'I Love Lucy' Actress Shirley Mitchell Dies at 94

Shirley Mitchell (right) with Isabel Randolph and Rufe Davis in the 1944 film "Jamboree."
Shirley Mitchell (right) with Isabel Randolph and Rufe Davis in the 1944 film "Jamboree."
 Courtesy Everett Collection

Shirley Mitchell, the comic actress who played Marion Strong, Lucy Ricardo's friend with the cackling laugh on the TV classic I Love Lucy, has died. She was 94.

Mitchell, who was believed to be the last surviving adult castmember from the legendary CBS sitcom, died Nov. 11 of heart failure at her condominium in Westwood, her sister-in-law, the Oscar-nominated Sunset Blvd. actress Nancy Olson, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Mitchell was the widow of Jay Livingston, the pop composer and lyricist who collaborated with Ray Evans on the Academy Award-winning songs “Mona Lisa” (performed by Nat King Cole), “Que Sera, Sera” (Doris Day) and “Buttons and Bows” (Bob Hope). The couple was married from 1992 until his death in 2001.

Mitchell joined the cast of Lucille Ball’s I Love Lucy for the 1953-54 season and appeared in three episodes. In one, “Lucy Tells the Truth,” Marion gets frank opinions about her new hat and her laugh during the girls’ weekly bridge game. (Lucy has bet Ricky (Desi Arnaz) and Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance) $100 that she can go 24 hours without telling a lie.)

“Marion, stop cackling. I’ve been waiting 10 years for you to lay that egg!” Lucy says.

The Marion character, which was originated by Margie Liszt in the second season, set Lucy and Ricky up on their first date.

PHOTOS: Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2013

Mitchell was very much an in-demand TV actress in the 1950s and ’60s. She played John Forsythe’s secretary Kitty Deveraux on several episodes of Bachelor Father; neighbor Marge Thornton on Please Don’t Eat the Daisies; Mae Belle Jennings, Kate Bradley’s (Bea Benaderet) cousin, on Petticoat Junction; and Opal Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.

On The Red Skelton Hour, she appeared as the shrill Clara Appleby, the wife of henpecked husband George Appleby (Red Skelton), in several sketches.

Her TV résumé also includes Pete and Gladys, The Jack Benny Program, Make Room for Daddy, Perry Mason, The Loretta Young Show, The Mothers-in-Law, The Doris Day Show, Green Acres, The Odd Couple, Chico and the Man, Three’s Company, Trapper John, M.D., Dallas and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

In 1972, Mitchell was the voice of Laurie Holiday on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series The Roman Holidays.

Born Nov. 4, 1919, in Toledo, Ohio, Mitchell was a radio star on such shows as The Great Gildersleeve and Fibber, McGee & Molly, and she became good friends with Ball during the redhead’s radio days on My Favorite Husband. She came to Los Angeles in the 1940s and transitioned to television on such shows as I Married Joan.

Mitchell also appeared on the big screen in such films as Jamboree (1944), Desk Set (1957), Big Business (1988) and The War of the Roses (1989).

In addition to Olson -- the widow of late Capitol Records president Alan Livingston -- survivors include her children, Scott and Brooke.

comments powered by Disqus