Five-decade ca­reer was an ‘in­cred­i­ble mar­riage’

Broad­way, ‘Soap’ ac­tress starred in Terry Gil­liam films

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Local - By Maane Khatcha­tourian Va­ri­ety

Emmy-nom­i­nated ac­tress Kather­ine Helmond, best known for her role on “Who’s the Boss?,” died Feb. 23 at her Los An­ge­les home due to com­pli­ca­tions from Alzheimer’s dis­ease. She was 89.

The star, whose ca­reer spanned more than five decades, played ma­tri­arch Jes­sica Tate on Billy Crys­tal’s prime-time soap sit­com, aptly ti­tled “Soap,” which ran from 1977 to 1981. She nabbed four ac­tress Emmy nom­i­na­tions for the role. Helmond played an­other fa­mous mom, Mona Robin­son, in an­other ABC hit se­ries, “Who’s the Boss?” (1984–1992). The role landed her two sup­port­ing ac­tress Emmy noms.

Helmond also had a re­cur­ring roles as Doris Sher­man on ABC’s “Coach” (1995-1997), op­po­site Craig T. Nel­son and Jerry Van Dyke, and as De­bra Barone’s mother Lois Whe­lan, along­side Ray Ro­mano and Pa­tri­cia Heaton on CBS’ mas­sive hit “Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond” (1996-2004).

In ad­di­tion to her TV work, the vet­eran ac­tress also took Broad­way by storm. She won a Tony in 1973 for her per­for­mance in Eu­gene O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown.” She also ap­peared in the plays “Pri­vate Lives,” “Don Juan” and “Mixed Emo­tions.”

On the film front, Helmond was a reg­u­lar col­lab­o­ra­tor of Monty Python di­rec­tor Terry Gil­liam, star­ring in three of his films, namely “Time Ban­dits” (1981), “Brazil” (1985), and “Fear and Loathing in Las Ve­gas” (1998). Helmond’s cast­ing in “Time Ban­dits” wasn’t ex­actly con­ven­tional, as she got the part only af­ter Gil­liam’s orig­i­nal choice for the role, Ruth Gor­don, broke her leg while shoot­ing a Clint East­wood movie.

In “Brazil,” Helmond played the cos­metic surgery-ad­dicted mother to Jonathan Pryce’s cen­tral char­ac­ter. Gil­liam is said to have called her up to of­fer her the part say­ing, “I have a part for you, and I want you to come over and do it, but you’re not go­ing to look very nice in it.” Sure enough, she spent sev­eral hours a day with her face cov­ered in a mask, which caused her to Kather­ine Helmond was a star of stage, screen and TV.

de­velop blis­ters.

De­spite many dif­fi­cult times on set, Helmond “never fell out of love” with act­ing.

“I felt I blos­somed as a per­son when I got a chance to act,” she said. “It’s been like an in­cred­i­ble mar­riage that re­ally worked. I en­joyed ev­ery minute of it.”

Her other ma­jor films in­clude a grave­stone-kick­ing char­ac­ter in Al­fred Hitch­cock’s “Fam­ily Plot” (1976), and the haughty Edith Mintz, who at one point threat­ens to cas­trate the main char­ac­ter played by Ed­ward Her­rmann, in Garry Mar­shall’s “Over­board” (1987). More re­cently, Helmond voiced the Ford Model T Lizzie in Dis­ney/Pixar’s three “Cars” films.

Her “Who’s the Boss?” co-star Alyssa Mi­lano is among those who took to Twit­ter to pay their re­spects.

“Kather­ine Helmond has passed away. My beau­ti­ful, kind, funny, gra­cious, com­pas­sion­ate, rock. You were an in­stru­men­tal part of my life. You taught me to hold my head above the marsh! You taught me to do any­thing for a laugh! What an ex­am­ple you were! Rest In Peace, Kather­ine,” Mi­lano wrote on Twit­ter.

Helmond is sur­vived by her hus­band, David Chris­tian, who said the fol­low­ing af­ter her death was an­nounced:

“She was the love of my life,” Chris­tian said. “We spent 57 beau­ti­ful, won­der­ful, lov­ing years to­gether, which I will trea­sure for­ever. I’ve been with Kather­ine since I was 19 years old. The night she died, I saw that the moon was ex­actly half-full, just as I am now … half of what I’ve been my en­tire adult life.”

CHRIS WALKER/TRI­BUNE 2005

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