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Actress And Singer Carol Bruce


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Actress Carol Bruce

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Carol Bruce

LOS ANGELES, California -- Carol Bruce, a versatile actress and singer who appeared in Broadway musicals, film and television, most notably as Mama Carlson on the sitcom, "WKRP in Cincinnati," died Tuesday, October 9. She was 87.

Bruce, whose career spanned over seven decades, passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, a hospital spokeswoman Jaime Larkin said in a statement.

Born Shirley Levy in Great Neck, Long Island, New York, on November 15, 1919, she began her career as a singer in 1937 with Larry Clinton and his band playing at nightclubs in Montreal. Bruce sang at President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Birthday Ball, at The White House in Washington, D.C., in January, 1942.

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Carol Bruce in 'This Woman Is Mine'

Her deep, sultry singing voice got her roles in stage musicals. She made her Broadway debut as Carol Bruce in 1940 in the musical comedy, "Louisiana Purchase," which was especially written for her by Irving Berlin. Bruce married her husband, Milton Nathanson in 1945. The marriage produced a daughter, Julie but ended in divorce in 1963.

She signed a contract with Universal Studios, making three films between 1941 and 1942 -- "This Woman Is Mine," "Keep 'em Flying" and "Behind the Eight Ball" -- before returning to the stage. Though she concentrated on her stage performances for the next few decades, she appeared on television with roles on the soap operas, "Love of Life" and "General Hospital."

Bruce received critical praise for Broadway performances in a 1946 revival of "Showboat" in the pivotal role of Julie and the 1949 musical revue, "Along Fifth Avenue." She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1965 for her role in the Broadway show, "Do I Hear a Waltz?"

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Carol Bruce in her early years

In 1979, she took over the role that Sylvia Sidney had originated on "WKRP in Cincinnati" a year earlier as Mama Carlson, the tough-talking owner of a radio station managed by her son, Arthur, played by Gordon Jump. Bruce kept the recurring role until the series ended in 1982.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, she made guest appearances in a number of network television series including "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "The Golden Girls," "The Twilight Zone," "Diff'rent Strokes," "Party of Five" and "Knots Landing."

Her film credits include the 1980 film, "American Gigolo," starring Richard Gere and the 1987 comedy, "Planes, Trains, & Automobiles" with Steve Martin and John Candy. She voiced the character of Old One in the 1996 animated film, "The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists."

Bruce is survived by her sister, Marilyn Berk; daughter Julie Nathanson-Coryell and grandsons and great-grandsons. A memorial service is being planned.

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