, 2007
  20. ^ Rainho, Manny (August 2015). "This Month in Movie History". Classic Images (482): 24–26. 
  21. ^ "Christopher Plummer Weds", The New York Times, August 24, 1956, p.15
  22. ^ Hertz, Linda."Tammy Grimes stars in one-woman show at the Plush Room", sfgate.com, October 28, 2007.
  23. ^ "Tammy Grimes Hurt in Street Attacks", The New York Times, March 12, 1965.

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