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Estelle Parsons
Estelle Parsons Love American Style 1973.JPG
Parsons in a Love, American Style episode in 1973
Born (1927-11-20) November 20, 1927 (age 96)
Education Connecticut College (BA)
Boston University
Occupation Actress
Years active 1956–present
Known for Roseanne
The Conners
  • Richard Gehman
    (m. 1953; div. 1958)
Peter Zimroth
(m. 1983; died 2021)
Children 3

Estelle Parsons (born November 20, 1927) is an American actress.

After studying law, Parsons became a singer before deciding to pursue a career in acting. She worked for the television program Today and made her stage debut in 1961. During the 1960s, Parsons established her career on Broadway before progressing to film. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and was also nominated for her work in Rachel, Rachel (1968).

Parsons worked extensively in film and theatre during the 1970s and later directed several Broadway productions. Later work included perhaps her best known role, as Beverly Harris, mother of the title character, on the sitcom Roseanne, and, later, on its spinoff The Conners. She has been nominated five times for the Tony Award (four times for Lead Actress of a Play and once for Featured Actress). In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Early life

Parsons was born in Lynn Hospital, Lynn, Massachusetts. Her mother, Elinor Ingeborg (née Mattsson), was a native of Sweden, and her father, Eben Parsons, was of English descent.

She attended Oak Grove School for Girls in Maine. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1949, Parsons initially studied law at Boston University, and then worked as a singer with a band before settling on an acting career in the early 1950s. In 1983, when co-starring with fellow Academy Award-winning actor Jack Lemmon in a new Ernest Thompson stage play in Los Angeles, Parsons appeared on the November 1 episode of The Tonight Show, telling Johnny Carson that Lemmon had been her first boyfriend, when they were both teenagers in the 1940s.


Parsons moved to New York City, and worked as a writer, producer and commentator for The Today Show. She made her Broadway debut in 1956 in the ensemble of the Ethel Merman musical Happy Hunting. Her Off-Broadway debut was in 1961, and she received a Theatre World Award in 1963 for her performance in Whisper into My Good Ear/Mrs. Dally Has a Lover (1962).

In 1964, Parsons won an Obie Award for Best Actress for her performance in two Off-Broadway plays, Next Time I'll Sing to You and In the Summer House. In 1967, she starred with Stacy Keach in the premiere of Joseph Heller's play We Bombed in New Haven at the Yale Repertory Theater.

Parsons has received Tony Award nominations for her work in The Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), Miss Margarida's Way (1978), Morning's at Seven (2002), and The Velocity of Autumn (2014). She played Leokadia Begbick in the American premiere of the WeillBrecht opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1970), and performed as Mrs. Peachum to Lotte Lenya's Jenny in Threepenny Opera on tour and in New York City. In 1978 she played Lady Macbeth in the Kauai Community Players production. She also played Ruth in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway in 1981. From June 17, 2008, through May 17, 2009, she played the role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County. She continued playing the role during the show's national tour beginning July 24, 2009, in Denver.

In 1979, Parsons directed a production of Antony and Cleopatra at Interart Theater in New York in which she incorporated some Spanish into the show, prompting Joseph Papp to invite her to direct at the New York Shakespeare Festival (now The Public Theater), and becoming the first woman to do so. As a director, Parsons has a number of Broadway credits, including a production of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and As You Like It in 1986. ..... She served as the Artistic Director of the Actors Studio for five years, from 1998 to 2003.

In 2016, she starred in Israel Horovitz's new play Out Of The Mouths Of Babes along with Judith Ivey directed by Barnet Kellman at The Cherry Lane Theater in New York City.

In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Her film career includes an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and a nomination for Rachel, Rachel (1968). She received a BAFTA Award nomination for her role in Watermelon Man (1970), and appeared in I Never Sang for My Father (1970), Two People (1973), A Memory of Two Mondays (1974), For Pete's Sake (1974), Dick Tracy (1990) and Boys on the Side (1995).

On television, Parsons played the recurring role of Beverly Harris, the mother of the title character on Roseanne; her Beverly character is the daughter of character Nana Mary, played by fellow Academy Award winner Shelley Winters. Other television credits include appearances in The Patty Duke Show, Love, American Style, All In The Family, Archie Bunker's Place, Open Admissions, Frasier, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Good Wife, as well as The UFO Incident: The Story of Betty and Barney Hill and the PBS production of June Moon. She played the part of Babe in three episodes of the second and fifth seasons of Grace and Frankie.

She was honored with a Woman of Achievement Award from the Women's Project Theater in 2009. In 2010, she appeared in London, playing psychic Helga ten Dorp in Deathtrap at the Noël Coward Theatre in the West End.

Parsons' most recent Broadway appearances include Good People (2011) and Nice Work If You Can Get It (2012).

In April 2018, Parsons returned to television reprising her role as Beverly Harris, mother of Roseanne Barr's title character, in season 10, episode 5 of Roseanne.

Personal life

Parsons married author Richard Gehman in 1953. They had twin daughters, reporter Abbie and actress Martha Gehman, before divorcing in 1958. Her grandson Eben Britton, Abbie's son, is a former Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars guard/tackle who was named for his great-grandfather, Estelle's father. In January 1983 she married her partner of 10 years, Peter Zimroth, who has served as Assistant U.S. Attorney, Assistant District Attorney and court-appointed monitor of the NYPD's policies and practices regarding stop-and-frisk. They adopted a son, Abraham, born in February 1983. Zimroth died on November 8, 2021.



Year Title Role Notes
1963 Ladybug Ladybug JoAnn's Mother
1967 Bonnie and Clyde Blanche Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
1968 Rachel, Rachel Calla Mackie Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1969 Don't Drink the Water Marion Hollander
1970 Watermelon Man Althea Gerber Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
I Walk the Line Ellen Haney
I Never Sang for My Father Alice
1973 Two People Barbara Newman
1974 For Pete's Sake Helen Robbins
1975 Fore Play 1st Lady / Barmaid
1989 The Lemon Sisters Mrs. Kupchak
1990 The Blue Men May
Dick Tracy Mrs. Trueheart
1995 Boys on the Side Louise
1996 Looking for Richard Margaret
1997 That Darn Cat Old Lady McCracken
2018 Diane Mary


Year Title Role Notes
1954 Today Self Episode dated 6 September 1954
1963 The Defenders Mrs. Martin "Metamorphosis"
1964 The DuPont Show of the Week Carrie Bernice "The Gambling Heart"
The Patty Duke Show Mrs. Appleton "The Con Artist"
1965 The Doctors and the Nurses Mrs. Meyers "Where There's Smoke"
1966 The Trials of O'Brien Miss Baines "Alarums and Excursions"
1968 Snap Judgment Self Episode dated 18 November 1968
Hemingway's Spain: A Love Affair Self (voice only)
Kraft Music Hall Self Episode #11.30
The 40th Annual Academy Awards Self Oscar winner
1970 The Front Page Mollie Malloy
The David Frost Show Self Episode #2.240
1971 25th Tony Awards Self Nominee
Great Performances Agnes A Memory of Two Mondays
1972 Love, American Style Bernice "Love and the Clinic/Love and the Perfect Wedding/Love and the President/Love and the Return of Raymond"
Medical Center Bev "Wall of Silence"
1973 Terror on the Beach Arlene Glynn
1974 The Gun and the Pulpit Sadie Underwood
Great Performances Lucille "June Moon"
1975 The UFO Incident Betty Hill
1976 The Tenth Level Crossland
NBC Special Treat Edwina Kemp "Big Henry and the Polka Dot Kid"
All in the Family Dolores Mancheney Fencel "Archie's Secret Passion"
1978 All in the Family Blanche Hefner 2 episodes
1979 Archie Bunker's Place Blanche Hefner "Blanche and Murray"
Backstairs at the White House Bess Truman Four episodes
1981 The Gentleman Bandit Marjorie Seebode
Guests of the Nation Kate O'Connell
1982 Today Self Episode dated 14 January 1982
American Playhouse Mabel Lederer/Angela Motorman "Come Along with Me"
1987 American Playhouse "Waiting for the Moon" (the producers wish to thank)
1988 Open Admissions Clare Block
1989–1997, 2018 Roseanne Beverly Harris 61 episodes
Nominated for TV Land Award
1990 Everyday Heroes Matty Jennings
1992 A Private Matter Mary Chessen Nominated—CableACE Award Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
1993 The American Clock Older Doris
Family Feud Self "Roseanne vs. Jackie Thomas Sitcoms"
1994 Inside the Actors Studio Self
1997 Touched by an Angel Jeannette Fisher "Sandcastles"
1998 The Love Letter Beatrice Corrigan
The 70th Annual Academy Awards Self
1999 Freak City Mrs. Stanapolous
2000 Backstory Self "Bonnie and Clyde"
2001 100 Centre Street Esther O'Neill "The Fix"
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Rose Rinato "Denial"
The 56th Annual Tony Awards Self
2004 Frasier Celeste's Mother (voice)
Herself (photograph)
"Coots and Ladders"
"Goodnight, Seattle"
Strip Search Roberta Gray
Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde Self
2005 Empire Falls Bea 2 episodes
2013 The Good Wife Nana Joe Episode: "What's in the Box?"
2016–2019 Grace and Frankie Babe 3 episodes
2018–present The Conners Beverly Harris 9 episodes

See also

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