Marcia Wallace (November 1, 1942 – October 25, 2013)
Marcia Karen Wallace has an acting career that spanned six decades! Born in Iowa, Wallace was encouraged to pursue acting by a high school teacher. At Parsons College, Wallace majored in English (due to her interest in journalism) and Theater.
The day after graduation, Wallace moved from Iowa to New York with $148. She began her career by performing summer stock, commercials, typing scripts (that would prove fortuitous to her career!) and even took a job as a substitute English teacher (that would also prove fortuitous!) She formed an improv group “The Fourth Wall” and appeared off-Broadway. She finally ended up on TV, being a semi-regular (75 appearances) on The Merv Griffin Show. (When the show moved to Los Angeles for filming, at Griffins’ personal request, Wallace moved with it.) These appearances led to a March 1972 phone call from TV producer Grant Tinker as recommended from CBS founder Bill Paley. They offered her the role of Carol Kester, receptionist to Dr. Robert Hartley on the Bob Newhart Show, a role they specifically created just for her.
Six seasons later when the show ended in 1978, Wallace made the rounds on the game show circuit. Hollywood Squares, The $25,000 Pyramid, Win, Lose or Draw, Match Game, Family Feud — name a game show, Wallace was probably on it — are just a few of the shows Wallace graced with her presence.
She went back into TV comedies as well appearing on ALF, Charles in Charge, A Different World, Full House, Bewitched, Murphy Brown, Taxi and The Brady Bunch. She also appeared in Murder, She Wrote, Young and the Restless and Magnum P.I.. Wallace’s second resurgence in TV came in 1990 and beyond (to her death to be exact!) as the voice of Bart’s teacher Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons. (The role brought her a 1992 Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.)
In May 1986 Wallace married hotelier Dennis Hawley. They adopted an infant son. Wallace was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985 and became an activist and lecturer. In January 2007 she won a Gilda Radner Courage Award for that breast cancer activism. Hawley died of pancreatic cancer in June 1992. Wallace’s 2004 autobiography Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way focuses on her breast cancer diagnosis, her husband’s death, life as a single mother, her nervous breakdown and more.
Wallace died from complications relating to pneumonia on October 25, 2013. Producers of The Simpsons, in memory of the irreplaceable Wallace, intend to let Mrs. Krabappel retire.
Over six decades, Marcia Wallace can be remembered for any number of characters. But, despite all those characters on all those shows, Wallace, as a person, will probably most be remembered as herself: for her unmistakable red hair. Marcia Wallace was only 70 when she passed away in Los Angeles.