Broadway Star Jane Connell Dies at 87

Jane Connell in MAME - P 2013
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Jane Connell in MAME - P 2013

The veteran comic actress played Agnes Gooch in the original stage musical "Mame," then returned for the film version opposite Lucille Ball.

Jane Connell, who played secretary Agnes Gooch in Jerry Herman’s original Broadway musical production of Mame, then reprised the famous role for the 1974 film starring Lucille Ball, has died. She was 87.

Connell, who was nominated for a Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical for 1986’s Me and My Girl, died Monday, the website reported.

The 4-foot-11-inch Connell worked on Broadway with Angela Lansbury in Mame, in Herman’s Dear World (1969) and again in a revival of Mame that opened in 1983.

Her other stage credits include New Faces of 1956 with Maggie Smith; Drat! The Cat! (1965); Lysistrata (1972); Crazy for You (1982); Lend Me a Tenor (1989); Moon Over Buffalo (1995) opposite Carol Burnett; and the musical version of The Full Monty (2000), in which she replaced the late Kathleen Freeman midway through its run.

For a London production of Once Upon a Mattress in 1960, Connell starred as the wacky Princess Winifred, the role that brought Burnett stardom on Broadway.

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Her big break came with Mame in 1966. “We knew the show would be a smash. Jerry’s songs, Gene Saks’ direction. It had strokes of genius,” she told the Houston Chronicle in 2004. She opened the musical with a hymn as she led the orphan Patrick to his Auntie Mame. (Also in the cast: Bea Arthur, then the wife of Saks.)

For the film version, also directed by Saks and featuring Arthur, Connell replaced Madeline Kahn, who was fired.

A native of Berkeley, Calif., Connell appeared on many TV series, including All in the Family (in the first part of the memorable “Edith’s 50th Birthday” two-part episode), The Patty Duke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, Green Acres, Bewitched, CPO Sharkey, M*A*S*H* and Law & Order. She was a regular on the short-lived NBC sitcom The Dumplings, starring James Coco and Geraldine Brooks.

She starred in director Frank Perry’s Cold War drama Ladybug Ladybug (1963) and also appeared in such films as Kotch (1971), Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, House Calls (1978), the Joan Rivers-scripted and directed Rabbit Test (1978) and Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde (1995).

Connell was married to actor and musician Gordon Connell.