Iconic actress and singer Elaine Stritch died at her home in Birmingham, Mich. on Thursday. She was 89 years old. Recent fans may know her best as the Jack Donaghy’s brash mother on 30 Rock, but her extensive career goes back to the 1940s. With her work spanning across television, film, and Broadway, she truly embodied the role of the performer.
Prior to returning to her home state due to ill health last year, Stritch was a fixture of New York City — in fact, the New York Landmarks Conservancy declared her a Living Landmark in 2003. She ruled Broadway with an iron voice, starting off as an understudy for the equally brassy Ethel Merman in 1950’s Call Me Madam. From there her star continued to ascend, taking roles in William Inge’s 1955 drama Bus Stop, Noël Coward’s 1961 Sail Away, and Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical Company, singing the immortal “Ladies Who Lunch.” In the new millennium she boasted her own show, 2002’s Elaine Stritch at Liberty.
Her film career is equally stunning, with roles in the cinema adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms, as well as Woody Allen’s September (1987) and Small Time Crooks (2000). Fittingly, she most recently appeared in a documentary about her own life, titled Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.
We had a chance to speak to Sarah Dalley, a family friend, who was kind enough to share her memories:
Elaine’s voice was one of a kind, a voice that’ll stick with you for eternity. Her passion for performing came from within, but was fueled by the radiating love from her audience. Aside from her great achievements, Elaine Stritch was a down-to-earth, loveable woman who brought a smile to everyone’s faces whether it was because of her contagious laugh or her unfiltered mouth. Elaine said whatever was at the top of her mind, but for those who knew her, it was what made you love her even more. There may have been moments when you couldn’t believe your ears, but it was genuine, it was real, it was Elaine. Probably the only individual in this universe that can get away with saying whatever she wants, when she wants while also wearing no pants and huge sunglasses like it was nobody’s business.
[Photo: Getty Images]