In Memoriam--Alice GhostleyOne of television's best-loved character actresses, Alice Ghostely, died this past weekend after a long battle with cancer. Perhaps most famous for her role as the lovably befuddled housekeeper, Esmeralda, on Bewitched, Ghostley got her start on the Broadway stage in New Faces of 1952 where she became a star along side other such "new faces" as Eartha Kitt and Paul Lynde singing her signature "Boston Beguine" for the first time. Though a master of comic timing, she went on to win a Tony Award in 1965 for a dramatic role in The Sign in Sydney Brustein's Window. Over the years Ghostley popped up all over TV-land in supporting roles and guest spots that would re-energize even the most stale sit-com for her brief appearance. In the late '80s Ghostley was introduced to a whole new generation of TV viewers as Bernice Clifton, the eccentric dotty neighbor of the Sugarbaker sisters on Designing Women which earned her an Emmy nomination in 1992. Her 31 film credits include such classics as The Graduate and To Kill a Mockingbird.
One of my personal favorite Alice Ghostley roles was as one of the stepsisters in Rodgers & Hammerstein's 1957 television version of Cinderella opposite Kaye Ballard (inspired casting!) and starring Julie Andrews. Ballard remained a friend to the end releasing news of Ghostely's death to the press saying among other things "She was an exceptional actress...(Alice) was gentle and she was sincere and she was kind and she never said a cruel thing about anyone -- ever...But she was superior in everything she did. She was a special, special person." Alice Ghostley died at her home in Studio City, California. She was 81.