For those who don't know of Alice Ghostley, it is safe to say you have missed a great punch line in television comedy. Punch line because she so often played that part.
Though, in the 70s, often referred to as the female Paul Lynde (don't EVEN say you don't know who he is) she was really her own actress with her own style. I remember watching an interview with her once, and she commented on how people thought Lynde and her were either related, or perhaps she "borrowed" some of his mannerisms. Her answer was quite simple; she was her own person, and Lynde was his own, and if their mannerisms seemed similar, so be it. And that was as good an answer as anyone should expect. And now that I come to think of it, I don't remember many references to Paul Lynde after that interview.
A successful Broadway actress who transitioned to film and television quite well, it was the moniker 'actress' that best describes her. Not only was she funny, and serious, a singer and a performer, she was all of those thing equally, and that's what made her a wonderful actress. She won a Tony Award for her supporting performance as Rita Moreno's sister in The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. She was also nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Bernice Clifton in the long running series Designing Women.
Like many, I first took notice of her on reruns of Bewitched. Of all the television series' that have come and gone, I have to say (and maybe it's just because I was so young at the time) it seems like those of the late 60s and 70s had such an impact on me. Besides loving Bewitched, I loved nearly every character on that show. And Ghostley's portrayal of the nervous, bumbling Esmerelda was a character I couldn't wait to appear.
She would make special guest appearances on television throughout the coming decades, but she was reintroduced to a whole new group of fans with her Bernice Clifton role. Playing the forgetful, neighbor who said more than she sometimes should, she was always hilarious and her Emmy win was much deserved.
I suppose there are outstanding character actresses, and actors, in todays television landscape, but I can honestly only think of a handful. And of those, I don't know how many will leave long lasting impressions.
While Ghostley may not have been on television lately due to ill health, she wasn't forgotten. And the notice of her passing is a sad one. Not only for her friends and family, but for her fans, and the entertainment industry as a whole.
She will certainly be missed.