Pat Carroll, a comedic television mainstay for decades, an Emmy winner for “Caesar’s Hour” and the voice of Ursula in “The Little Mermaid,” has died, the Associated Press has confirmed. She was 95.
Her daughter, Carrie Karsian, a casting agent, said Carol died at her home in Cape Cod, Mass., on Saturday. Her other daughter, Tara Karsian, wrote on Instagram that they want everyone to “honor her by laughing hoarsely at absolutely anything today (and every day going forward) because, in addition to her brilliant talent and love, she leaves my sister Carrie and me the greatest gift: all, filling us with humor and the ability to laugh…even in the saddest of times.”
Carol 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 in Hometown Girl, but she found her success on television. She won an Emmy for her work on the 1956 sketch comedy Caesar’s Hour, a regular on Make Room for Daddy with Danny Thomas, a guest star on The DuPont Show with June Ellison, and a regular on variety shows. stopping by The Danny Kaye Show, The Red Skelton Show, and The Carol Burnett Show.
She also played one of the evil stepsisters in the 1965 television production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Leslie Ann Warren. And she won a Grammy in 1980 for recording her one-man show Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein.
A new generation came to know and love her voice thanks to the Disney film “The Little Mermaid”, which was 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 Carol even auditioned. But her throaty rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” would make her one of Disney’s most memorable villains.
Carol often said that Ursula was one of her favorite roles. She said she saw in her “a former Shakespearean actress who now sells cars”.
“She’s a mean old woman! I think people are fascinated by mean characters,” Carroll said in an interview. “There’s a fatal kind of distraction from the horrible, vile characters of the world because we don’t see too many of them in real life. So when we have a chance, theatrically, to see one and that one, it’s big, it’s kind of exciting for us.”
She got a chance to reprise the role in several Little Mermaid sequels, spin-offs and even theme parks.
Carroll also voiced the grandmother in the English dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.