The Fantastically Fabulous Film Females We Miss Ever So Much
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The Fantastically Fabulous Film Females We Miss Ever So Much

By Courtney Enlow | Miscellaneous | August 2, 2013 | Comments ()


As you know, this past week, we lost Eileen Brennan. A multi-talented human amazement machine, Brennan dominated film, television and theater throughout her career, and also conquered personal struggles—including breast cancer, and a 1985 car accident which crushed her legs and eye socket, ultimately succumbing to bladder cancer at age 80. She will be remembered for her humor, her talent and for being a goddamn boss.

Brennan’s death evoked a nostalgia in me for the great character actresses that once seemingly filled Hollywood. So, in her honor, let’s celebrate some of the best—some we’ve lost to above, some we just wish we saw more of these days.

We are luckily still lousy with great funny females. But, these are the women who begat the Feys and Poehlers, and we will love them forever.

Teri Garr

Terri Garr Young Frankenstein.png

If people still hold onto that ridiculous notion that hot women can’t be hilarious, then they’ve never heard of Teri Garr. I mean, what knockers. But she’s also a fighter—she took her battle with MS public in the early 2000s, and, after suffering a brain aneurysm, appeared on David Letterman without a wheelchair, because fuck you, illness, that’s why. That was her last public appearance, but we know she’s fights on still.

Shelley Long


I already did this post. Read it again. Because Shelley Long is a goddamn greatness fountain.

Gilda Radner


Like I said when we discussed the standup performances that made us who we are today, Gilda was my first real exposure to the idea that we, as women, were allowed to do that. We were allowed to be loud, and funny, and ballsy. Gilda is my absolute hero for so many reasons, but, most of all, because she taught me what women are capable of—that there are no rules, no “girl” comedy. Just pure funny.

Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper



While these talented women have done so much throughout their careers, to me, they’re a package deal. As the world is ever nearer to losing Valerie Harper—though she’s fighting till the end—it’s nice to be reminded of one of the best female friendships ever to grace television.

Bea Arthur


For seven decades, Bea Arthur eschewed the idea of a demure female and instead gave us strength. No shock from a damn Marine. Through her work and her personal life, she championed the rights of women, gays, animals—hell, anyone who needed a voice, Arthur was proud to fill that role.

Cathy Moriarty


Cathy Moriarty is a true dame, in the best sense of the word. An Irish Catholic continually cast as an Italian mafiosa, Moriarty has personified blonde, bold and brash throughout her career.


Carol Kane


Kane has actually been seemingly everywhere this year, appearing on “Girls” and in Sleepwalk with Me. But that’s still not enough Kane for me, only whetting my whistle for more.

Now peel me like a grape so I can get outta here!

Cloris Leachman and Betty White



Yes, these two icons are still working like crazy, arguably more visible now than they were years ago, but it didn’t feel right not to include them.


Madeline Kahn


Sigh. Just the best. What more is there to say?

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • LaineyBobainey

    Private Benjamin was on one of the Encore channels last night. When I was a teenager, my step-siblings' father had it on VHS. He only had a few movies on VHS and when I would go to his house to babysit my step-brother and sister, I would watch The Outsiders and Private Benjamin every time. Over and over, so I've probably seen it 20 times, but haven't watched it in 20+ years.

    ANYWAY, I watched it last night and man, Eileen Brennan really was great at being subtle and hilarious with just an small expression or a slight tone change. And Goldie Hawn, too. Great timing. Funny ladies.

  • duckandcover

    Gilda Radner and Bea Arthur were always my childhood heroes and still are.

    Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, and Valerie Harper reunited/are set to reunite on Betty White's show, Hot in Cleveland.

  • cgthegeek

    Some birth-death dates on the deceased would be super helpful. And a much less alarming to those of us who rushed to google to make sure Shelly Long was still alive.

  • gnibs

    Thanks to Eileen Brennan if only for "Clue", a very funny movie with a fantastic cast that I literally cannot flip past if I see it on TV.

  • stella

    *Sigh* these ladies are so cool.

  • Some Guy

    Over the last few weeks I decided to take it upon myself to watch Cheers from the start. I'm not half way through season four and I've already moved Seinfeld aside, as Cheers is clearly the greater of the two, and I am convinced that it is primarily because of Long and by default, Danson.

    Now Danson is spectacular in the role of Sam Malone, no doubt about it, but I am dreading the upcoming seasons when Diane leaves because Shelly Long is so damn good in the role. Sure, the character can be annoying and the relationship between her and Sam dominate the plot lines, but when they fight, you can feel the wrath. You can see the white hot passion of a thousand suns literally burning.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that either she really had feelings for Danson, and it was coming through, or she is just a damn good actress, because I have never been so taken aback by a TV comedy actress professing her love for a dimwitted jock.

    I was completely sold in one episode in season three, I believe, when Coach is toasting an old ball player friend who was really an ass whom everyone hated. He gets up there and gives this impassioned speech about life and such, and you can see Long sitting in the background, slightly out of focus, welling up.

    What Coach was saying was tragic and sad and made me sad too, but it was seeing Diane react so strongly in the back that really sold it for me.

  • Glenda Jackson, slightly younger. A Member of Parliament, damn fine both in lady like qualities and speechifying in ways that would make your jaw drop.

  • Bea Pants

    I would not be the snarky sarcastic broad I am today without watching hours of Bea Arthur on the Golden Girls in my youth.

  • Captain Ron Swanson

    I would add Burnadette Peters to the list.

  • e jerry powell


  • Three_nineteen

    Carol Burnett. Lily Tomlin.
    Carol Burnett. Lily Tomlin.



  • Jen

    Thank you, both women are Goddesses and Carol Burnett is still the funniest lady on the planet.

  • Slash

    Yes, if it's a list of not-all-dead-yet comediennes, Burnett definitely belongs on it. That "Eunice and her family play Sorry" episode is classic. And of course, the "Went With the Wind" one also.

  • Slash

    Man, reminding myself of that "Sorry" episode makes me want to see it. It's gotta be on YouTube somewhere.

  • Slash

    And you know, while we're at it, Vicki Lawrence deserves kudos as well.

  • Three_nineteen


  • Gabs

    I remember when I found out that Madeline was gone, I was crushed... and it was a few years after the fact! I'd seen some of her movies when I was younger, and Young Frankenstein was and is my favorite movie. But it was Clue that made me adore her and start looking into her other work, and then come to find out she'd already died. It still hurts my heart.

  • JayWantsACat

    I had the biggest crushes on most of these women growing up. Still do with Gilda.

  • Stephen Nein

    Madeline Khan and Teri Garr pretty much sum up my adolescent erotic influences.

  • $27019454

    That's AWESOME.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Yes indeed. Afetr seeing Young Frankenstein (it's Franken-STEEN!), all I could think about were Teri's knockers. Wow.

  • mrsdalgliesh

    "I just have to feel this way until I don't feel this way anymore and you're going to have to know that you're the one who made me feel this way!"

    Also: "He. vas. my. boyfriend!!"

  • Slash

    Man, I miss Madeline Kahn. She was so awesome.

  • I'm just going to leave this here. It proves that Madeline Kahn would have totally been a Pajiban.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    As a man, wouldn't you love to be able to fondly recall the day that you were a naked-assed extra in that scene? I just think that must be a memory to be treasured. Just one of those things that would occasionally waft through your memory, and cause a private smile.

  • e jerry powell

    As I man, I would have preferred to have been the makeup artist that had to make sure that all those asses weren't all shiny under the lighting.

  • Especially if you managed to get lined up just right to get a "yes"?

    Hell, the last guy has to have that clip mounted on his wall for eternity.

  • Maguita NYC

    Why have I never seen this before?!

  • e jerry powell


    /Sheila Broflovski

  • Because you haven't seen History of the World, Part 1. Also you suck. These two things may be related.

  • Maguita NYC

    I'm sure you meant that as a joke. Someone got eager and downvoted. You're right, I can't be fabulous all the time gotta suck temporarily.

    But just temporarily.

  • Indeed, I know you don't suck on a permanent basis. Especially since it can be so easily remedied by see the movie.

    I still hold strong that anybody who hasn't seen it does suck though.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Thank you so much for the Madeline Kahn and Grover song. It is an all-time favourite. I used to sing it with Little J in a particularly echo-y hallway at his daycare.

  • tmoney

    I was first introduced to Cathy Moriarty in Casper. She's so OTT, and I love her for it. This whole list is spectacular.

  • Haystacks

    Madeline Kahn Was a comic genius. I always felt like she never got her due, because she was not a man. Perfect timing. Just, flawless.

  • mograph
  • emmalita

    Thanks for putting this fabulous list together. I needed a concentrated dose of excellent dames.

  • All of these women were/are so talented and awesome and should be everyone's spirit animals.

    As an added bonus, Teri Garr had a really fascinating and funny Random Roles interview with the AV Club a few years ago. She talked about being a background dancer in Elvis movies and has this great who-the-fuck-cares attitude about celebrity. Required reading:

  • AvaLehra

    My love for Cathy Moriarty in Soapdish knows no bounds.

  • God, Soapdish. Greatest thing ever. I WILL HEAR NO DEBATE.

  • Jill

    Because you are muthaf***ing correct!

  • wsapnin

    Two quotes from these ladies that have made it into the family lexicon:

    1) Madeline Kahn on the Carol Burnette Show as Eunice's Drama Coach "In our circles, in our circles, in our CIRCLES!" In her falsetto...awesome. We used it when talking about crazy people or overly dramatic people.

    2) Carol Kane as Simka "Here's your chili, damned guest!" Whenever my mom served us chili, that's what she would say. I still do.

  • Aaron Schulz

    Roll roll roll in ze hay

  • lowercase_ryan

    This is one of your best lists EVER. Well done COURTNEY!!!!!, well done.


  • lowercase_ryan

    My comment was COURTNEY!!!! specific, don't get your feathers all ruffled :p

  • I have lit'rally lost the ability to tell if people are still trolling us or genuinely can't tell our posts apart.

  • LaineyBobainey

    Hahahaha, I'm sorry, Joanna Court, but that's just funny!

  • lowercase_ryan

    Seriously, I'm fucking mortified. I could have sworn I looked and it said Joanna as the author. TOO MANY APOLOGIES FOR DISQUS TO HANDLE!!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Huh. I could've sworn it was JRo too...though maybe I just read your initial congrats and it stuck in my brain.

  • deitybox

    Is it twoo what they say about your people?'s twoo. It's twoo! IT'S TWOO!!!!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ma'am. That's my arm.

  • LaineyBobainey

    Oh, Teri Garr! I used to LOVE staying up late as a teenager to watch her on David Letterman's show. They were so funny together and she is adorable! When she was cast as Phoebe's mom on Friends, I actually clapped my hands in glee like a toddler!

  • Ian Fay

    I really just can't see a rose without saying...

    "A wed wose. How womantic."

  • BWeaves

    I grew up with all these women.

    Nothing against the new crop, but there are not as many who hold a candle to these fine dames (and I mean that in the "Knighted by the Queen" kind of way).

  • Mrs. Julien

    He's the kind of guy who crushes a beer can against his forehead and waits for you to say, "Oh, Rocco!".

    The Julii have been quoting that MTM Rhoda line for decades. DECADES!

    Twinks Tvet.

  • lillie

    I should really have read the article more closely before skipping to the videos because I thought these were all women who had already passed and I saw Shelley Long and almost wept.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I felt that way when I saw Terri Gar's name.

  • Bea Pants

    Samesies! Only with Teri Garr

  • Sara_Tonin00

    It's...a confusing list. Actually, the list is fine, but the title is super confusing.

  • itstwooitstwoo

    Well yeah lots of things are confusing when you don't actualy read.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I did read the intro. But "people we miss" usually refers to a) dead people b) people we don't see any more. Calling the list "funny ladies we can't get enough of" or "fabulous film females we will love forever" - which is the actual point of the list, would make more sense. The title is confusing, when the list contains women who have been pretty prolific in recent years like Betty White and Chloris Leachman. That's all. It's a nice list.

  • lillie

    Exactly. It was the title that got me.

  • WestCoastPat

    I spent the entire list getting increasingly angry and ready to post an entire "Where the FUCK is Madeline Kahn?" rant. I should not have doubted you.

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    I was 15 when Gilda died, and I was genuinely devastated. She was the best.

    As for Madeline, well, let's never forget.

  • hindulovegod

    Clue is my go-to sick day movie; it always makes me feel better. Madeline Kahn is perfection.

  • MGMcD

    So nice to see it getting some Pajiba love. I used to watch it every week without fail as a child. I switched to monthly viewings after college. I'm actually surprised how many people I meet who haven't seen it, it's chock full of comedy talent and brilliant dialogue. Take note Battleship, this is how a movie based on a board game goes.

  • Welldressed

    Clue has always been, and I suspect always will be, my favorite film. I had an apoplectic fit when I heard people were trying to remake it. May it burn in development hell for a thousand lifetimes.

  • Oh, Madeline Kahn... Your Eunice Burns was a staple of my childhood. I couldn't find the exact clip I wanted, so this will have to do.

  • **I AM** NotTheOne

    Damn it! I was almost okay until we got to Madeline Khan. *sniffles* I'm allergic, see? I'm fine now. Shut up.

  • Maguita NYC

    Madeline Kahn is just the perfect dose of sex and snark. She bluntly seduces a man while letting him know he'll be severely judged on his performance. I never tire of watching her calmly quipping with the best of them.

  • Buellie413

    We were never naked.

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