Born: August 16, 1939
Died: August 31, 2018 (at age 79)
Birthplace: London, England
Carole Augusta Shelley (16 August 1939 - 31 August 2018) was a British-American actress who made her career in the United States. Her many stage roles included the character of Madame Morrible in the original Broadway cast of the musical Wicked. She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in The Elephant Man in 1979.Shelley was born in London, England, the daughter of Deborah (née Bloomstein), an opera singer of Russian Jewish descent, and Curtis Shelley, a composer of German Jewish origin. Her father had migrated to London before World War II.
Shelley made her Broadway debut as Gwendolyn Pigeon in the original 1965 production of The Odd Couple (starring Art Carney and Walter Matthau). She reprised the role for the 1968 film version (with Jack Lemmon replacing Carney), and for (the first part of) the first season of the subsequent television series (starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman). She and Monica Evans, her co-star as her sister Cecily Pigeon, were the only two performers to be in all three of The Odd Couple versions: stage, then film, then the first television adaptation—and in the same roles.
In the 1970s, she wanted to extend her range, feeling she was not using all her capabilities as an actor. She told The New York Times in a 1979 interview that she had "months of the most intensive deep-water swimming — more than I’d ever been called upon to do in my life when she played Rosalind in As You Like It at the 1972 Stratford Festival in Ontario. She received her first Tony Award nomination in 1975 for her performance as "Jane" in Absurd Person Singular. Shelley won the 1979 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Mrs. Kendal in The Elephant Man, and was nominated for the Tony Award as Featured Actress in a Play in 1987 for her performance in Stepping Out as "Maxine". In 1982 she won an Obie Award for her performance Twelve Dreams. Shelley also began appearing in musicals in the late 1990s, with the revivals of Show Boat as Parthy and Cabaret as Fraulein Schneider in 1999.
In 2003, Shelley created the role of Madame Morrible in the original Broadway cast of the musical Wicked, a role which she later reprised in the show's national touring company in 2005 and in 2006 in the Chicago production.
Shelley played the role of Grandma in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot at the Imperial Theatre, beginning performances in October 2008. She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 2009. In 2014, she succeeded Jane Carr as Miss Shingle in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.
Shelley's early career included roles in British films such as It's Great to Be Young (1956), Carry On Regardless (1961), No My Darling Daughter (1961), The Cool Mikado (1962) and Carry On Cabby (1963). In 1968 Shelley starred as Gwendolyn Pigeon in the film The Odd Couple. Thereafter she took on numerous roles in television and films such as The Boston Strangler (1968), Some Kind of a Nut (1969), The Whoopee Boys (1986), Little Noises (1992), The Road to Wellville (1994), and she played Helen Moskowitz in a 1998 episode of Frasier entitled "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz".
She lent her voice to several roles in Disney animated films; notably, Amelia Gabble (the Goose) in The Aristocats (1970), Lady Kluck, Maid Marian's sidekick and lady-in-waiting, in Robin Hood (1973), and Lachesis the Fate in Hercules. Shelley's "sister" co-star in all three versions of The Odd Couple, Monica Evans (as Cecily Pigeon), also played her "goose" sister in The Aristocats, Abigail Gabble, and Maid Marian in Robin Hood clearly as a take-off and a nod to their Pigeon Sisters roles. Her final role was a cameo at the beginning of John Mulaney’s most recent comedy special Kid Gorgeous. Shelley was Mulaney’s guide around Radio City Music Hall.
Shelley died on 31 August 2018 at the age of 79 in New York City. The cause was cancer.