The name on Georgia Bright Engel’s birth certificate is Georgia Bright Engel. So because of a glorious name like that, she was either destined to be a small Alabama’s town most successful real estate agent/roadside flower kiosk owner, the go-to gossip of a neighborhood in the south, or a sweet-voiced ray of masterful comedy sunshine who lights up TV screens. The universe and Georgia chose the third one, and she went on to make The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Coach, and Everybody Loves Raymond better shows. And now she’s lighting up heaven, because she died on Friday at her home in Princeton, NJ. She was 70.
Georgia’s friend John Quilty confirmed her death to The New York Times, saying that her cause of death is unknown because she’s didn’t see a doctor.
John Quilty, her friend and executor, said the cause was undetermined because Ms. Engel, who was a Christian Scientist, did not consult doctors.
Georgia’s acting career started on THA STAGE, and after getting her theater degree from University of Hawaii at Manoa, she moved to NYC where she made her Broadway debut as Minnie Fay in the original production of Hello, Dolly! in 1969. Throughout her career, she continued to SING! ACT! and DANCE! on Broadway, and her last Great White Way appearance was in The Drowsy Chaperone in 2006.
When Georgia was in Los Angeles doing the play The House of Blue Leaves, which she also did off-Broadway, Mary Tyler Moore was in the audience at one show and we all know what happened next. Georgia tickled the ears of viewers with her soft cotton candy of a voice as Georgette on The Mary Tyler Moore show from 1972 until the show ended in 1977.
After Mary Tyler Moore, she starred with her co-star Dame Betty White (yes, let’s just pretend that THE QUEEN broke the rules and did what’s right by making Betty White a Dame) in The Betty White Show, which didn’t last long. From there, Georgia was in Goodtime Girls and Jennifer Slept Here. I knew her best as giant human smile Shirley on Coach.
She was also on Everybody Loves Raymond, Hot in Cleveland, The Office, and the gone-too-soon jewel of soap opera fuckery Passions. Because of her unforgettable voice, Georgia also voiced characters in the Open Season movies, Dr. Doolittle 2, and The Care Bears Movie (she did Love-a-Lot, of course).
She was nominated for five Emmys (three for Everybody Loves Raymond and two for The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and never won!
Rest in peace, Georgia Engel, I’m sure that once you got to the gates of heaven, the angels were there with wheelbarrows full of all of the Emmys you should’ve won, including one for this bizarre moment of 80s perfection.