Patricia Elliott, Tony Winner and Soap Opera Star, Dies at 77
By SAM ROBERTS New York Times 12/22/2015
Patricia Elliott, who auditioned for the role of Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on a whim when she was 20 and went on to become a Tony Award-winning Broadway actress and a soap opera star, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 77.
The cause was leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer, said her niece, Sally Fay.
Ms. Elliott won a Tony for best featured actress in a musical (and a Drama Desk Award) in 1973 for playing a Swedish countess in the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” her Broadway debut.
Four years later, she was nominated for a Tony for her performance as the catty estranged wife of a terminal cancer patient in Michael Cristofer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Shadow Box.”
Ms. Elliott won another Drama Desk Award in 1978 for playing the common-sensical maid in the Circle in the Square’s production of Molière’s “Tartuffe.” She also played opposite Philip Anglim and then David Bowie on Broadway in “The Elephant Man” in the early 1980s.
As a daytime television star, from 1988 to 2011, Ms. Elliott portrayed Renee Divine, the former madam who ran the Palace Hotel, on the ABC series “One Life to Live.”
Ms. Elliott was born in Gunnison, Colo., south of Aspen, on July 21, 1938, to Clyde Elliott and the former Lavon Gibson. She proudly described herself as a direct descendant of President Ulysses S. Grant; John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts; and Mary Lyon, the founder of what became Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
She graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in English and was working in the Harvard University press office when she learned about open auditions for a local production of Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Her experience with the play inspired her to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She returned to work at the Cleveland Play House, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Arena Stage in Washington before moving to New York. There she was cast in a 1968 Lincoln Center production of “King Lear” at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, playing Regan, one of Lear’s three daughters, to Lee J. Cobb’s Lear.
She appeared off Broadway with Claire Bloom in two Ibsen plays, “A Doll’s House” and “Hedda Gabler.” After seeing her perform, the producer Harold Prince invited her to audition for “A Little Night Music” although she had not sung on the stage since high school. She joined a cast that included Len Cariou, Hermione Gingold and Glynis Johns.
From 1974 through 1982, Ms. Elliott also starred on “CBS Radio Mystery Theater.”
Her ambition was to demonstrate a broad range, and she achieved that goal in her roles on television and on and off Broadway but perhaps at a price.
“Variety can also be frustrating because you don’t develop a very clear image in the public mind,” Ms. Elliott said in an interview with The New York Times in 1977. “I’m very seldom recognized offstage.”
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