Appreciation: Georgia Engel’s ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ character the friend we’d all like to have

Mary Tyler Moore may have been the one who turned the world on with her smile, as Moore’s sitcom theme has it, but co-star Georgia Engel helped make sure viewers’ grins never faded into frowns.

Engel is best known for her role as soft-voiced Georgette Franklin, the sweet, ever-so-innocent girlfriend and later wife of self-important TV anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) on one of the best sitcoms ever, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Younger viewers may know her as the mother-in-law of Brad Garrett’s Robert on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and she also appeared in recurring roles on “Coach,” the soap “Passions,” and, more recently, in “Hot in Cleveland,” which reunited her with “Moore” castmate and friend Betty White.

Engel died Friday at age 70 in Princeton, New Jersey, said John Quilty, identified as her friend and executor by the Associated Press. Quilty said the cause of death was not known because she was a Christian Scientist and did not visit doctors, according to AP.

Despite a successful, long-running career, which included 2018 appearances in Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” and a theater musical, “Half Time,” Engel will always be best known as the sweet, gullible but subtly wise Georgette, the kind of true friend everyone can use. Engel apparently was a good friend in real life, too, as she maintained bonds with her “Moore” co-stars over the years, appearing in two White comedies, “The Betty White Show” and “Hot in Cleveland.”

“Betty is one of my dearest friends, and so it was a special joy when I got to be on ‘Hot in Cleveland’ with her,” Engel said in July at a Television Critics Association panel focusing on a PBS special celebrating White’s career.

Engel, who had a background in musical theater but only a couple of TV credits when she first appeared on “Moore” in its third season, admirably jumped aboard the smooth-running sitcom – no easy feat – and established herself among a cast of stellar veterans, including Moore, Knight and Edward Asner.

Engel and Betty White, who played naughty happy homemaker Sue Ann Nivens, helped the popular comedy, which ran seven seasons from 1970 to 1977, transition supporting players as original cast members Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman went off to their own spinoff comedies on the power of the “Moore” show’s success. Their predecessors left big shoes and Engel and White filled them admirably.

White’s scheming, lustful Sue Ann, a master of mean-spiritedness behind a fake smile, became more of a breakout character, but Engel performed an impressive and perhaps more difficult task with Georgette, who had to fill part of the best-friend void created by the departure of the Harper’s beloved Rhoda Morgenstern.

Fortunately, producers didn’t try to make Georgette a carbon copy of the knowing, tart-tongued Rhoda. In Georgette, they wrote – and Engel embodied – an entirely new character on the show: an angelic, guileless woman whose lack of savvy seemed less the result of ignorance than of supreme innocence.

Georgette was less central than some of the other …read more

Source:: Daily times


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