As middle-class matron Estelle Costanza, Harris memorably scored her recurring role on the hit 1990s sitcom. With her high-pitched voice and humorous bossy demeanor, she was an archetype of outrage. maternal.
Trading insults and nonsense with her on-screen husband, played by Jerry Stiller, Harris helped create a parenting pair that would leave even a psychiatrist helpless to do anything but hope they’d move to Florida – like their son, played by Jason Alexander, unnecessarily encouraged them to do so.
Harris’ agent, Michael Eisenstadt, confirmed the actor’s death in Palm Desert, Calif., on Saturday night.
Viewers from all walks of life told her she was like their own mother, Harris often said.
“She’s the mom everyone loves, even if her neck hurts,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1998.
The career defining role came after decades on stage and screen. Born April 22, 1928, in New York City, Harris grew up in the city and later in the Pittsburgh suburb of Tarentum, Pennsylvania, where her father owned a candy store. She began exploiting her acting skills in high school productions where she realized she “could drive audiences hysterical”, as she told People magazine in 1995.
After nine seasons of “Seinfeld” wrapped in 1998, Harris continued to appear on stage and screen. She voiced Mrs. Potato Head in the 1999 animated blockbuster “Toy Story 2” and played recurring character Muriel on the popular Disney Channel sitcom “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” among other roles.
She had stopped doing show business when she married in the early 1950s, but resumed performing in amateur bands, dinner theaters and commercials as her three children grew up (” I had to quit diapers and bottles and talk baby blah-blah,” she told People). Eventually, she began appearing in guest roles on TV shows, including the legal comedy “Night Court,” and films including director Sergio Leone’s 1984 gang epic “Once Upon a Time.” in America”.
His “Seinfeld” debut came in one of the show’s most famous episodes: 1992’s Emmy Award-winning “The Contest,” in which the four central characters challenge each other to refrain from doing which is cleverly described as “it”.
Harris would go on to appear in dozens more episodes of “the show for nothing”. She was seething over the snubbed paella, howling about George’s handkerchief in the parental bed and spreading the spread for Frank’s idiosyncratic holiday, her on-screen husband Festivus.
“Estelle is a born artist,” Stiller told The Record of Bergen County, NJ, in 1998. “I just go with what I have, and she comes back to me the same.”
Still, Harris saw a sympathetic undertone to her character, often saying that Estelle vented frustration at her clumsy companion and scheming slacker of a son.
Viewers, she told an interviewer in 1998, “just look at her as being funny and cute and loud-mouthed. But that’s not how I play her. I play her with the misery underneath. “
She is survived by her three children, three grandsons and a great-grandson.
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