Pat Carroll, a mainstay of comedy television for decades, Emmy winner for “Caesar’s Hour” and the voice of Ursula in “The Little Mermaid,” has died. She was 95 years old.
Her daughter Kerry Karsian, a casting agent, said Carroll died Saturday at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Her other daughter, Tara Karsian, wrote on Instagram that she wanted everyone to “honor her with a laugh out loud at everything today (and every day ahead) because in addition to her brilliant talent and her love, she leaves my sister Kerry and me with the greatest gift of all, imbuing us with humor and the ability to laugh…even in the saddest of times.
Carroll was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1927. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 5 years old. Her first film role came in 1948’s “Hometown Girl” but she found her groove on television. She won an Emmy for her work on the comedy sketch series “Caesar’s Hour” in 1956, was a regular on “Make Room for Daddy” with Danny Thomas, a guest star on “The DuPont Show with June Allyson” and a talk show from regular variety shows to “The Danny Kaye Show”, “The Red Skelton Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show”.
She also played one of the evil stepsisters in the 1965 TV production of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” starring Lesley Ann Warren. And she won a Grammy in 1980 for recording her solo show “Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein.”
A new generation would come to know and love her voice thanks to Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid,’ released in 1989. She was not the first choice of directors Ron Clements and John Musker or the musical team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. , who reportedly wanted Joan Collins or Bea Arthur to voice the Sea Witch. Elaine Stritch was even originally cast before Carroll auditioned. And her throaty rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” would make her one of Disney’s most memorable villains.
Carroll often said that Ursula was one of her favorite roles. She said she thought of her as a “former Shakespearian actress who now sold cars”.
“She’s a bad old woman!” I think people are fascinated by villainous characters,” Carroll said in an interview. “There’s kind of a fatal distraction about the horrible villain characters in the world because we don’t meet too many of them in real life. So when we get the chance in theaters to see one and that- this is a biggie, it’s a bit fascinating for us.
She’s had a chance to reprise the role in multiple sequels, spinoffs, and even theme park rides from “Little Mermaid.”
Carroll was also the voice of Granny in the English dub of “My Neighbor Totoro” by Hayao Miyazaki.