Cara Williams, Oscar Nominee and Sitcom Star, Dies at 96
Cara Williams, an Oscar nominee and '60s TV star, died Thursday of a heart attack in her Beverly Hills home, THR reports.
Born Bernice Kamiat June 29, 1925, in Brooklyn, she began her Hollywood career as Bernice Kay before settling on Cara Williams as her stage name.
She gave her first credited performance in "Wide Open Town" (1941) and appeared in a small role in the Oscar-winning iconic film "Laura" (1944). She also acted in the noir classics "The Spider" (1945). and "Boomerang!" (1947). As her career escalated, she found herself acting opposite Humphrey Bogart in "Knock on Any Door" (1949). Bogart told her she had excellent timing, foreshadowing her future in TV comedy.
Williams next acted in "Monte Carlo Baby" (1951), "The Girl Next Door" (1953), "The Great Diamond Robbery" (1954), "Meet Me in Las Vegas" (1956), and "The Helen Morgan Story" (1957), surprising herself when she received an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance as a mother in "The Defiant Ones" (1958), a unique drama starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as escaped convicts shackled together.
In spite of that accolade, her follow-ups, like "Never Steal Anything Small" (1959) and "The Man from the Diner's Club" (1963) were not up to snuff, and she moved more into the arena of television.
"I thought television was like doing summer stock," she told Midnight Palace several years before her death. "You were playing at lots of parts — you could do accent parts, you could do poor-girl parts or rich-girl parts... It was fun. And it was live TV. And the excitement of live TV, when you're going coast-to-coast, is so exciting because you know you can't make a mistake. You can't shoot it over!"
She was on many early-TV dramas, and did four episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1956-1960).
She starred with Harry Morgan on the CBS comedy "Pete and Gladys" (1960-1962), picking up an Emmy nomination as scatterbrained Gladys, but the show ended after two seasons, something Williams suspected her new friend Lucille Ball may have hastened when fellow redhead Ball decided to return to sitcoms.
Williams headlined her own sitcom, "The Cara Williams Show" from 1964-1965.
Williams' '70s performances were fewer and further between, but included two appearances on the hit comedy "Rhoda" (1974). Her final movie was 1978's "The One Man Jury," and her last TV appearance was in the TV movie "In Security" (1982).
The star was married three times — to Alan Gray, with whom she had a daughter, Justine Jagoda, who survives her; actor John Drew Barrymore (Drew Barrymore's father), with whom she had a son, John Blyth Barrymore, who survives her; and her third husband, Asher Dann, who preceded her in death in 2018 after 54 years of marriage.