Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett

Infobox actor
name = Carol Burnett

caption = Carol Burnett in 2005
birthname = Carol Creighton Burnett
birthdate = birth date and age|1933|4|26
birthplace = city-state|San Antonio|Texas, U.S.
spouse = Don Saroyan (1955–1962)
Joe Hamilton (1963–1984)
Brian Miller (2001–present)
goldenglobeawards = Best TV Star - Female
1968 "The Carol Burnett Show"

1970 "The Carol Burnett Show"
1972 "The Carol Burnett Show"
1977 "The Carol Burnett Show"
1978 "The Carol Burnett Show"
emmyawards = Best Performance - Variety/Music Series
1962 "The Garry Moore Show"
1963 "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall"
Best Variety, Music/Comedy Series
1972 "The Carol Burnett Show"
1974 "The Carol Burnett Show"
1975 "The Carol Burnett Show"
Best Guest Actress - Comedy Series
1997 "Mad About You"

Carol Creighton Burnett (born April 26, 1933) is an American actress, comedian, singer, dancer and writer. Burnett started her career in New York. After becoming a hit on Broadway, she debuted on television. After successful appearances on "The Garry Moore Show", Carol moved to Los Angeles and began an eleven-year run on the highly acclaimed "The Carol Burnett Show" which was aired on CBS television from 1967 to 1978. With roots in vaudeville, "The Carol Burnett Show" was a variety show combining comedy sketches, song, and dance. The comedy sketches ranged from movie parodies to character pieces which featured the many talents of Burnett herself who created and played several well-known and distinctive characters.


Early life

Burnett was born in San Antonio, Texas to Joseph Burnett and his wife Ina Louise (Creighton) Burnett. [That her mother's maiden name was Creighton is confirmed in Carol's autobiography "One More Time"] Both of her parents, particularly her father, suffered from alcoholism, and at a young age she was left with her grandmother, Mabel Eudoria White. Her parents divorced in the late 1930s, and Burnett and her grandmother moved to an apartment near her mother’s in an impoverished area of Hollywood, California.Burnett and her grandmother stayed in a boarding house with her younger sister Chrissy. [ [ Carol Burnett Fan ] ]

When Burnett was in the fourth grade she created for a short time an imaginary twin sister named Karen, with Shirley Temple-like dimples. Motivated to further the pretense Burnett recalled fondly that she "fooled the other boarders in the rooming house where we lived by frantically switching clothes and dashing in and out of the house by the fire escape and the front door. Then I became exhausted and Karen mysteriously vanished."Joan Downs. "Here's to you, Mrs. Hamilton." Life (magazine). Vol. 70, No. 18, May 14 1971. pp 93-97.]

After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1951, Burnett won a scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles where she initially planned on studying journalism. During her first year of college, Burnett switched her focus to theater arts and English, with the purpose of becoming a playwright. During this time, Burnett performed in several university productions, garnering recognition for her comedic and musical abilities. In 1954, during her junior year, Burnett and her boyfriend, Don Saroyan, left college and moved to New York in order to pursue acting careers. That same year, Burnett's father died of causes related to alcoholism.

Burnett's mother disapproved of Carol's acting desires: "She wanted me to be a writer. She said you can always write, no matter what you look like. When I was growing up she told me to be a little lady, and a couple of times I got a whack for crossing my eyes or making funny faces. Of course, she never, I never dreamed I would ever perform."


Early career

After spending her first year in New York working as a hat check girl and failing to land acting jobs, Burnett was cast in a minor role on "The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show" in 1955. She played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program. This role led to her starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom, "Stanley", from 1956 to 1957.

After "Stanley", Burnett found herself unemployed for a short time and got a job working as an usher at a movie theater. She eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs, most notably for a hit parody number called "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles" (Dulles was Secretary of State at the time). In 1957, Burnett performed this number on both "The Tonight Show", hosted by Jack Paar, and Ed Sullivan’s "Toast of the Town". Burnett also worked as a regular on one of television's earliest game shows, "Pantomime Quiz", during this time. Burnett's mother died in 1957 just as she was gaining her first small successes in her career.

Burnett's first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical "Once Upon a Mattress". In the same year, she became a regular player on "The Garry Moore Show", which she would continue until 1962. She won an Emmy that year for her "Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series" on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who would later become her signature alter-ego. With her success on the Moore show, Burnett finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the 1962 special "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall", co-starring her friend Julie Andrews. The show won an Emmy for Outstanding Musical. Burnett also guest stared on a number of shows during this time including the "Twilight Zone" and recurring role as a tough female Marine in "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.". Burnett became good friends with the latter show's star Jim Nabors, who would later be her first guest every season on her variety show. [ [ Carol Burnett ] ]

In 1963, Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett, and after having the younger performer guest star on "The Lucy Show" a number of times, Ball reportedly offered Burnett her own sitcom, to be produced by Desilu. Burnett declined the offer, however, deciding instead to put together a variety show. The two remained close friends until Ball's death in 1989. Ball sent flowers every year on her birthday. When Burnett awoke on the day of her 56th birthday in 1989, she discovered via the morning news that Ball had died. Later that afternoon, the flowers Lucy had arranged arrived at Burnett's house, with the note "Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy."Mitchell Fink, "The Last Days of Dead Celebrities", Miramax, July 2006, 288 pages.]

In 1964, Burnett was cast opposite Caterina Valente and Bob Newhart on the variety show "The Entertainers" which ran for only one season. She also starred in the Broadway musical "Fade Out - Fade In" but was forced to quit after sustaining a neck injury in a taxi accident. The show’s producers sued the actress for breach of contract, but the suit was later dropped.

"The Carol Burnett Show"

The hour-long "Carol Burnett Show", which debuted in 1967, garnered 22 Emmy Awards and won or was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards every season it was on the air. Its ensemble cast included Tim Conway (who was a guest player until the 9th seasonInterview on "Entertainment Tonight", May 22, 2006] ), Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the teenaged Vicki Lawrence (who was cast partly because she looked like a young Burnett). The network did not want her to do a variety show because they believed only men could be successful at variety but Burnett's contract required that they give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make. She chose to carry on the tradition of past variety show successes and the rest is history. Burnett's courage and ingenuity helped her to achieve 11 seasons of success in the age of male skepticism.

Burnett became known for her acting and talent, and for ending each show by tugging her ear, which was a message to the grandmother who had raised her to let her know that she was doing well and that she loved her.

A true variety show in its simplest of forms, "The Carol Burnett Show" struck a harmonious chord with viewers through parodies of films ("Went With the Wind"), television ("As the Stomach Turns") and commercials. Burnett and team struck gold with the original skit "Mama's Family" which eventually spun off into its own television show starring Lawrence.

The show also became known for its closing theme song, with the following lyrics::I'm so glad we had this time together:Just to have a laugh and sing a song:Seems we just got started and before you know it:Comes the time we have to say, 'So long.' [ [] "" Retrieved on 05-14-07 ]

During the show's run, Burnett's grandmother died. On the Lifetime Channel's "Intimate Portrait" biography on Burnett, she tearfully recalled her grandmother's last moments: "She said to my husband Joe from her hospital bed 'Joe, you see that spider up there?' There was no spider but Joe said he did anyhow. She said 'Every few minutes a big spider jumps on that little spider and they go at it like RABBITS!!' And then she died. There's laughter in everything!"

"The Carol Burnett Show" ceased production in 1978, and is generally regarded as the last successful major network variety show, to date. It continues to have success in syndicated reruns. She was open to her fans, never refusing to give an autograph and had limited patience for "Those who've made it, then complain about loss of privacy."

Other roles

Burnett starred in a few films while her variety show was running, including "Pete 'n' Tillie" (1972). After the show ended, Burnett assumed a number of roles that departed from comedy. She appeared in several dramatic roles, most notably in the television movie "Friendly Fire". She appeared as Beatrice O'Reilly in the film "Life of The Party: The Story of Beatrice", a story about a woman fighting her alcoholism. Her other film work includes "The Four Seasons", "Annie", and "Noises Off".

In 1967 she made a cameo appearance as the inimitable Ozark Annie on the spy comedy show "Get Smart" delivering, among others, the immortal line, 'An invisible wall! Boy, would I like to see that!'

Burnett also made occasional returns to the stage: in 1974, she appeared at The Muny Theater in St. Louis, Missouri in "I Do! I Do!" with Rock Hudson and eleven years later, she took the supporting role of Carlotta Campion in the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies".

Burnett made frequent appearances as a panelist on the game show "Password" — an association she maintained until the early 1980s.

Burnett was also the very first celebrity to appear on the hit children's series, "Sesame Street", on that series' first episode on November 10, 1969. [ Muppet Wiki: Sesame Street episode 1] ]

In the 1980s and 1990s, she made several attempts at starting a new variety program. She also appeared briefly on "The Carol Burnett Show's" "The Family" sketches spinoff, "Mama's Family", as her stormy character, Eunice Higgins. She also appeared in the miniseries "Fresno," which mirrored the nighttime soap opera "Falcon Crest"; Burnett played the matriarch.

Burnett returned to TV in the mid-1990s as a supporting character on the sitcom "Mad About You" when she played Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt).

Burnett has long been a vocal fan of the soap opera "All My Children". She realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her. Burnett suddenly found herself playing the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds), and raising hell for her stepmother Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (the late Ruth Warrick). She hosted a 25th anniversary special about the show in 1995 and made a brief cameo as Verla Grubbs on the January 5, 2005 episode celebrating the 35th anniversary of the program. Due to scheduling conflicts, the scene was shot on the Los Angeles set of "General Hospital" instead of the New York City set where "All My Children" is taped.

In 2008, she did her second role as an animated character in ' 'Horton Hears a Who!' '. Her first was in "The Trumpet of the Swan."

Burnett most recently appeared on the popular television program "Desperate Housewives" playing Eleanor, the cold stepmother of lead character Bree Hodge (portrayed by Marcia Cross). Burnett is also rumored to make a guest appearance on season 4 of NBC's "The Office."

Personal life

The first house Burnett lived in was the Beverly Hills house formerly owned by Harry James and Betty Grable. Growing up in rented rooms, a home was "a luxury" as "A Murphy bed was [her] idea of spacious."

She married Don Saroyan on December 15, 1955; the couple divorced in 1962. On May 4, 1963, Burnett married TV producer Joe Hamilton, a divorced father of eight, with whom she had three daughters: actress and writer Carrie Hamilton, Jody Hamilton, and singer Erin Hamilton. The marriage ended in divorce in 1984, and Joe Hamilton later died of cancer. On November 24, 2001, she married Brian Miller (principal drummer in and contractor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra), who is twenty-three years her junior.

In January 2002, her daughter Carrie Hamilton died of lung and brain cancer at the age of 38. Carrie Hamilton had become addicted to drugs as a teenager, but overcame the addictions with the help of her husband. Burnett and Carrie wrote a play together called "Hollywood Arms", which was adapted from Burnett's bestselling memoir, "One More Time". The Broadway production featured Linda Lavin as Burnett's character's beloved grandmother.


Burnett drew attention in 1981, when she sued the "National Enquirer" for libel after the tabloid newspaper described her alleged public drunkenness, purportedly with Henry Kissinger. Burnett was particularly sensitive to the accusations because of her parents' own alcoholism. The case was a landmark for libel cases involving celebrities, although the unprecedented $1.6 million verdict for Burnett was reduced to about $800,000 on appeal, and eventually settled out of court.

She donated a portion of that award to the University of Hawaii and University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism saying she hoped the suit would teach aspiring journalists the dangers of defaming individuals in articles. The money was used to fund Law and Ethics courses at the school. Burnett said at the time that she didn't care if she just won "carfare", and that the lawsuit was a matter of principle.

In March 2007, she sued 20th Century Fox for copyright infringement, trademark violation, statutory violation of right of privacy, and misappropriation of name and likeness over the use of an altered version of her signature closing song and the portrayal of her charwoman character in an episode of "Family Guy". [ [] "" Retrieved on 05-14-07 ] At the time, Seth MacFarlane, creator and producer of Family Guy, issued the statement that much of Burnett's own success was in the field of parodying others. As of May 26, 2007, the lawsuit has been dismissed by a Los Angeles federal judge. [ [ Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy] "10 Zen" Retrieved on 7-3-07]

Awards and recognition

* Burnett was named the Grand Marshal of the 109th Rose Parade & the 84th Rose Bowl Game on New Year's day in 1998.
* Back Stage West Garland Awards, first honoree and presenter at second annual awards ceremony, 1999
* Burnett was a recipient of the 2003 Kennedy Center Honors at the age of 70.
* President George W. Bush awarded Burnett the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 9 2005.
* Burnett was the subject of a 90-minute "American Masters" profile broadcast by PBS in November 2007.



* "The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show" (regular in 1955)
* "Stanley" (1956 - 1957)
* "Omnibus" (October 1956)
* "The Garry Moore Show" (regular from 1959 - 1962)
* "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall" (1962)
* "The Twilight Zone" (played Agnes Grep in episode Cavender is Coming- 1962)
* "An Evening with Carol Burnett" (1963)
* "Calamity Jane (film)" (1963)
* "Once Upon a Mattress" (1964)
* "The Entertainers" (1964 - 1965)
* "The Lucy Show" (special guest star-2 episodes-1966)
* "Carol + 2" (1967)
* "The Carol Burnett Show" (1967 - 1978)
* "The Carol Burnett Show in London" (1970)
* "Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center" (1971)
* "Once Upon a Mattress" (1972)
* "6 Rms Riv Vu" (1974)
* "Out to Lunch" (1974)
* "Twigs" (1975)
* "Sills and Burnett at the Met" (1976)
* "All My Children" (cast member in 1976 and in 1983, 1995, and 2005)
* "Dolly and Carol in Nashville" (1978)
* "The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank" (1978)
* "Friendly Fire" (1979)
* "Carol Burnett & Company" (1979) (canceled after 4 episodes)
* "The Tenth Month" (1979)
* "Eunice" (1982) (teleplay based on the Family sketches separate from "Mama's Family")
* "' (1982)
* "Between Friends" (1983)
* "Mama's Family" (cast member from 1983 - 1985)
* "Burnett Discovers Domingo" (1984)
* "Magnum PI" (1984 and 1988 as Susan Johnson)
* "The Laundromat" (1985)
* "Follies in Concert" (1986)
* "Fresno" (1986) (miniseries)
* "Plaza Suite" (1987) (also executive producer)
* "Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin" (1987)
* "Fame" (1987) - episode "Reggie and Rose" (with Carrie Hamilton), broadcast April 27 1987
* "Hostage" (1988)
* "" (1989)
* "Carol & Company" (1990) (canceled after one and a half seasons)
* "The Carol Burnett Show" (1991) (canceled after two months)
* "" (1993)
* "" (1994)
* "Seasons of the Heart" (1994)
* "Men, Movies & Carol" (1994)
* "Touched By An Angel" (1997) - episode "The Comeback" (with Carrie Hamilton), broadcast November 23 1997
* "The Marriage Fool" (1998)
* "Putting It Together" (2000)
* "" (2001) (also executive producer)
* "" (2004) (also executive producer)
* "Once Upon a Mattress" (2005) (also executive producer)
* "Desperate Housewives" (2006) (guest starring role as Eleanor Mason)
* "American Masters tribute to Carol Burnett" (2007)


* "Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?" (1963)
* "Rowan & Martin at the Movies" (1968) (short subject)
* "Star Spangled Salesman" (1968) (short subject)
* "Pete 'n' Tillie" (1972)
* "The Front Page" (1974)
* "A Wedding" (1978)
* "Health" (1980)
* "The Four Seasons" (1981)
* "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash" (1981)
* "Annie" (1982)
* "6 Weeks" (1982)
* "Noises Off..." (1992)
* "Moon Over Broadway" (1997) (documentary)
* "Get Bruce" (1999) (documentary)
* "The Trumpet of the Swan" (2001) (voice)
* "" (2003) (documentary)
* "Horton Hears a Who!" (2008)


* "Once Upon a Mattress" (1959)
* "Fade Out - Fade In" (1964)
* "Moon Over Buffalo" (1995)
* "Putting It Together" (1999)


External links

*amg name|2:9666
* [ The Carol Burnett Show]
* [ Interview] by Terry Gross
* [ Carol Burnett news on]
* [ John Foster Dulles song]


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