Thursday, April 16, 2009

Edie Adams (1927-2008)

Today, April 16th, would have marked the 82nd birthday of stage, screen and performing legend Edie Adams, a native of Kingston, Pennsylvania. Sadly, Miss Adams passed away this past October after a long battle with cancer and complications from pneumonia. Her eclectic work on the stage and in film and television have left a lasting impression on entertainment and popular culture.

Edie Adams was born Edith Elizabeth Enke in Kingston, Pennsylvania on April 16, 1927. The family relocated to Grove City, PA before settling in Tenafly, New Jersey. Edie took her mother's maiden name Adams as her stage name. She was often billed as Edith Adams as well as Edie Adams.

Edie earned a vocal degree from the Julliard School of Music and graduated from the Columbia School of Drama. After earning the title of the Miss US Television, she enjoyed guest appearances on Milton Berle's TV show.

Adam's professional career originated in television as a regular on Ernie Kovac's popular 1952 television show, which led to her becoming the spokesperson for Muriel Cigars; Adams actually went on to patent a cigar-holding ring she used in the television commercials., which ran for over 19 years.

Adam's work in television led her to the Great White Way, where she starred in the original Broadway productions of 1953's Wonderful Town with Rosalind Russell and 1956's Li'l Abner, which earned her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Television was Edie Adams's main forte, where she appeared in episodes of some of the most popular TV shows of all time from the 1950s through the 1990s. In addition to I Love Lucy and the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Adams has appeared in episodes of The Red Skelton Show, What's My Line?, Love American Style, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, The Carol Burnett Show, Murder She Wrote, It's Garry Shandling's Show, and Designing Women. Adams also hosted her own television variety show Here's Edie from 1963-64, which featured appearances by the legendary Count Basie, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Eddie Fisher; Here's Edie was one of the earliest shows to feature a black man and a white woman singing and dancing onstage together. Edie also made numerous singing appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Her television film work include her role as the Fairy Godmother opposite Julie Andrews in Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, which originally aired in 1957, and the role of Ruby Miller (her last screen appearance) in PBS's controversial 1993 miniseries Tales of the City, based on the novel by Armistead Maupin.

Much of her film work was in supporting roles in what would go on to become classic films. She played Miss Olsen in 1960's Best Picture winner The Apartment (directed by the legendary Billy Wilder and co-starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray), Rebel Davis in 1961's Lover Come Back (with Rock Hudson and Doris Day), and Monica Crump in 1963's ensemble piece It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (with Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Milton Berle and Ethel Merman). She gained a whole new generation of fans from her hilarious turn as Mrs. Tempest Stoner is Cheech & Chong's 1978 stoner classic Up in Smoke.

Edie Adams married Ernie Kovac in 1955; they appeared together in Lucy Meets the Moustache, the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, in 1960; on the episode, Miss Adams performed the song That's All, a fitting tribute to the end of a television era. Sadly, Ernie were killed in a tragic automobile accident in 1962; Kovac's untimely death left his widow owing thousands of dollars in back taxes, which she paid off with film and television work and her huge draw as a nightclub performer. She was also married to photographer Martin Mills from 1964 to 1971 (they had a son, Josh Mills) and actor/musician Pete Candoli from 1972 to 1988. Tragically, twenty years after her husband's death, Edie's and Ernie's daughter Mia (an aspiring actress herself) was killed in a car accident in 1982.

After a long battle with cancer, Edie Adams died from complications of pneumonia on October 15, 2008 in Los Angeles. Click here to read her obituary from the New York Times.

The Lackawanna County Library System has many of Edie Adams's legendary film and recorded work to borrow in various formats: the DVD and VHS of The Apartment; the DVD and VHS of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; the VHS of Lover Come Back; the DVD of Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (as well as the audio cassette of the soundtrack); the DVD of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City; and the VHS of the Lucille Ball documentary Finding Lucy. Her recording of "A Little Bit in Love" from the Broadway musical Wonderful Town is featured on the CD Broadway's Greatest Love Songs.

Happy Birthday, Edie!

No comments: