Mabel King: Wikis


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Mabel King
Born Donnie Mabel Elizabeth Washington
December 25, 1932(1932-12-25)
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Died November 9, 1999 (aged 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1964–1988
Spouse(s) Melvin King (m. 1967–1989) «start: (1967)–end+1: (1990)»"Marriage: Melvin King to Mabel King" Location: (linkback:

Mabel King (December 25, 1932 – November 9, 1999) was an American film, stage and television actress.


Early life and career

Washington was born Donnie Mabel Elizabeth Washington in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of Rosalie Washington.[1] She was raised in Harlem where she eventually became a gospel and nightclub singer. She did not start acting until her mid thirties, in 1966, when she played the role of Maria in the national touring play of Porgy and Bess. The following year she played the role of Ernestina in the Broadway musical/comedy Hello, Dolly!. Then in 1972, she appeared in the Broadway musical Don't Play Us Cheap. The following year, 1973, she appeared in the film version of the play. That same year she played the Queen of Myrthia in the horror flick Ganja & Hess.

In January 1975, she played the role of Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West in the all-black cast of the Broadway musical The Wiz. The role earned her a Drama Desk Award nomination for outstanding featured actress in a musical.

Her performance in The Wiz brought her much attention and soon after she received roles in the films The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, with Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones and the movie Scott Joplin also with Billy Dee Williams and Clifton Davis.

In 1976, she was offered the role of Mabel Thomas on the sitcom What's Happening!!, a role she played from 1976 to 1978. Due to disagreements with the direction the creators wanted to take the show, King left What's Happening!! after just two seasons in 1978. That same year she reprised the role of Evillene for the 1978 film version of The Wiz. It was the second time in her career that she appeared in a movie after being in the stage version, the first time being the play/movie Don't Play Us Cheap. The following year she appeared in what was probably her most notable film role, as mother to Steve Martin's character in the movie, The Jerk.

In June 1980, King returned to stage work, starring in the Broadway musical It's So Nice To Be Civilized. However the show didn't do well and was cancelled after just eight performances. After the show, King received mostly guest spots on TV shows including Fantasy Island, The Jeffersons, Amazing Stories and Tales from the Darkside among others. In between she signed on with then Hollywood agent Ruben Malaret who negotiated the reprised the role of Mama Johnson in the 1984 made-for-TV movie The Jerk, Too. Her last two movie roles were 1988's Scrooged starring Bill Murray and 1990's Dead Men Don't Die starring Elliott Gould.

Later years and death

In 1989, King suffered a stroke and entered the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She also battled diabetes, and eventually lost both of her legs and an arm to the disease. In 1999, she died from complications of diabetes. She was cremated. Her only child, a son, Larry (from her marriage to Melvin King) preceded her in death three years earlier.[2]


Year Film Role Notes
1973 Don't Play Us Cheap House guest at the party
Ganja & Hess Queen of Myrthia
1976 The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings Bertha Dewitt
1977 Scott Joplin Madam Amy
1978 The Wiz Evillene
1979 The Jerk Mother
1980 The Gong Show Movie Mabel
1981 Getting Over Mabel Queen
1988 Scrooged Gramma
1990 Dead Men Don't Die
Year Title Role Notes
1976-1978 What's Happening!! Mabel "Mama" Thomas 37 episodes
1978-1981 Fantasy Island Various roles 3 episodes
1979 Barney Miller Mother Zilla 1 episode
1981 Palmerstown, U.S.A. Aunt Toog 1 episode
1983 ABC Weekend Special Mrs. Trussker 1 episode
Lottery! Mabel 1 episode
Whiz Kids 1 episode
1984 The Jerk, Too Mama Johnson Television movie
The Master Willie 1 episode
The Jeffersons Mother Tobin 1 episode
1986 Amazing Stories Jennifer Mowbray 1 episode
The Colbys Fortune Teller 1 episode
Tales from the Darkside Ruby Cuzzins 1 episode
1988 Wiseguy Mae Nina 1 episode


  1. ^ "Mabel King Biography".  
  2. ^ "TV, Moive and Stage Actress Mabel King, 66, Dies In L.A.". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 96 (26): 56. 1999-11-29. ISSN 0021-5996.  

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