Carole Shelley
Shelley as Gwendolyn Pigeon in The Odd Couple, 1965
Carole Augusta Shelley

16 August 1939
London, England
Died31 August 2018(2018-08-31) (aged 79)
Years active1949–2018
SpouseAlbert G. Woods (1967–1971; his death)[1]

Carole Augusta Shelley (16 August 1939 – 31 August 2018)[2][3] was an English actress who made her career in the United States and United Kingdom. Her many stage roles included originating the roles of Gwendolyn Pigeon in The Odd Couple and Madame Morrible in Wicked. She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in The Elephant Man (1979) and received additional nominations for her work on Absurd Person Singular (1975), Stepping Out (1987), and Billy Elliot (2009).[2] [4]

Early life

Shelley was born in London, England, the daughter of Deborah (née Bloomstein), an opera singer of Russian Jewish descent, and Curtis Shelley, a composer of German Jewish origin.[5][6] Her father had emigrated to London before World War II.[1]


Stage career

Shelley made her Broadway debut as Gwendolyn Pigeon in the original 1965 production of The Odd Couple (starring Art Carney and Walter Matthau).[5][7] She reprised the role for the 1968 film version (with Jack Lemmon replacing Carney),[8] and the first season of the subsequent television series (starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman).[9] She and Monica Evans, who co-starred as her sister Cecily Pigeon, were the only two performers to appear in the original play The Odd Couple and both the film and original television adaptation—and in the same roles.[10]

In the 1970s, Shelley wanted to extend her range, feeling she was not using all her capabilities as an actor. She told The New York Times in a 1979 interview that she had "months of the most intensive deep-water swimming — more than I’d ever been called upon to do in my life" when she played Rosalind in As You Like It at the 1972 Stratford Festival in Ontario.[1][11] She received her first Tony Award nomination in 1975 for her performance as "Jane" in Absurd Person Singular.[12][7] Shelley won the 1979 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Mrs. Kendal in The Elephant Man,[9] and was nominated for the Tony Award as Featured Actress in a Play in 1987 for her performance in Stepping Out as "Maxine".[13] In 1982 she won an Obie Award for her performance Twelve Dreams.[14] Shelley also began appearing in musicals in the late 1990s, with the revivals of Show Boat as Parthy[15] and Cabaret as Fraulein Schneider in 1999.[16]

In 2003, Shelley created the role of Madame Morrible in the original Broadway cast of the musical Wicked,[17][7] a role which she later reprised in the show's first national touring company in 2005,[18] in the 2006 Chicago production,[19] and in a return Broadway engagement in 2007. [20]

Shelley played the role of Grandma in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot at the Imperial Theatre, beginning performances in October 2008.[21] She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 2009.[22] In 2014, she succeeded Jane Carr as Miss Shingle in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, which would mark her final Broadway appearance.[7]

Film and television career

Shelley's early career included roles in British films such as It's Great to Be Young (1956), Carry On Regardless (1961), No My Darling Daughter (1961), The Cool Mikado (1962) and Carry On Cabby (1963). In 1968 Shelley starred as Gwendolyn Pigeon in the film The Odd Couple.[23] Thereafter she took on numerous roles in television and films such as The Boston Strangler (1968),[24] Some Kind of a Nut (1969),[24] The Whoopee Boys (1986),[24] Little Noises (1992),[25] The Road to Wellville (1994),[26] and she played Helen Moskowitz in the Emmy-winning 1998 Frasier episode "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz".[27]

She was featured as "Aunt Clara" alongside Nicole Kidman and former Wicked co-star Kristin Chenoweth in the 2005 film Bewitched.[28] She lent her voice to several roles in Disney animated films; notably, Amelia Gabble (the Goose) in The Aristocats (1970),[29] Lady Kluck, Maid Marian's sidekick and lady-in-waiting, in Robin Hood (1973),[30] and Lachesis the Fate in Hercules.[31] Shelley's "sister" co-star in all three versions of The Odd Couple, Monica Evans, also played her "goose" sister in The Aristocats, Abigail Gabble, and Maid Marian in Robin Hood as a nod to their roles as Pigeon Sisters.[2]

Her final role was a cameo at the beginning of John Mulaney’s 2018 comedy special Kid Gorgeous; she played Mulaney’s guide around Radio City Music Hall.

Personal life

In 1967, she was married to Albert G. Woods, who died in 1971.[citation needed]


Shelley died of cancer on August 31, 2018, at the age of 79 in New York City.[1]



Year Title Role Notes
1949 Give Us This Day Bit part Uncredited
1949 The Cure for Love Lila Draper
1956 It's Great to Be Young Peggy, The Angel Hill Kids
1961 Carry On Regardless Helen Delling
1961 No, My Darling Daughter First Typist
1963 The Cool Mikado Mrs. Smith
1963 Carry On Cabby Dumb Driver
1968 The Odd Couple Gwendolyn
1968 The Boston Strangler Dana Banks
1969 Some Kind of a Nut Rita
1970 The Aristocats Amelia Gabble, the goose Voice
1973 Robin Hood Lady Kluck, the chicken Voice
1986 The Whoopee Boys Henrietta Phelps
1991 Little Noises Aunt Shirley
1991 The Super Irene Kritski
1994 Quiz Show Cornwall Aunt
1994 The Road to Wellville Mrs. Hookstratten
1997 Jungle 2 Jungle Fiona
1997 Hercules Lachesis Voice
2000 Labor Pains Madge
2005 Bewitched Aunt Clara
2018 John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City Mystery Chaperone final credit


Year Title Role Notes
1961–1962 BBC Sunday-Night Play Betty Hobson Episodes: "A Fair Cop" and "A Clear Chase"
1963 The Dickie Henderson Show Elsie Partridge Episode: "The Maid"
1963 Laughter from the Whitehall Bernice Warren Episode: "High Temperature"
1985–1987 The Berenstain Bears Additional Female Voices (voice) 12 episodes
1991-1994 One Life to Live Babs Bartlett Unknown episodes
1998 Hercules Lachesis (voice) 3 episodes
Credited as Carole Schelley
1998 Frasier Helen Moskowitz Episode: "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz"
2000 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Judge Pamela Mizener Episode: "Nocturne"
2002 Third Watch Sister Rose Episode: "Cold Front"
2004 Scooter: Get a Clue! Aunt Eugenia (voice) Episode: "Here Comes the Shocker"


  1. ^ a b c d Slotnik, Daniel E. (4 September 2018). "Carole Shelley, a Tony Winner and a Pigeon Sister, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Bartlett, Rhett. "Carole Shelley, One of the Pigeon Sisters From 'The Odd Couple,' Dies at 79" The Hollywood Reporter, 1 September 2018
  3. ^ "Carole Shelley Passes Away at 79", 1 September 2018
  4. ^ "Carole Shelly". Playbill. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Carole Shelley Biography" Retrieved 6 April 2013
  6. ^ "Archives". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d "Carole Shelley Stage" Playbill Vault, retrieved 1 September 2018
  8. ^ " The Odd Couple, 1968 film" Retrieved 5 April 2013
  9. ^ a b "Carole Shelley, From All Movie Guide" The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2013
  10. ^ Hoffman, Barbara. "The Kooky Pigeon Sisters" New York Post, 10 May 2018
  11. ^ "Study Guides, 'As You Like It', History" Retrieved 6 April 2013
  12. ^ Murgatroyd, Simon " 'Absurd Person Singular': The Broadway Experience. Reprinted" Archived 9 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 5 April 2013
  13. ^ " Steppng Out " Retrieved 5 April 2013
  14. ^ Twelve Dreams Archived 12 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 24 December 2011
  15. ^ "Musical Notes, Posted Oct 1, 1995" Archived 6 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 5 April 2013
  16. ^ McGrath, Sean. "Luckinbill, Shelley, Clark, Stuhlberg Join Broadway's 'Cabaret', May 4" Playbill, 3 May 1999
  17. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Shiz Whiz: Carole Shelley Returns to Broadway's Wicked Aug. 28" Playbill, 28 August 2007
  18. ^ Hernandez, Ernio and Gans, Andrew. "Original Wicked Star Rejoins Musical for National Tour in December" Playbill, 26 October 2005
  19. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Carole Shelley Begins Limited Chicago Wicked Engagement April 25" Playbill, 25 April 2006
  20. ^ Gans, Andrew Carole Shelly to Return to Broadway's Wicked Playbill, 15 August 2007
  21. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Gwynne, Jbara, Shelley and Fontana Will Be Part of Broadway's Billy Elliot Cast" Playbill, 15 July 2008
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew and Jones, Kenneth. "Nominations for 2009 Tony Awards Announced; Billy Elliot Earns 15 Nominations" Archived 4 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine Playbill, 5 May 2009.
  23. ^ "The Odd Couple Cast", retrieved 2 September 2018
  24. ^ a b c "Carole Shelley Film Credits", retrieved 2 September 2018
  25. ^ " 'Little Noises' Cast and Crew", retrieved 1 September 2018
  26. ^ " 'The Road to Wellville' Cast and Crew", retrieved 1 September 2018
  27. ^ "Carole Shelley Filmography". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  28. ^ Bewiched' Cast The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2013
  29. ^ " The Aristocats Cast" The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2013
  30. ^ Robin Hood Cast The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2013
  31. ^ 'Hercules' Cast The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2013