Carole Cook, one of the oldest living actors with name recognition, died January 11, 2022, of heart failure in L.A. She had been injured in a fall recently.
Cook was three days shy of 99 years old.
Her nephew announced her death on Facebook, writing, "My dear aunt Carole died this afternoon ... She was at home, in her own bed, her husband Tom and I at her side, each holding her hand. She had a wonderful visit with her loving step-son Christopher Troupe and wife Becky on Sunday, and their presence was such a comfort. Carole departed in peace and comfort having lived a long and wonderful life doing the work that she loved. She made many friends, and I know they will all miss her spirit, humor, and talent on the stage, and for life in general. And that’s pretty great."
The flame-haired comedic actress had been vibrantly active in her life and career until the end. Who else was working off-Broadway in the '50s and causing a furor with a TMZ interview 70 years later, saying of then-President Donald Trump (b. 1946), "Where is John Wilkes Booth when you need him?"
Mildred Frances Cook was born January 14, 1924, in Abilene, Texas, but had made her way to NYC by 1956, when she played the role of Mrs. Peacham in The Threepenny Opera.
Discovered by Lucille Ball (1911-1989), Cook was flown to Hollywood for a showcase and renamed by Ball herself, who told her Cook's disregard for
"everything" reminded her of her late pal Carole Lombard (1908-1942) — Carole Cook was born.
It was a long and fruitful friendship (Ball was matron of honor at Cook's 1964 wedding to actor/writer Tom Troupe, who survives her) and working relationship, one that results in some of Cook's most famous gigs — 18 episodes of The Lucy Show (1963-1968) and five more of Here's Lucy (1969-1974).
Cook had killer comic timing, improbably playing uptight matrons and easily flustered gatekeepers to perfection. She was Lucy's Margaret Dumont (1882-1965) — that is, when Gale Gordon (1906-1995) wasn't.
She did work on many other series. A partial list of the iconic shows on which she appeared would include U.S. Marshal (1960), her debut, plus The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1963), Daniel Boone (1966), That Girl (1969), McMillan & Wife (1972-1974), Maude (1974), Baretta (1975), Chico and the Man (1975-1976), Ellery Queen (1976), Emergency! (1976), Charlie's Angels (1976 & 1977), Starsky and Hutch (1977), Kojak (1977), Laverne & Shirley (1982), Capitol (1982), Trapper John, M.D. (1982), Knight Rider (1982), Hart to Hart (1982), The Love Boat (1983), Murder, She Wrote (1985 & 1988), The A-Team (1986), Magnum, P.I. (1986), Dynasty (1986-1987), Cagney & Lacey (1986-1988) and Grey's Anatomy (2006).
Her film career was sporadic, but Cook landed some inarguably memorable parts. The first film she shot (and second released) was Mrs. Limpet in The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964) opposite Don Knotts (1924-2006), played a waitress in Clint Eastwood's (b. 1930) The Gauntlet (1977), was serviced by Richard Gere (b. 1949) in American Gigolo (1980), palled around with Barbara Rush (b. 1927) in Summer Lovers (1982) and left her trademark glamour behind as Betty Welles in Grandview, U.S.A. (1984).
Also in 1984, Cook gave her most indelible silver-screen performance, playing the handsy, boob-conscious grandmother of Molly Ringwald's (b. 1968) character in Sixteen Candles (1984).
Later movies included A Very Sordid Wedding (2017) and her final work, Still Waiting in the Wings (2018), directed by Q. Allan Brocka (b. 1972).
But while working steadily on TV and in film, Cook managed to maintain her presence as a creature of the theater. She was the original Blanche in Romantic Comedy (1979) on Broadway as well as the first Maggie Jones in 42nd Street (1980-1989, including 1984 tour), and made many other appearances, including Hello, Dolly!
Her 42nd Street co-star Lee Roy Reams (b. 1942) summed Cook up with the Facebook post, "My Bosom Buddy, Carole Cook, is in Heaven! There was never a kinder, more generous or funnier person on this planet! Here we are with her husband, Tom Troupe, on Thanksgiving after a delicious dinner cooked by her nephew, Mark, who is a saint! I loved her the minute we met the first day of rehearsal for 42nd Street. We used to go to the Ziegfeld Cafe after the show and the waiters would line up & sing Hello, Dolly as she entered. Some of them are in heaven now singing as she enters the pearly gates along with so many of her friends. I will miss her every moment till we're together again!! Happy Trails, Darling!!!!!"
At age 94, Cook made her NYC cabaret debut, which was sold out and drew raves. She was particularly proud of her work as an advocate for HIV causes.
Along with her husband of nearly 60 years, Cook is survived by a stepson, her sister and other family.