Tuesday, April 19, 2016

RIP Doris Roberts

So sorry to hear that Doris Roberts has passed. What a great lady! I was surprised to learn that she was 90. I saw her just a few months ago and she looked the same as she did on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. Hell, she looked the same as she did on REMINGTON STEELE. Or the 35 other TV series she co-starred in.

I got to work with her when I directed EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. And I know her son, Michael. We hired him to be our Post Production Supervisor on BIG WAVE DAVE’S.

If I had to play word association with “Doris Roberts,” my response would be “Joe DiMaggio.” Why? Because Joltin’ Joe was not just one of the greatest players ever; he made it seem effortless.

And that was Doris. She had impeccable comic timing and was given challenging material to do week after week, and yet she made it seem so easy, so natural, so – effortless.

But the truth is, her performance required hard work. To play a character who at times could be the antagonist and yet still be lovable is a major acting feat.

The key was that she played Marie Barone (and every character) “real.” Never an exaggeration, never a “sketch” – you loved Marie because you identified with her. That was your mother. Or your mother-in-law. Or you (although you’d never admit it).

And not only did she avoid playing Marie too broad; she also avoided playing her too soft. Many actors fear being viewed as unlikable so they balk at having to play unsympathetic in any way. Doris went for the truth of the character in all situations, regardless.   And you loved her even more for that.

She just inherently knew the correct level and pitch. As I was directing her I would think, “She’s forgotten more about acting than I’ll ever know.” That said she was lovely on the set. The pro’s pro. Always prepared, always knew her lines, always available to rehearse, always generous with the other actors, be they regular cast members or guest players.

Doris Roberts’ IMDb page lists her as an actress in 158 projects. Many of them were series that she starred or co-starred in. She did 210 episodes of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, 72 episodes of REMINGTON STEELE, 5 episodes of BARNEY MILLER, 36 episodes of ANGIE, 4 episodes of SOAP, not to mention tons of movies and guest appearances on comedies and dramas alike. She won 5 Emmys (4 for RAYMOND).

On television Doris Roberts will live another 90 years. I wish there was a way to retire her number. She was one of the all-time greats.

29 comments:

normadesmond said...

and she did that wonderful, "it isn't an air conditioner air conditioner, it's an air conditioner!" commercial.

Rock Golf said...

As good a comedic actress as Doris Roberts was, she was equally talented in drama.

She won a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for a single appearance on the first season of St. Elsewhere, as a homeless woman taking care of another mentally ill homeless man played by James Coco (who also won an Emmy for the role).

Doris's character had some problem with her feet that required surgery, without which she'd get gangrene. But she refused because Coco's character couldn't handle being in a hospital.

I can still visualize the two of them walking away from the camera in the last scene, Roberts clearly in agony with each step she took, knowing that she'd be dead in weeks.

More than 30 years later. How many actresses can leave that kind of impact?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

It broke my heart when I heard the news yesterday.
Because "Marie" was family to me. She's every Italian/Jewish Mother.

RAY is probably my favorite sitcom of the last 25 years.
Thinking about the best Marie moments...god there are so many.
The "Golden Brown Fat", The "Amy's Thank you notes" twist. The "Teaching Debra to cook" episode. The one in which "Marie sabotages Robert's interview with the FBI". The 3 episode fight between Marie and Debra for Mother's Day.

The writing for Marie was superb. The acting was perfect.

She was the best. No one could possibly play that role as perfectly as her.

Paul Duca said...

Not to mention selling enough air freshener to pay for her house...she named it "Casa Glade"

Mike Barer said...

That post was probably difficult to write as it was hard to describe Doris and her work. She was so natural with her character. That was one of the last of the great ensemble cast shows.

Anonymous said...

90? That would mean she was 70-80 on Raymond. Wow!

VincentS said...

I too was surprised to find out she was 90! Thanks for those insights on her acting. I'm actually a little ashamed being an actor myself and not realizing most of what you observed but I guess that's a tribute to her, as you wrote, seeming effortlessness as an actress. I had the pleasure of meeting her once at a book signing. I told her how much she reminded me of my own mother and how watching her on RAYMOND helped me deal with my mother's death. I also complemented her on her chemistry with Peter Boyle and asked her if they'd worked together previously. She agreed that they had chemistry and said that she and Peter Boyle actually finish each other's sentences but that they'd never even MET before RAYMOND. Great loss, great lady.

B.A. said...

RIP. I know she was a TV star but she was great as Elaine May's crooked housekeeper in A NEW LEAF.

norm said...

She was a Jewel. Like you I sure didn't know she was 90! Her and Betty White, she knew their craft.

CarolMR said...

Ken, what a lovely tribute to a wonderful actress. I loved Doris Roberts. I'm old enough to remember a TV commercial she did decades ago where she was talking to a husband named Herb about herbs. And even though she was Jewish, she played Marie Barone better than any Italian could! She reminded me of every woman in my Italian family. RIP, Doris.

Tudor Queen said...

I was about to post - in the exact same words! - what Rock Golf said so accurately and well, so I will simply endorse that statement and all the other tributes to a fine actress who also seems to have been a sterling human being.

Oh, wait, I must add my love for Marie Barone's horrified reaction to Ray giving his parents a membership in a Fruit-of-the-Month Club. I'll never forget that one, either.

Peter said...

A very sad loss.

In contrast to Doris, who you say was a joy to work with, JJ Abrams has revealed he once hired an actress for his show Alias who turned out to be a nightmare. He won't reveal the name. He says she reduced two crew members to tears and was rude to everyone. She was furious when Abrams later advised another producer not to hire her.

Anyone know who the actress was?
http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2016/04/17/jj-abrams-talks-about-working-with-rude-actress-on-alias/

Gene P. said...

100% agree. What a great and wonderful actress and a very nice tribute. My day is a little sadder today knowing of her passing.

John Hammes said...

Talk about first impressions: Doris Roberts was a household name these last twenty years - and deservedly so - still, throughout her latter year success, to me she was always Mom from "Angie". A Garry Marshall sitcom that only ran a season and a half from 1979 - 1980. The theme song was probably the most memorable thing from this cute if average show. The things that get caught in a person's head, go figure.

Roberts, along with Donna Pescow and Robert Hays, would clearly go on the bigger projects.

Rosariorose9 said...

I had the great pleasure to sit next to her at a dinner/charity event. Hard to believe that she was pushing eighty at the time. Not a line on her face, and the enthusiasm of a twenty year old.

When I admired her bracelet, she proceeded to 'catalog' each piece of jewelry that she was wearing, and tell me the story of each man who had given those to her. What a woman! By the way, she was filming Raymond at the time, and told me what a joy it was to be working on a set where all of the actors loved and respected one another - in contrast to her experience on another series where that was not the case. RIP Doris.

LArd said...

RIP Doris.

On another note, just to lighten things up, I just love these two headlines from the "journalists" at HuffPo that appeared together on the homepage this morning:
"Taylor Swift Reveals The Bravest Thing She's Ever Done"
and
"Wilmer Valderrama Explains One of the 'Major Problems' In This Election"

Joseph Scarbrough said...

This is really sad. I remember back when they were still casting that godawful BEWITCHED movie during the Turn of the Millennium, thinking that she would have been a good choice for Aunt Clara.

But still, I'm saddened by this, I'll always remember her as Marie Barone: the most accurate fictional representation of my own mother ever depicted on television (seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if my mom ends up living across the road from me in the future when I'm married, and she pops over uninvited every single day).

Anonymous said...

I was never a big fan of ELR. It just hit a bit too close to home. Didn't need to see it, lol. But would catch an episode or two in syndication. My all time favorite Marie/Doris episode is "Marie's Sculpture". I don't think I have laughed as hard at anything...including Mel Brooks...than I did at that episode. And her delivery of the line "Oh, my God. I'm a lesbian" had me gasping for breath. No one else could deliver that line the way she did. Just an amazing actress.

I think I can guess which show she didn't have that rapport.

RIP Ms. Roberts.

Pam, St. Louis

Fred Nerk said...

Peter, faye dunaway.

Mike Schryver said...

Loved her going all the way back to ANGIE, and even before. Her reaction to the Fruit-of-the-Month on RAYMOND ia one of the funniest moments ever.

Cat said...

Marie Barone was quite a creation. It's hard to watch some episodes of ELR because the character hits so close to home for me. I can hear her saying "I don't like that, Raymond" right now. A great example of actress melding with part.

MikeK.Pa. said...

As I read the EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND credits, I noticed there were 26 directors for 210 episodes (more than 90 were helmed by two directors). How did you get in directing initially and how did you/do you get the ensuing assignments?

James said...

Doris saved 18 people's lives. She's the lady who convinced the mayor to pay the $1,000,000 ransom to the subway hijackers in the good version of [b]The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three[/b].

Andy Rose said...

It took someone as fundamentally likable as Doris Roberts to make that role work. Put Marie's words in mouth of most other performers, and the audience would either hate that person with a passion, or the actor would be tempted to pull punches and give a winking "we say nasty things, but we really love each other" performance.

Klee said...

I never realized she was that old. She was definitely the highlight of that classic sitcom for me. Her relationships with the other characters were wonderful and most of my favorite episodes involved her. She was wonderful and will live forever on the small screen.

RCP said...

What a sweet tribute. I think the first time I saw Doris Roberts was when she appeared on an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which Phyllis was job hunting (so this was around 1974) and Roberts was the associate at an employment agency. Phyllis was being her usual irritating, flightly self when Roberts' character said, "Look honey, it's been a long day so don't bust my chops." I loved her from that moment on.

Igor said...

NPR story played a clip of her acceptance speech at the Emmy Awards in 2001 - "I'm 71 tonight and I'm kickin', honey." So (assuming no fudging), 85.

Rock Golf said...

@Igor, you may want to check your math. 2001 was 15 years ago, so she'd be ~75.

Gerry said...

One of my Top Ten all time funniest sitcom lines was hers on ELR: "Don't let a suitcase full of cheese become your giant fork and spoon!" I will always remember her for that.