Elaine Stritch, who gained recognition in 1970 for originating the character of Joanne in the Broadway premiere of Stephen Sondheim's musical Company, died today at age 89.
During her career, Stritch was nominated for five Tony Awards, and in 2002, her one-woman musical memoir Elaine Stritch At Liberty won the Tony for Best Special Theatrical Event. Stritch was also nominated for eight Emmys, three of which she won, twice for guest appearances on 30 Rock and once for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety Program for Elaine Stritch At Liberty.
Born in 1925 in Detroit, Elaine Stritch was the youngest daughter of Mildred and George Joseph Stritch, an executive with B.F. Goodrich. As a teenager, she came to New York City to study acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York City, and in 1947 she made her Broadway debut in Loco, directed by Jed Harris.
Stritch's other notable stage work has included Bus Stop, Sail Away, A Delicate Balance, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Pal Joey. In 1952, she understudied Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam and went on to star in the show's national tour.
First appearing on The Growing Paynes (1949), Stritch also had an impressive film and television career. She appeared in the role of writer Ruth Sherwood in the CBS sitcom My Sister Eileen, opposite Shirley Bonne as her younger sister, Eileen Sherwood, and starred in the British LWT comedy series Two's Company opposite Donald Sinden. In the U.S., she worked on The Cosby Show, Law & Order, and One Life to Live. In 2008, Stritch appeared as herself in an episode of The Big Gay Sketch Show. Notable movie roles included A Farewell to Arms, The Spiral Staircase, September, and Autumn in New York, among others.
A documentary about Stritch's life called Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me premiered in 2013.
Stritch's final appearance on Broadway was as Madame Armfeldt in the 2009 revival of A Little Night Music. In 2013, Stritch moved from her longtime home at the Carlyle Hotel to be with her family back in Detroit. The actress explained the move in a recent interview with TheaterMania, saying, "I have more room here than at the Carlyle, so they take advantage of that and I have something going on in every room…[but] I miss the Carlyle. Even in a snazzy condo, I miss New York. I missed New York anyplace I went. But…I'm just as happy as I can be wherever I wake up feeling good in the morning. That's about it, folks. I don't care where I am. 'Cause I was 89 the day before yesterday."
Stritch was married to actor and playwright John Bay from 1973 until his death in 1982. She never remarried and has no children.