ALICE GHOSTLEY (Esmeralda)
Alice Ghostley was born in Eve, Missouri, and spent part of her childhood in Arkansas and Oklahoma. It was in a small Oklahoma town that her high school teacher inspired her to pursue a dramatic career. Following graduation from the University of Oklahoma (where she minored in drama), Ghostley headed for New Jersey and eventually New York.
"I always wanted to be a movie star like Ruby Keeler," she admits, "and I was just seventeen. I thought the big city was the place to begin.
Alice was also inspired by a cousin who was a tightrope walker for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. She later teamed with her sister, Gladys, and they did an act called The Ghostley Sisters.
The actress remembers:
"When I first started out, I had this natural ability to sing. That was another reason why I chose New York, with all the musicals that were happening at the time. But I looked so different from everyone else. I was never what you would call an ingenue. I was having difficulty finding jobs. Get your eyes straightened, they would tell me, and maybe we can work with you."
For a while, nothing happened. To pay for acting lessons, Alice worked in a restaurant, a cosmetics factory, a detective agency, and a motion picture theater.
After some assistance from actor/composer/lyricist G. Wood, Ghostley's big break arrived: She sang The Boston Beguine on Broadway with Paul Lynde in New Faces of 1952.
Other Broadway appearances included The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, for which she earned a Tony Award for Best Actress and the Saturday Review Award for Best Performance of the 1964/1965 season. She also received a Tony Award nomination for her role in The Beauty Part by S. Z. Perelman.
Ghostley recently reemerged on stage as Miss Hannigan in 907 Broadway productions of Annie, and in the New York and Vancouver productions of Nunsense.
Ghostley's motion picture credits include To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), The Flim Flam Man (1967), The Graduate (1967, with Marion Lorne) Viva Max (1969), Gator (1976), Rabbit Test (with Paul Lynde, 1978), and Grease (also in 1978).
On television, she was recently Emmy nominated for her role as Bernice Clifton in the still-popular, in-syndication "bitch-com," Designing Women. She is also remembered fondly for TV parts in such diverse productions as Twelfth Night, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Jonathan Winters Show (1967 to 1969), and her starring role in Captain Nice (1966 to 1967).
Alice Ghostley died September 22, 2007 at the age of 81. She was survived by her actor/husband Felice Orlandi.
*Biography from "Bewitched Forever" by Herbie J. Pilato
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