Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kurtz Picks Herself Up off Cutting-Room Floor

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kurtz Picks Herself Up off Cutting-Room Floor

Article excerpt


Swoosie Kurtz, who plays Melissa McCarthy's outrageous mother, Joyce, on the hit CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly," got her first lesson in the fickleness of show business more than 50 years ago in a production of Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth" at Hollywood High School.

"We were backstage after the performance getting ready to meet our families when I was told there was a man who wants to see you, Eddie Foy III," said Ms. Kurtz, relaxing on a red sofa that matches her hair in her dressing room at Warner Bros.

"He was a famous casting director," she related. "He said, 'I thought you were wonderful in the play. I want to put you on "The Donna Reed Show."' It was a big deal. I had to get my SAG card. I had to get out of school to shoot it."

Ms. Kurtz, 68, worked for one day playing a friend of Mary (Shelley Fabares) in a party sequence and another scene talking to Mary on the phone. She recalled the anticipation the family felt waiting for the show to air.

"We had everybody sitting around the TV sets -- all the relatives across the country," Ms. Kurtz said smiling. But most of her debut ended up on the cutting-room floor. She was just a blink-and-you'll- miss in the party scene. "And the phone call -- all you hear is my voice," she recalled wistfully.

Ms. Kurtz picked herself up from that initial disappointment to become one of the most versatile actresses working regularly in theater, film and television.

"She's smart, she's funny and she's immensely talented," Ms. McCarthy said via email about Ms. Kurtz. "She really has no limitations."

Ms. Kurtz, who studied drama at USC and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, first conquered the New York stage in the 1970s working with such noted playwrights as Wendy Wasserstein ("Uncommon Women and Others") and Christopher Durang ("A History of the American Film") and winning Tony Awards for Lanford Wilson's "Fifth of July" in 1981 and six years later for John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves."

"She plays this aptly named character named Bananas, who is literally insane," said Michael Brandman, executive producer of the "American Playhouse" presentation of "The House of Blue Leaves" for PBS. …

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