Marcia Karen Wallace (born November 1, 1942; died October 25, 2013) was an American character actress, comedienne and game show panelist, primarily known for her roles in television situation comedies. She is perhaps best known for her roles as receptionist Carol Kester on the 1970s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, and as the voice of Edna Krabappel on the long-running animated series The Simpsons, for which she won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992.
Marcia Wallace was born and raised in Creston, Iowa, the eldest of three children of Arthur "Poke" Wallace and wife Joann. Her Father owned and operated "Wallace Sundries", a general merchandise store, where Marcia, her sister Sharon, and brother Jim would often help out. While in High School, a teacher encouraged Wallace to consider a career in acting after she did well in a school play. Prior to that, Wallace had an interest in becoming a journalist. Following graduation from Creston High School, Wallace attended Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, which she offered a full scholarship. At Parsons, she majored in English and Theater, performing in such productions as Brigadoon and The Music Man.
Wallace moved from Iowa to New York the day that she graduated from college with $148 in her pocket. To make ends meet. she performed in summer stock, typed scripts and commercials and worked as a substitute English teacher in The Bronx. After performing for a year in a Greenwich Village nightclub. Wallace and four fellow entertainer friends formed an improvisational group, 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 lbs (45 kg) from her previous weight of 230, appeared in a nude production of Dark of the Moon at the avant-garde Mercer Arts Center.
Wallace was a semi-regular on The Merv Griffin Show, appearing over 75 times. When the show moved to Los Angeles, Wallace moved in at Griffin's request. One of these appearances in March 1972 led to a phone call from TV producer Grant Tinker, who offered a supporting role specifically designed for her on The Bob Newhart Show on the recommendation of CBS founder Bill Paley. The role of Carol Kester (later Carol Kester Bondurant), the acerbic receptionist to Bob Newhart's character, Dr. Robert Hartley was written specifically for her.
When the series ended its six-season run in 1978, Wallace began three decades of television appearances as a game show panelists on shows such as The Hollywood Squares, Password Plus (and its 1980s spin-off Super Password). Whew!, Crosswits (1986-87 version), Hot Potato, Body Language, The $25,000 Pyramid, Double Talk, Win, Lose or Draw, To Tell the Truth and Match Game. In addition, she also appeared in special celebrity episodes of Family Feud with Ray Combs and Card Sharks with Jim Perry. In 1990, she appeared on Body Talk, an unsold game show pilot for ABC. In April 2008, she appeared on the live interactive game show GSN Live.
In addition to her game show apperances, she was seen on television as a school principal in two episodes on the 1980s NBC sitcom ALF, played "Mrs. Caruthers" in a few episodes of the ABC sitcom Full House, and appeared in episode #227 of Bewitched ("Laugh, Clown, Laugh") as Darrin's secretary in 1971. Both she and Bob Newhart both reprised their signature roles from The Bob Newhart Show in episode #147 of Murphy Brown ("Anything But Cured"). She also appeared on The Brady Bunch twice, once as Marcia's teacher in "Getting Davy Jones" and once as the woman who sold Jan a Mod New Wig in "Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up". Wallace also had guest appearances in Charles in Charge, Murder, She Wrote, Magnum P.I. and A Different World.
On one of the lat episodes of Taxi, she portrayed herself, chosen as the ideal mate of Rev. Jim Ignatowski. Later, Wallace played the maid on the satirical series That's My Bush!, and in 2009, appeared on the daytime soap The Young ad The Restless, where she played an inefficient kidnapper named Annie Wilkes. From 1990 until her death, she voiced the recurring role of Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons, which earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992 and has appeared in over 100 episodes. On film, Wallace appeared in such featured as My Mother the Werewolf, Teen Witch and Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College. She played as a high school drama teacher who sponsors a Gay Straight Alliance in the 2008 film Tru Loved.
Wallace's work on-stage includes 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, Supporting Cast, Prisoner of Second Avenue, Plaza Suite, Gypsy, Promises, 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 performed in The Vagina Monologues in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Diego.
Marcia Wallace married hotelier Dennis Hawley in May 1986. The couple adopted an infant son named Michael "Mikey" Hawley. Wallace was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985, after which she became an activist and lecturer on the subject. Dennis Hawley died from pancreatic cancer in June 1992.
On January 27, 2007, Wallace 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. Wallace was a member of Delta Zeta 2010 Woman of the Year at the 2010 Biennial National convention in Tuscon, Arizona.
Her autobiography called Don't Look Back, We're Not Going That Way, (which was published in 2004) recounts the early detection of her breast cancer, the loss of her husband, her nervous breakdown, her single motherhood and experiences. She credits the title of her book to her father, who told her that in her childhood.
On October 25, 2013, Wallace died at the age of 70 (seven days shy of her 71st birthday). Staff of The Simpsons had reportedly been aware of her illness. 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) tweeted, "Heaven is now a much funnier place b/c of you , Marcia". The British press noted her passing, quoting Ricky Gervais as tweeting "R.I.P the brilliant Marcia Wallace". The show announced her "Irreplaceable" character Edna Krabappel, will be retired.