Perhaps best known for her supporting performances in classic films such as All About Eve (alone worthy of immortality) and Gentlemen’s Agreement, she had a long and distinguished career on Broadway with more than twenty credits to her name — from William Saroyan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Time of Your Life in 1939 to I Hate Hamlet in 1991. She even stepped in as a replacement for heavy hitting divas Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I and Angela Lansbury in Mame.
Given that she often played a classy, witty woman of the world, it’s almost inconceivable to imagine that her breakthrough role was as the love-starved, countrified Ado Annie in the landmark original production of Oklahoma. But just listen to the original cast recording and you realize how indelible her performance was.
Here she is, from a film festival interview a few years ago, singing a bit of her signature song “I Cain’t Say No” at a film festival, still sassy and still playful with a lyric…
But for many music theater types, she’ll always be their Fairy Godmother, appearing in a whirl of pink sparkles to Lesley Ann Warren in the television Cinderella.
Celeste, thanks for making so many wishes come true.