Marcia Wallace, of ‘Simpsons’ and ‘Newhart’ Fame, Dead at 70 (Updated)

Actress earned Emmy and acclaim for idiosyncratic performances

Getty Images
Getty Images

Marcia Wallace, the star of “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Simpsons,” died Friday. She was 70.

Wallace’s blazing red hair and bubbly delivery were tailor made for the role of the straitlaced Newhart’s daffy receptionist on the hit CBS show. In fact, the part was written specifically for her at the behest of CBS founder Bill Paley.

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She would remain with “The Bob Newhart Show” for its six-season run before segueing into guest appearances on shows like “ALF” and “Murphy Brown,” and becoming a regular presence on game shows such as “The 25,000 Pyramid” and “Hollywood Squares.”

She would also build a second career as a voice-over actress, giving life to Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpson’s cynical and chain-smoking fourth grade teacher on “The Simpsons.” The role, a sublime parody of disaffected instruction, earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992. The show’s executive producer Al Jean said Saturday that the character would  be retired out of deference to Wallace’s death.

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Wallace also was active in the actors’ unions, having been elected over the summer to serve on the first fully elected SAG-AFTRA national board. In 2008 she served a one-year term as First Alternate National Director on the Screen Actors Guild board, and in 2009 was elected to a three-year term on the SAG board and was chair of the national and Hollywood Division elections for multiple SAG elections. She was also on the SAG National Women’s Committee and a long-time supporter of the SAG and AFTRA foundations.

“I am deeply saddened that Marcia has passed away and my profound sympathies go out to her beloved family and friends,” SAG-AFTRA National President Ken Howard said in a statement Saturday. “Marcia was so many amazing things: a terrific actor, a brilliant comedian, and a wonderful caring soul … Her wit and charm were legendary and matched only by her leadership on the SAG-AFTRA board and her considerable efforts to merge SAG and AFTRA.”

Wallace’s career began with a semi-regular stint on the “Merv Griffin Show,” and also involved successful forays on the New York and Los Angeles state where she appeared in productions of “The Vagina Monologues,” “Gypsy” and “Prisoner of Second Avenue.”

Wallace was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985 and became involved in charitable groups involved with treating the disease.

She is survived by a son. She is predeceased by a husband, Dennis Hawley.