Mary Kay Place (born September 23, 1947) is an American actress, singer, director, and screen writer. She is best known for portraying Loretta Haggers on the television series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, a role that won her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Comedy Series in 1977. Place also recorded one studio album for Columbia Records in the Haggers persona, which included the Top Ten country music hit "Baby Boy."
Early life and career:
Place was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the daughter of Gwendolyn Lucille (née Johnson) and Bradley Eugene Place. She graduated from Nathan Hale High School and the University of Tulsa, where her father was an art professor; she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and received a speech degree. Place moved to Hollywood with aspirations of becoming an actress and writer. She was hired for The Tim Conway Comedy Hour in the 1970s as a production assistant to both Conway and producer Norman Lear. Conway gave her her first on-camera break, while Lear saw to it that Place received her first writing credit on his subsequent All in the Family. On the episode, she sang "If Communism Comes Knocking on Your Door, Don't Answer It." She also appeared in the third season episode of "M*A*S*H" titled 'Springtime.'
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and musical career:
Lear then cast her in the role of would-be country and western star Loretta Haggers on the satirical soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976-1977). She won an Emmy Award for her work as Loretta, and was later nominated for a Grammy Award for her spin-off musical album Tonite! At the Capri Lounge Loretta Haggers. Place wrote two of the songs on Tonite!: "Vitamin L" and "Baby Boy," both of which she sang on the program as Loretta.
Both Tonite! At the Capri Lounge Loretta Haggers and its follow up Aimin' To Please featured A-list country and pop performers from the 1970s. Dolly Parton, on whom the Loretta character was loosely based, provided backing vocals as well as the song "All I Can Do" (which Parton also wrote). Emmylou Harris, Anne Murray and Nicolette Larson sang backup as well. Aimin' to Please's "Something to Brag About," a duet with Willie Nelson, earned the pair a place on the music charts in 1977.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was one of the biggest cult television programs of all time. The show ended when Louise Lasser left the show in 1977, but the remaining cast stayed on for one more year to tape Forever Fernwood. The series ended with Loretta finding out Charlie was not sterile immediately before giving birth to quintuplets conceived by artificial insemination. While working on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Place also wrote scripts for several TV situation comedies, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis and M*A*S*H, usually in collaboration with Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (who would later create Designing Women). She appeared in the M*A*S*H episode "Springtime," which she co-wrote with Bloodworth. She also made an appearance in the sitcom All in the Family in the episode "Archie Goes Too Far" as Betty Sue.
Place hosted Saturday Night Live in 1977 and was one of the few hosts who also appeared as the musical guest (with Willie Nelson on the duet "Something to Brag About").
Late 1970s through 1990s:
In the 1979 Burt Reynolds film, Starting Over, Place plays the first woman whom Reynolds dates after a divorce.
In 1983, Place had a key role in the Lawrence Kasdan ensemble piece The Big Chill as Meg, a single corporate attorney who wishes to be impregnated with her first child by one of her past college friends.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the actress appeared in a number of television movies and a starring role in the 1992 Kurt Russell and Martin Short comedy Captain Ron. 1994 saw her return to television in the recurring role of Camille Cherski on My So-Called Life. In 1996, Place comically portrayed an evangelistic pro-life activist in Alexander Payne's debut feature film Citizen Ruth. She had a strong dramatic role as Dot Black, mother of a terminally ill young man, in Francis Ford Coppola's version of John Grisham's The Rainmaker in 1997.
Place was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her work in the 1996 film Manny & Lo. She plays the matronly Elaine, who would love to have a child and works in a maternity shop, but never married and is past her child-bearing years.
She directed episodes of the HBO sitcom Dream On, NBC's Friends and the series Baby Boom. She provided at least two voices for Fox's animated show King of the Hill in an episode in which "Peggy Hill" competes in the Mrs. Heimlich County Pageant. She voiced both a competitor and the coordinator of the pageant.
Place appeared in Being John Malkovich as the receptionist with a reception problem, Floris, and in Girl, Interrupted. While not in any scenes together, this marked the third time that Mary Kay had done a film with one of her former My So-Called Life co-stars: first with Claire Danes in The Rainmaker, second with Bess Armstrong in Pecker, then with Jared Leto.
In 2000, the actress co-directed Don Henley's video for "Taking You Home". She had a small role in her second Lisa Krueger movie, Committed.
She played the United States Surgeon General in a 2001 episode of NBC's The West Wing. The character returned in the 2004 season.
In the original PBS mini-series Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, Place had a self-referential moment as a Maupin character during the Mary Hartman era in which the series is set. Laura Linney's character often watched Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Showtime picked up the Tales franchise, but Place was not in the second installment. She did have a role in the third mini-series, Further Tales of the City (2001), which featured her in the role of "Prue Giroux."
In 2002, Place had a sizable role in the Reese Witherspoon movie Sweet Home Alabama as Witherspoon's character's mother, "Pearl Smooter." That same year she was in Human Nature starring Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette and A Woman's a Helluva Thing with Penelope Ann Miller as well as with Albert Brooks in the dark comedy My First Mister. The story focuses on a developing relationship between an isolated, rebellious 18-year-old (Leelee Sobieski) and an engaging older man (Brooks). Place played Brooks' best friend. The film marked the directorial debut of actress Christine Lahti.
Place played a Mormon mother in the film Latter Days (2003). Since 2006, she has also had a recurring role in HBO's Big Love, playing Adaleen Grant, the mother of the Chloë Sevigny character, Nicki.
Lily Tomlin and Place did the pilot and 5 episodes of 12 Miles of Bad Road from Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who wrote television scripts with Place in the 1970s. HBO chose not to air the series, and producers were seeking other networks to air it.
In 2009, she served as the voice of Julie Powell's mother in the film Julie & Julia.
She recently joined the cast of HBO's comedy Bored to Death. In 2013, she appeared as Bryan's mother on The New Normal.
The New Normal,
The Life & Times of Tim,
Bored to Death,
Shrek Forever After,
Julie & Julia,
Youth in Revolt,
City of Ember,
12 Miles of Bad Road,
The Toe Tactic,
War Eagle, Arkansas,
The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman,
Grace Is Gone,
Jack & Bobby,
The West Wing,
King of The Hill,
Death and Texas,
Nobody Knows Anything!,
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,
Sweet Home Alabama,
A Woman's a Helluva Thing,
Further Tales of the City,
The Safety of Objects,
My First Mister,
The Wild Thornberrys,
Being John Malkovich,
Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story,
Point Last Seen,
How to Make the Cruelest Month,
Love in Another Town,
Eye of God,
For My Daughter's Honor,
Manny & Lo,
My Very Best Friend,
My So-Called Life,
In the Line of Duty: The Price of Vengeance,
Tales of the City,
Just My Imagination,
Bed of Lies,
Crazy from the Heart,
Traitor in My House,
Out on the Edge,
A New Life,
Portrait of a White Marriage,
The Girl Who Spelled Freedom,
The History of White People in America: Volume II,
The History of White People in America,
For Love or Money,
ABC Afterschool Special ("Mom's on Strike" episode),
Terms of Endearment,
The Big Chill,
Waltz Across Texas,
Act of Love,
More American Graffiti,
New York City,
Bound for Glory,
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show,
All in the Family,
TV Land Moguls,
The Rosie O'Donnell Show,
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,
Saturday Night Live,
The Merv Griffin Show,
The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
"Mad Dogs and Servicemen",
"Hot Lips and Empty Arms",
Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license