Carole Cook, who used a career boost from Lucille Ball to build a career that included three Broadway tours and roles in sixteen candles and The Incredible Mr. Limpet, is dead. She was 98 years old.
Cook died of heart failure on Wednesday, three days before her birthday, at Beverly Hills, announced her husband, actor Tom Troupe.
On television, Cook appeared as the ex-wife of Walter Findlay (Bill Macy) on Maudas the owner of the cop hideout bar Stella’s on kojaklike Mrs. Cora Van Husen on Dynasty and as Donna La Mar, the girlfriend of Charlie Cagney (Dick O’Neill), on Cagney and Lacey.
The fun-loving Texan came to Hollywood at Ball’s request and appeared in a 1959 episode of the comedian Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. Ball convinced her to change her first name from Mildred to Carole in honor of the actress she most admired, Carole Lombard.
Cook went on to work alongside Ball on 18 episodes of Lucy’s show from 1963 to 1968 – often playing Lucy Carmichael’s pal Thelma Green – and five installments of CBS’ Meet Lucy from 1969-74. They even played a game of Password together in 1965. She wore red hair, just like her mentor.
Cook also portrayed Don Knotts character’s wife and watched him swim out of his life in The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964) and was Molly Ringwald’s grandmother Helen in John Hughes sixteen candles (1984).
In 1965, she succeeded the legendary Carol Channing as the second actress to play Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! – it was for a long concert in Australia – then appeared in the original Broadway productions of Romantic comedy and 42nd streetwho bowed out in 1979 and ’80, respectively.
In September 2018, Cook and her husband were interviewed by TMZ outside Craig’s in West Hollywood, and she got into trouble when she suggested that President Trump be assassinated. “Where is John Wilkes Booth when you need him, right?” she asked.
The Secret Service paid her a visit and she remarked that they couldn’t have been nicer. I said, ‘I can’t go to jail, the stripes are horizontal, they don’t look good on me.’
One of four children, Mildred Frances Cook was born in Abilene, Texas on January 14, 1924.
“Abilene isn’t exactly the hub of Broadway—you’re up to your ass in the mesquite trees—but I saw my first show when I was four, I knew I wanted to do this, and I didn’t. ‘ve never deviated,” she said in a July interview. “I started in the basement of First Baptist Church and worked my way up to Broadway at the movies.”
After graduating in 1945 from Baylor University, where she studied Greek theater, the green-eyed cook worked in regional theater and hit Broadway in 1954 in a revival of threepenny operareplacing Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Peachum in the cast.
She appeared in The kismet in Warren, Ohio, when she received a call from Ball, who had read a review of her performance in Annie take your gun and asked him to come to California to audition for his company of young actors Desilu Workshop. (Future Untouchables actor Nicholas Georgiade also got his start there.)
She signed with Desilu and even lived in Ball’s house after his divorce from Desi Arnaz.
On Christmas Eve in 1959, Cook appeared on CBS’ Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse as one of the young performers coached by Desilu co-founder Ball for a musical review. Three weeks later, she made her screen debut in an episode of the Desilu series directed by Robert Altman. US Marshal.
In her first film, she flirted with a basketball coach (Jack Weston) while Weekend in Palm Springs (1963), with Connie Stevens and Troy Donahue.
Cook’s resume also included episodes of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, This girl, McMillan and his wife, Chico and the man, Magnum, IP, Dynasty, Hart to Hart and Grey’s Anatomy – where she sang “Stormy Weather” – and films such as The glove (1977), american gigolo (1980), summer lovers (1982) and House on the beach (2004).
She and Troupe were married in March 1964, when Ball was their matron of honor and future THR TCM columnist and host Robert Osborne (another Desilu player) their best man. They performed together in plays such as The Lion in Winter and Fathers Day and raised funds for those living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to her husband, survivors include her stepson, Christopher, and his wife, Becky; Sister Regina; and nieces and nephews.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Entertainment Community Fund (formerly The Actors Fund).
In 2018, Cook sang and shared memories in a one-man show at intimate club Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City. “At my age, playing [here] is not a career change,” she said. “I have jewelry bigger than this room.”