Estelle Margaret Parsons (born November 20, 1927) is an American stage, film and television actress, Today Show television presenter, and occasional stage director.
After studying law, Parsons became a singer before deciding to pursue a career in acting. She worked for the television program Today and made her stage debut in 1961. During the 1960s, Parsons established her career on Broadway before progressing to film. She received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and was also nominated for her work in Rachel, Rachel (1968).
She worked extensively in film and theatre during the 1970s and later directed several Broadway productions. More recently her television work included a role in the sitcom Roseanne. She has been nominated five times for the Tony Award, (four times for Lead Actress of a Play and once for Featured Actress). In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Parsons was born in Lynn Hospital, Lynn, Massachusetts. Her mother, Elinor Ingeborg (née Mattsson), was a native of Sweden, and her father, Eben Parsons, was of English descent.
She attended Oak Grove School for Girls in Maine. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1949, Parsons initially studied law at Boston University, and then worked as a singer with a band before settling on an acting career in the early 1950s.
Moving to New York City, Parsons worked as a writer, producer and commentator for The Today Show. She made her Broadway debut in 1956 in the ensemble of the Ethel Merman musical Happy Hunting. She began performing Off-Broadway in 1961, and received a Theatre World Award in 1963 for her performance in Whisper into My Good Ear/Mrs. Dally Has a Lover (1962).
Parsons has received Tony Award nominations for her work in The Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), Miss Margarida's Way (1978), and Morning's at Seven (2002). She played the Widow Begbick in the American premiere of the Weill-Brecht opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1970), and performed as Mrs. Peacham to Lotte Lenya's Jenny in Threepenny Opera on tour and in New York City. She also played "Ruth" in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway in 1981. From June 17, 2008 through May 17, 2009, she played the role of "Violet Weston" in August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. She continued playing the role during the show's national tour beginning July 24, 2009, in Denver.
As a director, Parsons has a number of Broadway credits, including a production of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and As You Like It in 1986. Off-Broadway, she directed Dario Fo's Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo (1983). She also served as the Artistic Director of the Actors Studio for five years, ending in 2003.
In 2004, Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Parsons' film career includes an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and a nomination for Rachel, Rachel (1968). She received a BAFTA Award nomination for her role in Watermelon Man (1970), and appeared in I Never Sang for My Father (1971), Two People (1973), A Memory of Two Mondays (1974), For Pete's Sake (1975), Dick Tracy (1990) and Boys on the Side (1995). She was also the original choice to play the part of Pamela Voorhees in the 1980 film Friday the 13th; the part later went to Betsy Palmer.
On television, Parsons played the recurring role of Beverly, on Roseanne. Other television credits include appearances in The Patty Duke Show, Love, American Style, All In The Family, Archie Bunker's Place, Open Admissions, Frasier, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Good Wife, as well as The UFO Incident: The Story of Betty and Barney Hill and the PBS production of June Moon.
Parsons recently appeared in London playing psychic Helga ten Dorp in Deathtrap at the Noël Coward Theatre in the West End. She was recently seen on Broadway in David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People, and opened 24 April 2012, in Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Bonnie and Clyde
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress , Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance,
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Don't Drink the Water
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
I Never Sang for My Father
I Walk the Line
For Pete's Sake
The Lemon Sisters
The Blue Men
Looking for Richard
Boys on the Side
That Darn Cat
Old Lady McCracken
Episode dated 6 September 1954
Defenders !The Defenders
DuPont !The DuPont Show of the Week
The Gambling Heart
Duke !The Patty Duke Show
The Con Artist
Doctors !The Doctors and the Nurses
Where There's Smoke
Trials !The Trials of O'Brien
Alarums and Excursions
Episode dated 18 November 1968
Hemingway's Spain: A Love Affair
Self (voice only)
Kraft Music Hall
Academy !The 40th Annual Academy Awards
Front !The Front Page
Frost !The David Frost Show
25th Tony Awards
A Memory of Two Mondays
Love, American Style
Love and the Clinic/Love and the Perfect Wedding/Love and the President/Love and the Return of Raymond
Wall of Silence
Terror on the Beach
Gun !The Gun and the Pulpit
UFO !The UFO Incident
Tenth !The Tenth Level
NBC Special Treat
Big Henry and the Polka Dot Kid
All in the Family
Dolores Mancheney Fencel
Archie's Secret Passion
All in the Family
Reunion on Hauser Street
All in the Family
Weekend in the Country
Archie Bunker's Place
Blanche and Murray
Backstairs at the White House
Gentleman !The Gentleman Bandit
Guests of the Nation
Episode dated 14 January 1982
Mabel Lederer/Angela Motorman
Come Along with Me
Waiting for the Moon (the producers wish to thank)
Private !A Private Matter
Nominated CableACE Award Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
American !The American Clock
Roseanne vs. Jackie Thomas Sitcoms
Inside the Actors Studio
59 episodes as the mother of Roseanne and Jackie,
Nominated for TV Land Award
Touched by an Angel
Love !The Love Letter
Academy !The 70th Annual Academy Awards
Bonnie and Clyde
100 Center Street
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Tony !The 56th Annual Tony Awards
Coots and Ladders
Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde
Episode dated 13 January 2012
Her grandson is Chicago Bears guard/tackle, Eben Britton. Her second husband Peter Zimroth was appointed police monitor for the NYPD in August 2013.