Nell Carter

Singer & actress with a deep, stirring voice, star of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' and long running '80s show "Gimme a Break."
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Artist Biography

b. 13 September 1948, Birmingham, Alabama, USA, d. 23 January 2003, Beverly Hills, California, USA. Carter performed professionally from the age of 11, singing on a local radio show. During the 60s she sang in New York nightclubs. Her stage musicals included Soon (1971), Dude and Dont Bother Me I Cant Cope (both 1972). She starred off-Broadway in Ain’t Misbehavin’, winning an Obie Award, before the show opened on Broadway on 9 May 1978 where it ran until 21 February 1982. For this show, Carter won a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress In A Musical, a Theatre World Award, and a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actress In A Musical. She was also in the show’s 1988 revival, this time with her name above the title. Among songs she sang in the show were ‘Cash For Your Trash’, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling’, ‘Honeysuckle Rose’, in duet with Ken Page, and ‘Mean To Me’. In 1997 she took the role of Miss Hannigan in a revival of Annie.

Carter’s film roles, usually minor, included appearances in Hair (1979), Back Roads (1981), Modern Problems (1981), The Grass Harp (1995), The Proprietor (1996), Fakin’ Da Funk (1997), Special Delivery (1999), Perfect Fit (1999) and Back By Midnight (2002). Carter appeared briefly on television in the late 70s in the soap Ryan’s Hope, but her most important exposure was when she appeared in the situation comedy Gimme A Break! (1981-87), also singing the title song. For her role of housekeeper Nell Harper she was nominated twice for a Golden Globe and twice for an Emmy. She was in game shows, such as Match Game and To Tell The Truth (both 1998), dramas, including Sealed With A Kiss (1999) and The Tulsa Lynching Of 1921: A Hidden Story (2000), and situation comedies and series, including episodes of The Misadventures Of Sheriff Lobo (aka Lobo) (1979), Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper (1992), Touched By An Angel and Reba (both 2001) and Ally McBeal (2002).

In her final months, Carter was in rehearsal for the musical, Raisin, based upon A Raisin In The Sun, which was to be staged by International City Theatre in Long Beach, California. She was also working on the movie Swing. Carter’s early death came directly from heart disease although for many years she had suffered from diabetes. Additionally, in the early 90s, she had survived surgery for the removal of aneurysms.