Carol Bruce

Carol Bruce (November 15, 1919 – October 9, 2007) was an American band singer, Broadway star, and film and television actress.

Carol Bruce
Carol Bruce in Keep 'Em Flying trailer.jpg
Bruce in Keep 'Em Flying (1941)
Shirley Levy

(1919-11-15)November 15, 1919
DiedOctober 9, 2007(2007-10-09) (aged 87)
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1937–2000
Milton Nathanson
(m. 1945; div. 1963)

Early yearsEdit

Bruce was born Shirley Levy in a Jewish family, in Manhattan, to Beatrice and Harry Levy.[1] She had a sister, Marilyn.[2]

Because of her family's moving, she attended Jamaica High School, Girls' High School, and New Utrecht High School before graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. Although she studied violin for eight years, she never took singing lessons.[2]


Bruce began her career as a singer in the late 1930s with Larry Clinton and his band. She sang with Ben Bernie's orchestra in 1940-1941.[3]


Bruce made her Broadway debut in Louisiana Purchase, with songs by Irving Berlin, who discovered her at a nightclub in Newark, New Jersey. She was the first actress to play the role of Julie in a Broadway production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Show Boat since the 1932 Broadway revival. Bruce played the role onstage in 1946 and garnered favorable comparisons to Helen Morgan,[3] who had originated the role onstage in 1927 and repeated it in both the 1932 revival and the 1936 film.

Her other Broadway credits include New Priorities of 1943, Along Fifth Avenue, Do I Hear a Waltz?, Henry, Sweet Henry, and A Family Affair.[4]


Bruce appeared with Abbott and Costello in Keep 'Em Flying (1941).[3] Her first serious film role was in This Woman Is Mine (1941).[5] She had supporting roles many years later in the films American Gigolo (1980) and Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987).


Bruce's radio debut came on The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour.[3] She sang on Carton of Pleasure and The Henny Youngman Show.[6]


After a long career as a singer and in films, Bruce is probably best-remembered for her recurring role as the domineering and meddlesome Lillian "Mama" Carlson (mother of the station manager played by Gordon Jump) on CBS' WKRP in Cincinnati. In real life, Bruce was only 12 years older than Jump. Sylvia Sidney played Mr. Carlson's mother in the pilot episode.[7]

Personal lifeEdit

Bruce's only marriage to Milton Nathanson, which ended in divorce, produced a daughter, Julie, an actress, singer and playwright who married jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. Bruce's grandchildren, Murali and Julian Coryell, are both musicians.[8] Bruce was Jewish.[9]

Bruce was a Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson's campaign in the 1952 presidential election.[10]


Bruce died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, aged 87. She was also survived by her sister and two great-grandsons.[11] Upon her death, she was cremated and her ashes given to her cousin.[12]


  1. ^ "Carol Bruce Biography". Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Carol Bruce a Tasty Dish Never Studied Singing". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. January 27, 1946. p. 23. Retrieved February 23, 2016 – via  
  3. ^ a b c d DeLong, Thomas A. (1996). Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-7864-2834-2.
  4. ^ "Carol Bruce". Playbill. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "Carol Bruce Signed for First Serious Role in New Film". The Salt Lake Tribune. July 10, 1941. p. 9. Retrieved February 23, 2016 – via  
  6. ^ Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960. 1 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4.
  7. ^ "Carol Bruce, 87; singer, actress had role in 'WKRP in Cincinnati'". Los Angeles Times. October 14, 2007.
  8. ^ Sisario, Ben (May 28, 2009). "Julie Coryell, Jazz-Rock Historian, Dies at 61". The New York Times. p. A23.
  9. ^ King, Alan (November 1, 2001). Matzo Balls for Breakfast and Other Memories of Growing Up Jewish. Simon and Schuster. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1416585466.
  10. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  11. ^ Peterson, Alison J. (October 16, 2007). "Carol Bruce, Actress on Film, Stage and TV, Dies at 87". The New York Times. p. C13.
  12. ^ Wilson, Scott (September 16, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). McFarland. p. 96. ISBN 978-1476625997.

External linksEdit