Pat Carroll, the voice of the nefarious, voice-snatching Ursula in The Little Mermaid, has been calamari’d aged 95. The first movie I saw in theatres, so my parents tell me. A US comedy mainstay for decades, a recurring role on Caesar’s Hour won her an Emmy and national attention. The perky blonde was a regular on variety shows for the next thirty years, and had a successful one-woman show about Gertrude Stein. She made memorable guest appearances in 70s sitcoms such a grumpy hospital patient sharing a room with Mary in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Shirley’s mother in Laverne & Shirley. Her 80s sitcom roles were a bumpy ride – The Ted Knight Show (previously Too Close for Comfort) was cancelled after Carroll’s debut season due to the titular star saying “bye guys” to life, and She’s the Sheriff, where Carroll was the mother to Suzanne Somers’s sheriff, lasted two seasons and was later maligned by TV Guide as one of the 50 worst TV shows of all time.
Carroll’s career as a voice actress was similarly off to a rocky start – initially tapped to play Jane Jetson, she only recorded one episode before Hanna-Barbera swept her aside due to contract conflicts. She sued Hanna-Barbera, but futilely so given this was the same company that got away with claiming the name similarities between Yogi Bear and Yogi Berra were coincidence. The 80s were more prosperous for Carroll as a voice artist, with roles in Pound Puppies and Garfield specials before netting her signature role in Ursula.
She wasn’t the first choice for the Divine-inspired cephalopod sea witch – Joan Collins and Bea Arthur were the first eyed for the part but both quickly kiboshed it, and Elaine Stritch secured the role after an arduous casting search, only to be fired after clashing with lyricist Howard Ashman over how to perform Ursula’s signature song. Carroll won the part after her performance of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was fully to Ashman’s liking, and she deepened her voice for a performance she described as a hybrid of a Shakespearean actress and a used car saleswoman. Ursula quickly became one of the most popular Disney villains for her deft mix of dry humour and sheer terror, and Carroll reprised the character in a Little Mermaid prequel TV show and the Kingdom Hearts video game series.
Two fortunate souls picked Carroll – I Hear Voices and newcomer A Submarine Torpedoes and Sinks The Love Boat. So I guess that torpedo put the Love Boat under the sea, eh?
5 May 1927 – 30 July 2022, aged 95
2 TEAMS (💀💀💀💀💀 5 POINTS)