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Alice Ghostley
Born Alice Margaret Ghostley
August 14, 1926(1926-08-14)
Eve, Vernon County, Missouri
Died September 21, 2007 (aged 81)
Studio City, California
Years active 1953–2007
Spouse(s) Felice Orlandi (1953-2003)

Alice Margaret Ghostley (August 14, 1926 – September 21, 2007)[1][2] was a Tony Award-winning American actress. She was best known for her roles as Esmeralda on Bewitched (in which she had a recurring role from 1969 to 1972), as Cousin Alice on Mayberry R.F.D. (1970-1971) and as Bernice Clifton on Designing Women (1986-1993) for which she received an Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1992.



Alice Ghostley was born in Eve, Vernon County, Missouri, where her father worked as a telegraph operator. She grew up in Henryetta, Oklahoma. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Oklahoma but dropped out to pursue a career in theatre.



Ghostley first came to Broadway in Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1952 and in the film version released in 1954. She appeared in the 1960 revue A Thurber Carnival and in The Beauty Part (1962), playing several distinct roles in each. She also performed in several musical comedies, including Shangri-La (1956).

She won the 1965 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Mavis Parodus Bryson in Lorraine Hansberry's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. In 1978 she succeeded Dorothy Loudon, who had created the role of Miss Hannigan in the original Broadway run of the musical Annie.


A veteran of early television, Ghostley appeared as Joy, one of the ugly stepsisters in the 1957 musical television production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Cinderella, which starred Julie Andrews in the title role.

Ghostley and Lorne together in The Graduate.

Ghostley portrayed recurring characters on several situation comedies, beginning with Esmeralda, a shy witch who served as a maid and babysitter to the Stephens' household beginning in season six of Bewitched. Ghostley's role of Esmeralda was created after the death in May 1968 of Marion Lorne, who portrayed Aunt Clara. (Coincidentally, Ghostly and Lorne shared a brief scene together in the 1967 film The Graduate, a few months prior to Lorne's death and before Ghostly was cast in Bewitched.)

Ghostley's "Esmeralda" appeared in 15 episodes between 1969 and 1972. Ghostley had previously guest starred once as a mortal character, "Naomi", during Bewitched 's second season.[3]

During this period she also joined the cast of Mayberry R.F.D., playing Cousin Alice after Frances Bavier's character, Aunt Bee, was written off the series. She appeared in 14 episodes.

In the spring of 1972, Bewitched was canceled by ABC after eight years. In September of that year, Ghostley was hired as a semi-regular for the ABC-TV variety series, The Julie Andrews Hour. In addition to participating in songs and sketches, Andrews and Ghostley were featured in a recurring segment as roommates sharing a small apartment. The Julie Andrews Hour was canceled by ABC in the spring of 1973 having completed a full season of twenty-four episodes.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ghostley appeared in episodes of situation comedies such as Hogan's Heroes (playing Gertrude, General Burkhalter's Sister), Good Times, Maude, One Day at a Time, The Odd Couple and What's Happening!!.

Between 1986 and 1993, Ghostley portrayed Bernice Clifton on Designing Women. She later played Irna Wallingsford in six episodes of Evening Shade. She also had a recurring role of Ida Mae Brindle in the sitcom Small Wonder, which ran from 1985 to 1989. Among many other guest roles, she appeared in a flashback episode as the crazed mother-in-law of Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) on The Golden Girls. She made a one-time appearance as "Great-Grandma" in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Ghostley also made a few guest appearances on the daytime drama Passions in 2000, playing the ghost of Matilda Matthews.


Among her roles in motion pictures, Ghostley appeared in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), playing Stephanie Crawford, the fussy neighborhood gossip. She also appeared in the film version of Grease as shop teacher Mrs. Murdock.

Personal life

Ghostley was married to Felice Orlandi, an Italian-American actor, from 1953 until his death in 2003; they had no children.

Alice Ghostley died at her home in Studio City, California on September 21, 2007.

On Thursday, August 20, 2009, Alice's ashes were brought to Oak Hill Cemetery in Siloam Springs, Arkansas to be buried with her sister, Gladys, who died on June 21, 2009. The Ghostley sisters were buried next to their parents.


  1. ^ 1930 census image & Social Security Death Index record her date of birth as 1923, not 1926 as is listed in other sources
  2. ^ Ghostley's New York Times obit
  3. ^ "When Esmeralda Sneezed". Retrieved 2007-04-27. 

External links

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