Actress Carol Kane has played a unique series of characters in her career, including a ghost, a fairy, a grandma and even Mother Nature. She’s currently on stage as Madame Morrible in smash hit musical “Wicked” at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, a role she originated in the New York show.
The musical has been a hit around the world, and focuses on the time before Dorothy dropped in courtesy of a Kansas tornado. In “Wicked” two other girls meet in the Land of Oz – one of them has emerald-green skin and is smart but misunderstood, while the other is beautiful and popular – and they end up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.
Despite being on the hottest ticket in town, she’s probably best-known to most armchair fans for her portrayal of Simka Dahblitz-Gravas, wife of Latka Gravas (played by Andy Kaufman) on 1980’s television series “Taxi”, a role that earned her two Emmy Awards. She’s been Oscar nominated as Best Actress too, and is goodfriends with movie legend Jack Nicholson, whom she first worked with in 1971’s Carnal Knowledge and The Last Detail in 1973.
She lives with her pug dogs and has remained single all her life, although many fans have been charmed by her blond hair, pale skin and high voice, the latter of which she often makes great use of, especially in the aforementioned “Taxi”, where she and Kaufman managed to “create” a Slavic language peppered with ridiculous, non-sequitur terms of endearment that drove the live audiences crazy.
In her more recent films Kane excelled in bizarre character roles, notably the kvetching old peasant wife in The Princess Bride, and the toothless, witchy Grandmama in the two Addams Family movies. She has also appeared in Woody Allen’s Oscar-winner Annie Hall, Al Pacino classic Dog Day Afternoon, cult favorite Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, and big hits such as Vin Diesel comedy The Pacifier. She also won great praise as the wild “Ghost of Christmas Present” in 1988’s Scrooged alongside Bill Murray, a role that movie bible Variety said was”unquestionably [the] pic’s comic highlight”.
She was bornCarolyn Laurie Kane on June 18, 1952 in Ohio. Her mother was a jazz singer, dancer and pianist, and her father an architect who worked for the World Bank, which meant that the family was often traveling. They spent a time in Nigeria, Haiti and Egypt, as well as a year in Paris, where she learned fluent French at the Ecole du Pere Castor.
The Kanes moved to New York City when she was eight, where she quickly fulfilled what she had already said was her dream – to be an actress – by going to The Professional Children’s School in Manhattan. She landed her first part aged seven and was professional by the age of fourteen, her first stage role being as Jenny in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”.
Much theater work followed, including costarring in “Macbeth” with Christopher Lloyd (whom she would later act with in “Taxi”), as Miranda in the 1974 Joseph Papp production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” with Christopher Walken and Sam Waterston.
Kane got her first break in movies aged 17 when she was cast as a prostitute in Carnal Knowledge, and she again appeared with Nicholson – playing a prostitute for the second time – in The Last Detail but Oscar finally called her name in 1975, when she was nominated for her role as Gitl in Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street, which she had prepared for by learning Yiddish.
It seems that audiences saw the last of Simka Dahblitz-Gravas when she reprised the role in the 1999 movie Man On The Moon, which starred Jim Carrey as Kaufman and featured other members of the original cast. Today, the sold out shows of “Wicked” are taking Carol Kane to higher heights than any fairy, wizard or fictional Slavic girl could ever have dreamed of.