Marcia Wallace (born Marsha Karen Wallace, November 1, 1942-October 25, 2013) was an American Actress in television and animation, Comedienne, and Game Show Panelist. She was best known to TV audiences as receptionist Carol Kester on the 1970s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show and as the voice of elementary school teacher Edna Krabappel on the animated series The Simpsons. She was also known for her frequent appearances on game shows including Match Game.
Born in Creston, Iowa. The oldest of three children of parents Arthur "Poke" Wallace and wife Joann. Her father owned and operated "Wallace Sundries", a general merchandise store, where Marcia and two siblings Sharon and Jim would often help out. While she was in high school, a teacher encouraged Wallace to consider a career in acting after she did excellent in a school play. Prior to that, Marcia had shown interest in journalism.
After she graduated from Creston High School, Wallace attended Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, which she was offered a full scholarship. She was also a member of the Delta Nu Chapter of Delta Zeta sorority. At Parsons, Marcia majored in English and Theater, performing in such productions as Brigadoon and The Music Man.
On the day she graduated from college, Marcia packed her bags and moved from Iowa to New York with only $148 in her pocket. To make ends meet, she worked a variety of jobs from typing scripts to performing in summer stock to appearing in a variety of commercials ads to working as a substitute English teacher in the Bronx. After a year of performing in a Greenwich Village nightclub, Wallace and four fellow entertainer friends formed an improvisational group called The Fourth Wall. In 1968, she appeared for a year off-Broadway with the group. Afterwards, she made several other appearances in improvisational shows and after losing 100 pounds (45 kg) from her previous weight of 230, she appeared in a nude production of Dark of the Moon at the avant-garde Mercer Arts Center.
Wallace soon made the transition to television. She became a semi-regular on The Merv Griffin Show, appearing on the program over 75 times, more times than any other guest. When the show moved to Los Angeles, Wallace moved with it at Griffin's request. One of these appearances in March 1972 led to a phone call from TV producer Grant Tinker, who offered her a supporting role on the classic sitcom The Bob Newhart Show on the recommendation of CBS founder Bill Paley. The role of Carol Kester (later Carol Kester Bondurant), the sarcastic receptionist to Bob Newhart's character, Dr. Robert Hartley, was written specifically for her(The Bob Newhart Show ran for six seasons from September 16, 1972 to April 1, 1978).
Marcia also appeared in a string of guest starring roles on various television shows. She appeared in a 1971 episode of Bewitched ("Laugh, Clown, Laugh") as Darrin's secretary. Other guest-starring roles include episodes of ALF, Full House, Charles in Charge, Columbo, and Magnum PI. She and Bob Newhart also reprised their signature roles from The Bob Newhart Show in an episode of Murphy Brown titled "Anything But Cured".
Marcia was also known for lending her voice to a number of animated cartoons, she provided the voice of school teacher Mrs. Blossom on the early 1990s animated cartoon The Addams Family but her most notable voice-over work providing the voice of Bart and Lisa Simpson's teacher Edna Krabappel on the FOX animated series The Simpsons. In 1992, she won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance (the episode "Bart the Lover").
Aside from her appearances in television and animation, Wallace was also well known for her frequent appearances on TV Game Shows. She appeared as a frequent panelist of shows including Match Game, Body Language, The Hollywood Squares, Win, Lose or Draw, To Tell The Truth, Password Plus and it's revival Super Password, and The $25,000/$100,000 Pyramid.
She also appeared on a celebrity edition on the NBC version of Card Sharks in 1980 and on a special "Funny Men vs Funny Women" edition of Family Feud during the tenure of Ray Combs.
Wallace also appeared in a number of stage productions which include An Almost Perfect Person in Los Angeles, which she also produced, a tour of the female version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, and productions of Same Time, Next Year, Twigs, It Had to Be You, Prisoner of Second Avenue, and Plaza Suite. In 1983, she made her musical stage debut in the Sacramento Music Circus production of Gypsy. Marcia returned the following season in Promises, Promises. Other stage productions include Born Yesterday, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Steel Magnolias, and Last of the Red Hot Lovers, in which she played all three roles at various times. She also appeared in The Vagina Monologues in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Diego.
In 2009, Marcia made the move to daytime television when she appeared in a handful of episodes of the CBS soap The Young and The Restless as the wacky and inefficient assistant kidnapper, Annie Wilkes in storyline involving the kidnapped of wealthy Genoa City resident Katherine Chancellor (played by the late Jeanne Cooper).
Marcia only married once. On May 18, 1986, in a Buddhist ceremony, she married hotelier Dennis Hawley. The couple later adopted an infant son, Michael Wallace "Mikey" Hawley. One year earlier, Wallace was diagnosed with breast cancer and after which she became an activist and lecturer on the subject. Her husband Dennis Hawley passed away from pancreatic cancer in June 1992.
In January 2007, she won the Gilda Radner Courage Award from Roswell Park Cancer Institute for helping educate Americans about the importance of early cancer detection and inspiring others through her 20 years as a breast cancer survivor. Marcia was also a member of Delta Zeta sorority and was named the Delta Zeta 2010 Woman of the Year at the 2010 Biennial National Convention in Tucson, Arizona. In 2004, she published her autobiography titled Don't Look Back, We're Not Going That Way in which recounts the early detection of her breast cancer, the loss of her husband Dennis, her nervous breakdown, her single motherhood and other experiences. She credited the title of the book to her father, who told her that phrase often in childhood.
On October 25, 2013, at the age of 70 and just a week shy of her 71st birthday, Wallace died from pneumonia and sepsis. Breast cancer was also listed as a significant condition on her death certificate. She was cremated following a private funeral service.
The staff of The Simpsons had reportedly been aware of Marcia's ill health and after her death, Showrunner Al Jean said, "I was tremendously saddened to learn this morning of the passing of the brilliant and gracious Marcia Wallace." Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa Simpson, took to social media as she tweeted, "Heaven is now a much funnier place b/c of you, Marcia."
Former co-star Bob Newhart also took to social media as he commented on his Facebook fan page, "Marcia's death came as quite a shock, she left us too early. She was a talented actress and dear friend." Al Jean said that producers plan to retire her "irreplaceable" character Edna Krabappel. The Simpsons episode titled "Four Regrettings and a Funeral" aired on November 3, 2013 and was dedicated to her. Wallace had recorded lines for several upcoming episodes with her final episode titled "The Man Who Grew Too Much" aired on March 9, 2014.
In 2015, Lego began releasing minifigures based on Simpsons characters, and a minifigure of the character she voiced will be part of the next series as a tribute to her.