Inga Swenson
Inga Swenson 1958.JPG
Swenson as Ophelia in the American Shakespeare Festival production of Hamlet, 1958.
Born (1932-12-29) December 29, 1932 (age 84) (some sources say 1934)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Residence Venice, CA
Occupation Actress
Years active 1957–1998
Spouse(s) Lowell M. Harris (an actor and singer), m. February 21, 1953
Children two sons
  • A.C.R. Swenson (an attorney)
  • Geneva (Seeger) Swenson

Inga Swenson (born December 29, 1932; Omaha, Nebraska) is an American actress.



Inga Swenson graduated from Omaha Central High School in Omaha, Nebraska in 1950. She studied drama at Northwestern University under Alvina Krause, among others,[2][3] and was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. Early in her career, Swenson had supporting roles in the films Advise and Consent (1962) and The Miracle Worker (1962) in which she played Helen Keller's mother. Swenson is a trained lyric soprano [4][5] and starred on Broadway in New Faces (c. 1956), and The First Gentleman (1959), receiving Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Musical for her performances in 110 in the Shade (1964) and Baker Street (1965).

Swenson had a role in the TV western series Bonanza in two episodes: "Inger, My Love" (1962) and "Journey Remembered" (1963). Swenson took a brief leave of absence from her starring role in 110 in the Shade on Broadway to appear in the later episodes. In these episodes, she played the second wife of Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene), the mother of Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker). She was actually four years younger than Blocker. Swenson later guest-starred in an episode of Lorne Greene's short-lived crime drama Griff (1973).

Swenson is best known for her portrayal of Gretchen Kraus, the autocratic and acerbic German cook (later head housekeeper and budget director) in the TV sitcom Benson. She received the part by appearing in a multi-episode stint as Ingrid Svenson, birth mother of Corinne Tate (Diana Canova), on the TV sitcom Soap, which had the same producers. She also appeared as northern matriarch Maude Hazard in the acclaimed mini-series North and South in 1985 and again in 1986.

A life member of The Actors Studio,[6] her favorite role was Lizzie Currie in the musical 110 in the Shade.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Swenson is married to actor/singer Lowell Harris, with whom she had two children, sons Mark and James Harris; the latter died in a motorcycle crash in 1987, at age 26.

Stage creditsEdit

Principal stage appearancesEdit

Major theatrical toursEdit

Movie creditsEdit

Television creditsEdit

Television debut – Singer, Chrysler Special, CBC (Canadian television), 1957.[1]

Television seriesEdit

Television mini-seriesEdit

  • Amelia Foster, Testimony of Two Men, syndicated, 1977.
  • Maude Hazard, North and South, ABC, 1985.
  • Maude Hazard, North and South, Book II, ABC, 1986.[1]

Television episodesEdit

Other televisionEdit

Television moviesEdit

  • Ilyana Kovalefskii, Earth II, ABC, 1971.
  • Nora Bayes, Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women, NBC, 1978.
  • Matty Kline, Bay Coven, NBC, 1987.
  • Marilyn Broadshaw Reagan, Nutcracker: Money, Madness, and Murder, NBC, 1987.[1]

Television specialsEdit

  • Lavinia, Androcles and the Lion, NBC, 1967.
  • Mrs. Trimble, My Dear Uncle Sherlock, ABC Short Story Specials, ABC, 1977.
  • Mrs. Marston, The Terrible Secret. ABC Afterschool Special, ABC, 1979.
  • Kate, The Gay Deceivers, CBC, 1956.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Inga Swenson". Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television (fee, via Fairfax County Public Library). 7. Detroit: Gale. 1989. Gale Document Number: GALE|K1609002225. Retrieved 2013-12-04.  Biography in Context. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Goode, James (December 15, 2004). "Ms. Alvina Krause". Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2013-12-02.  Please see also
  3. ^ "New Theater Honors Alvina Krause". Northwestern (magazine). Spring 2010. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  4. ^ Gaver, Jack. "What Price Praise?". The Oxnard Press-Courier. March 21, 1964.
  5. ^ Witbeck, Charles. "Gretchen is Thawing". The Hendersonville Times-News. January 19, 1983.
  6. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. 

External linksEdit