Kaye Ballard, the actress and singer best known for the 1960s sitcom The Mothers-In-Law, has died at age 93. Ballard passed away on January 22 at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The star had attended a Palm Springs International Film Festival screening of the documentary Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On, just a few weeks ago and fell ill soon after.
While Kaye Ballard was a stage and screen actress, making her Broadway debut in the original musical comedy The Golden Apple in 1954, she will forever be remembered as one half of The Mothers-In-Law, the NBC sitcom she co-starred on with Eve Arden from 1967 to 1969. The show was produced by Desi Arnaz, whom Ballard would purchase her Rancho Mirage home from in 1970.
On The Mothers-In-Law, Ballard played Kaye Buell, the loudmouth wife of a TV writer. According to the New York Times, in her 2006 memoir, How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years, Ballard reflected on the role, writing, “The show was on just long enough to typecast me as a loudmouth Italian actress, but not long enough to ensure that I would earn the kind of money where I wouldn’t have to worry about being typecast.”
Ahead of her Mothers-in-Law fame, Kaye Ballard appeared in the landmark CBS special, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1957 production of Cinderella. Ballard and Alice Ghostley played the “ugly” stepsisters in the March 31, 1957 broadcast, which drew a record audience of more than 107 million viewers.
Kaye Ballard was a 1970s talk show fixture, frequently appearing on The Mike Douglas Show and making more than 50 pitstops on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The actress also had a recurring role on The Doris Day Show, playing Italian restaurant owner Angie Pallucci, and she was a frequent guest-star on TV shows of the era, including Love, American Style, Police Story, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat.
Ballard’s movie roles included The Girl Most Likely (1957), The Ritz (1976), Baby Geniuses (1999) and 2000’s The Million Dollar Kid, her final film appearance.
In a 2015 interview with the Spectrum, Kaye Ballard revealed that she once drank coffee with Mother Teresa during a meeting in New York. She also dished on her long friendship with Lucille Ball. Ballard said she believed Ball never got over her divorce from her first husband and I Love Lucy co-star, Desi Arnaz.
Kaye Ballard never married but revealed that she had been engaged four times. Extra reported that Ballard once teased an affair with Marlon Brando during an appearance on The View while admitting in her book that she found “an emotional connection” with celebrity columnist Liz Smith, who served as her road manager in the 1950s.
Kaye Ballard’s death comes just one week after the death of her longtime friend, Broadway star and fellow Rancho Mirage neighbor, Carol Channing.
You can see Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden in the classic TV comedy The Mothers-In-Law below.