The golden era of television is losing some of its greatest stars, as the years pass and old age takes its toll. On Tuesday, June 14, a beloved actress who delighted audiences in many shows over the years died. Ann Morgan Guilbert died at the ripe old age of 87 after a struggle with cancer that finally caused her death.
Page Six reports that Guilbert is survived by two daughters, actress Hallie Todd, who is well known for her role as Lizzie McGuire, and Norah Eckstein, who has built a successful career as a “writer, actress and acting teacher.” Norah announced the news that Guilbert had died.
Ann’s onscreen career began in the ’60s, with spots in My Three Sons and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and she was especially recognized for her part in The Dick Van Dyke Show, a well-known and well-loved comedy that aired from 1961 to 1966. The show starred Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke as Rob and Laura Petrie, as well as Ann Morgan Guilbert. Ann played a next door neighbor and “Laura Petrie’s gabby pal,” Millie, whose dentist husband Jerry was played by Jerry Paris.
When The Dick Van Dyke Show died after five enormously successful years, Guilbert had “numerous TV guest roles,” and appeared in hit shows like I Dream of Jeannie, Dragnet 1967, The Partridge Family, Love, and American Style. Ann enjoyed another year of TV stardom in 1971 when she was Nora in The New Andy Griffith Show.
Since that early success, Ann went on to many varied roles that showed off her capacity as an actress. According to The Wrap, the 1990s brought Guilbert’s talents to “a new generation.” The Nanny showcased Guilbert as “feisty Grandma Yetta” who was always making life difficult for Fran Drescher’s title character.
Ann also had a lot of fun and gave fans a good laugh with her time on Seinfeld, where she “made multiple appearances” as an old woman living in the same retirement community as Jerry Seinfeld’s TV parents.
Fans are taking to Twitter to express their love for Ann and sorrow at the news of Guilbert’s death with messages of love and admiration for her comedy skills.
More recently, Ann Morgan appeared in “a starring” role on Getting On, had a guest role on the blockbuster Grey’s Anatomy, and starred in the Sundance Film Festival selection Please Give. That film was a Nicole Holofcener success from 2010.
Before Guilbert made it big on the screen, she was something of a name in the musical variety cabaret world. Ann toured California with The Billy Barnes Revue in 1959, and that brought her opportunities off and on Broadway. Guilbert’s “extensive theatre credits” included A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, produced on Broadway in 2005, and other well-known titles like The Matchmaker, Arsenic and Old Lace, Waiting for Godot, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
U.S. News reports that Ann owed her later television career to the early work in cabaret. One of her big fans from the Billy Barnes tour was the writer and producer Carl Reiner. When Reiner was putting together a cast for The Dick Van Dyke Show, he remembered the beautiful young dancer and hired her for the hit show.
Ann Morgan Guilbert was born in Minneapolis, but moved to California to attend Stanford University’s Department of Speech and Drama. She met her husband-to-be George Eckstein at Stanford, and after graduation married the producer-actor. Her daughters are both from that marriage, but the marriage itself didn’t last long. Guilbert and Eckstein divorced in 1966, and she later married actor Guy Raymond. Raymond died in 1997, and Ann remained single after that loss.
RIP Ann Morgan Guilbert. The world mourns your death.
[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]