Family & Companions
Although primarily a renowned stage actress Carole Shelley is probably best recalled by non-theater goers as Gwendolyn Pigeon, one of the upstairs neighbor sisters Oscar Madison wants to bed in "The Odd Couple." It was a role she played in 1965 on Broadway, in the 1968 feature film and from 1970-71 in the ABC TV series.
The petite London-born daughter of a composer and a singer, Shelley was acting from an early age and was not even 10 years old when she worked in small roles in two British features, "Give Us This Day" and "Cure For Love" (both 1949). The next year, she made her professional stage debut in Southwark playing Little Nell in a production of "The Old Curiosity Shop." Her London debut did not come until five years later with "Simon and Laura." Shelley also performed in numerous revues during the next decade, before migrating to New York to do "The Odd Couple" in 1965. She stayed in the US and has become one of Broadway's most prolific actresses. She was Fay in the Broadway company of Joe Orton's "Loot" (1968), and won her first Tony nomination for her role in the ensemble piece, "Absurd Person Singular" (1975). She received a Tony for Best Actress in a Play (tying with Constance Cummings who was cited for "Wings") for her sensitive portrayal of actress Madge Kendal who befriends "The Elephant Man" (1979). She earned a third Tony nomination in the supporting category playing the assertive Maxine in "Stepping Out" (1987). Among her other notable stage credits are succeeding Dorothy Loudon as Dotty Otley the actress playing the maid in the uproarious farce "Noises Off" (1983), and as one of several actresses who played Kate, the mother, in Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound" (1987), a role in which she also toured for a year following her Broadway stint. She returned to the London stage to replace Dame Maggie Smith as Lettice in Peter Shaffer's "Lettice and Lovage" (1989-90). Back in the US, she won praise for her multiple roles in A.R. Gurney's comedy "Later Life" (1993), for succeeding Piper Laurie as the mother in Larry Kramer's searing family drama "The Destiny of Me" (also 1993), portraying Diana, the English actress first introduced to audiences in "California Suite" (and played by Maggie Smith in the film) in Neil Simon's "London Suite" (1995) and following Elaine Stritch in the role of Parthy in Harold Prince's acclaimed revival of "Show Boat" (1995-96).
Shelley's American film appearances have been limited, but she has lent her soft dulcet tones to character voices for "The Aristocats" (1971), "Robin Hood" (1974), and other films and had small roles in "Quiz Show" and "The Road to Wellville" (both 1994). On TV, she appeared in numerous "Brian Rix" farces in England and in the US was one of the participants in "A Salute to Noel Coward" on CBS. She played Lloyd Bridges' daughter in "Devlin," a 1992 Showtime original movie, and made the busted pilot "Coconut Downs" (ABC, 1991), about life at a posh hotel near a racetrack.
Cast (Feature Film)
Made film debut in "Give Us This Day"
Made professional stage debut as Little Nell in "The Old Curiosity Shop"
Made London stage debut in "Simon and Laura"
Made Broadway debut in the original production of "The Odd Couple"
Reprised role for the feature film version of "The Odd Couple"
Once again reprised role for the ABC TV series version of "The Odd Couple"
Received first Tony Award nomination for her performance as Jane in "Absurd Person Singular"
Played Mrs. Kendal in the Broadway production of "The Elephant Man"
Earned another Tony Award nomination for her role as Maxine in "Stepping Out"
Succeeded Piper Laurie in the Off-Broadway production of Larry Kramer's "The Destiny of Me"
Co-starred in the acclaimed Broadway revival of "Show Boat"
Succeeded Dana Ivey in Alfred Uhry's Tony-winning play "The Last Night of Ballyhoo"
Replaced Blair Brown in role of Frau Schneider in the hit revival of "Cabaret"
Created the role of Madame Morrible in the original Broadway cast of the musical "Wicked"
Featured as Aunt Clara alongside Nicole Kidman in the film "Bewitched"
Played the role of Grandma in the Broadway production of "Billy Elliot, The Musical"; earned a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress in a Musical