b. Thelma Booth Ford, 30 August 1898, New York City, USA, d. 16 October 1992, North Chatham, Massachusetts, USA. A distinguished actress and singer, who was once described by the New York Post as ‘one of the wonders of the American stage; a superb actress, a magnificent comedienne, and an all-round performer of seemingly endless variety’, Booth started to act at an early age, and made her professional stage debut in 1923 and her first Broadway appearance two years later. In the Broadway musical theatre she played a gossip columnist in Hollywood Pinafore (1945), and excelled as the wonderfully wistful Aunt Cissy with ‘Love Is The Reason’ and the magnificent ‘He Had Refinement’, in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1951). She was a vaudeville star-turned theatrical boarding house proprietor in By The Beautiful Sea (1954), took the title role in Juno (1959), a musical version of Sean O’Casey’s play Juno And The Paycock, with a Marc Blitzstein score, and played the Mother Superior in the short-lived Look To The Lilies (1970). In the latter, she introduced Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s ‘I, Yes, Me! That’s Who!’ with Al Freeman Jnr. In non-musical areas, Booth won Tony and Academy Awards for her roles in both stage and film versions of Come Back, Little Sheba, and two more Tonys for her work in Goodbye, My Fancy and Time Of The Cuckoo. She also created the role of Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker, the play that Jerry Herman musicalized into Hello, Dolly! She was probably best known to the public at large for her performance as the gossipy maid Hazel Burke in the sitcom Hazel (1961-66), for which she won two Emmys. The first of her two husbands was actor Edward Gardner, with whom she appeared in the popular radio series Duffy’s Tavern. Until her death, most reference works recorded her date of birth as 1907, but since then sources say that she was born nine years earlier, and was 94 when she died.
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