Pat Carroll, a comedy mainstay of television for decades, Emmy winner for “Caesar’s Hour” and the voice of Ursula on “The Mermaid,” has died. She was 95.
Her daughter, Kerry Karsian, a casting agent, said Carroll died Saturday at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Their other daughter, Tara Karsian, wrote on Instagram that they want everyone to “honor her by laughing out loud at absolutely everything today (and every day) because alongside her brilliant talent and love, she leaves my sister Kerry and me the greatest gift of all who infuse 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 way into television. She won an Emmy in 1956 for her work on the sketch comedy series Caesar’s Hour, was a regular on Make Room for Daddy with Danny Thomas, guest-starred on The DuPont Show with June Allyson, and was a variety show regular To see Visit 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, starring Lesley Ann Warren.
She also played one of the evil stepsisters in the 1965 television production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren. And she won a Grammy in 1980 for recording her one-woman show Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein.
Thanks to Disney’s The Little Mermaid, released in 1989, a new generation would come to know and love her voice. She wasn’t the first choice of directors Ron Clements and John Musker, or the music 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 came to audition. 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 sees her as an “ex-Shakespearean actress who now sells cars”.
“She’s a mean old thing! I think people are fascinated by mean characters,” Carroll said in an interview. “There’s a fatal kind of distraction from the world’s horribly mean characters, because we don’t meet too many of them in real life. So when we get a chance to see one theatrically, and this one, it’s a big deal, it’s kind of intriguing to us.”
She got chances to reprise the role in several Little Mermaid sequels, spin-offs and even theme park rides.
Carroll was also the voice of Granny in the English language dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.