Open main menu

Janet Carroll (December 24, 1940 – May 22, 2012) was an American film, stage and television character actress.

Janet Carroll
Janet Carol Thiese

(1940-12-24)December 24, 1940
Chicago, Illinois. U.S.
DiedMay 22, 2012(2012-05-22) (aged 71)
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1960s–2011

Carroll's career spanned more than four decades and included major roles in Broadway musicals and Hollywood productions, but was perhaps most recognized for her portrayal of the oblivious mother of Joel (Tom Cruise) in the 1983 film Risky Business.

Life and careerEdit

Carroll was born Janet Carol Thiese in Chicago, the daughter of Hilda Catherine (née Patton) and George Nicholas Thiese.[1] She received formal theatrical training and began acting professionally in the late 1960s, appearing in numerous productions in local theaters. She then became a regular at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, where she acted during five seasons.

Vocally, she began classical training at age 12 with Dr. Greta Allum in Chicago. Over the years she continued building and expanding her voice and repertoire in formal study with Douglas Susu-Mago. With a fluent ​3 12-octave vocal range, she was able to sing everything from opera to jazz and Broadway style to gospel music and Dixieland genre.[2]

Notably, Carroll sang as a first soprano with the esteemed Canterbury Choral Society in New York City featuring sacred choral masterpieces of J. S. Bach, Antonín Dvořák and Gustav Mahler at Carnegie Hall and other venues across NYC.[2][3]

Carroll then performed in Kansas City and Chicago, assuming significant roles in such musicals as Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, South Pacific and The Pajama Game, before moving to California, where she continued her stage work, winning a Drama-Logue Award for her performance as Klytemnestra in Ezra Pound’s Elektra.[4]

Besides Risky Business, Carroll appeared in more than 20 other films over the next three decades, including Secret Admirer (1985), The Killing Time (1987), Memories of Me (1988), Family Business (1989), Talent for the Game (1991), Destiny Turns on the Radio (1995), Forces of Nature (1999), The Omega Code and Enough (2002), among others. She developed her television career with recurring roles on the series Hill Street Blues (1983, 1986 as Peggy LaRue Nelson), The Bronx Zoo (1987 as Carol Danzig), Murphy Brown (1990–96, as Doris Dial, stoic anchorman Charles Kimbrough's wife), Melrose Place (1993–97, as Marion Shaw, Kimberly's mother), Married... with Children (1994–97, as Gary, Al Bundy's boss)[5], and Still Standing (2002–04, as Helen Michaels).

From 2004 to 2005, she starred on Broadway creating the role of "Aunt March" in the original musical Little Women, which is based in the 1869 novel of the same title written by American author Louisa May Alcott.[6] She promoted brands such as Century 21, Diet Coke, Outback Steakhouse and Holiday Inn, among others, in television advertisement spots.[7]

Since 1982, she had performed as a singer at Jazz Festivals throughout the United States and Canada, being accompanied by her seven piece format, while interpreting traditional jazz, swing, blues, and classic ballads or the Great American Songbook.[6] She performed in Victoria and Vancouver summer festivals in British Columbia, as well as in Monterey, Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Santa Catalina Island, and New Orleans stages, along with concerts at United Service Organizations shows, the Palmer House in Chicago, the Fountaineblue in Miami Beach, the Ritz-Carlton chain, the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and the San Antonio River Walk (San Antonio, Texas).[6] At the Redding Jazz Festival, she was honored with an award for Best Vocalist. In 2004, she was the featured performer at the Porrath Foundation for Cancer Patient Advocacy Event tribute to film star Rhonda Fleming.[6]

After twelve years of formal training Janet Carroll was ordained and licensed at the West Los Angeles' Church of Inner Light.[7] An active participant in social issues, Carroll was a longstanding member of the Screen Actor's Guild and American Federation of Radio Artists and Actors Equity Association. She also served as the Artistic Director of The Jazz Series at Simi Valley's Cultural Arts Center. She was a V.P. on the Executive Board Of Directors of The Society of Singers, and founder and co-chair of The Victory Ball in Westport, Connecticut, annually benefiting the ALS Foundation (ALS is also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease).[6]

In 1992, Carroll collaborated as a singer on the album This Joint Is Jumpin' Live! – Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band, a recording project led by dixieland trombonist and actor Conrad Janis.[8] She later released her solo albums Presenting... Janet Carroll and the Hollywood Jazz Cats (1992),[9] I Can't Give You Anything But Love (2000),[9][10] I'll Be Seeing You (2000)[9][11] and Lady Be Good (2010).[12]

By 2011, she was preparing the production of her fourth and fifth records titled A Tribute to the Great Ladies of Song! and Scorch Your Shorts Torch Songs!. She was diagnosed with brain cancer later that year and took a leave of absence. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy without success.[7] She had two sons.[7]


Carroll died on May 22, 2012, from brain cancer at her home in Manhattan, aged 71.[7]


  1. ^ "Janet Carroll biography". Film Reference. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Feinstein's at Loews Regency – Janet Carroll biography". Retrieved February 29, 2016.
  3. ^ Canterbury Choral Society official website. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
  4. ^ "Actress Janet Carroll dies at 71". Variety. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
  5. ^ Janet Carroll as Gary
  6. ^ a b c d e "Little Women: The Broadway Musical – The Cast: Janet Carroll as Aunt March".
  7. ^ a b c d e "Times Square Chronicles – Janet Carroll passes away". Archived from the original on March 22, 2015. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
  8. ^ – This Joint Is Jumpin Live! info, Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c "Janet Carroll official website". Archived from the original on May 25, 2012.
  10. ^ I Can't Give You Anything But Love at AllMusic
  11. ^ I'll Be Seeing You at AllMusic
  12. ^ Lady Be Good at AllMusic

External linksEdit