Paula Kelly (actress)

Paula Kelly (born October 21, 1943) is a dancer, singer, and actress in films, television and theatre. Kelly made her Broadway debut as Mrs. Veloz in the 1964 musical Something More!, sharing the stage with Barbara Cook. Her other Broadway credits include The Dozens (1969), Paul Sills' Story Theatre (1971), Ovid's Metamorphoses (1971), and Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies (1981) with Gregory Hines and Phyllis Hyman.

Paula Kelly
Paula Kelly in Bubbling Brown Sugar.JPG
Paula Kelly, ca. 1977
Born (1943-10-21) October 21, 1943 (age 76)
EducationFiorello H. LaGuardia High School
OccupationActress, dancer
Years active1968–2011
Don Chaffey
(m. 1985; died 1990)
Angie Dickinson and Kelly in an episode of the NBC TV series Police Woman (1976)

Early yearsEdit

Born in Jacksonville, Florida,[1] the daughter of a jazz musician, Kelly was raised in New York City's Harlem. She attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art, majoring in music, and continued her studies at the Juilliard School of Music, where she majored in dance under Martha Hill. Graduating with an M.S. degree, she performed as a soloist with major modern dance companies such as Martha Graham, Donald McKayle, and Alvin Ailey.


Kelly performed as guest artist and sometimes assistant choreographer for numerous television musical specials, including Sammy and Friends (starring Sammy Davis, Jr.); co-choreographer of the BBC production of Peter Pan, in which she also performed the role of Tiger-Lily; Quincy Jones' TV tribute to Duke Ellington, We Love You Madly; The Richard Pryor Show; and Gene Kelly's New York, New York, in which the two Kellys performed a duet.

Kelly performed a dance solo at the 41st Academy Awards for the nominated title song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). She appeared on the London stage in Sweet Charity with dancer and actress Juliet Prowse, for which Kelly won the London Variety Award for Best Supporting Actress. She starred in the record-breaking west coast premiere of Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope at the Mark Taper Forum, for which she was awarded the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, Variety, and the first of three NAACP Image Awards.[2]

Kelly's film credits include the Bob Fosse-directed film Sweet Charity; Soylent Green; The Spook Who Sat by the Door; The Andromeda Strain; Uptown Saturday Night; Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling; Drop Squad; and Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored. Kelly had a recurring role as Liz Williams on the first season of the sitcom Night Court, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. Kelly also guest-starred in a variety of television movies and sitcoms, including Sanford and Son, Kojak, Police Woman, Golden Girls, Good Times, Any Day Now and in the Oprah Winfrey-produced TV mini-series The Women of Brewster Place (based on the 1982 novel of the same name by Gloria Naylor), in which she portrayed one half of a lesbian couple (with Lonette McKee) struggling against homophobia in an inner-city ghetto. She was nominated for a second Emmy for her role in The Women of Brewster Place.

Personal lifeEdit

Kelly married British born director Don Chaffey in 1985. They had one child together before Chaffey died in 1990.[3]



Paula Kelly (third from right) in Sweet Charity (1969). Chita Rivera is second from right.
Year Title Role Notes
1969 Sweet Charity Helene
1971 The Andromeda Strain Karen Anson
1972 Cool Breeze Martha Harris
1972 Top of the Heap Black Chick
1972 Trouble Man Cleo
1973 Soylent Green Martha
1973 The Spook Who Sat by the Door Dahomey Queen
1974 Three Tough Guys Fay
1974 Lost in the Stars Rose
1974 Uptown Saturday Night Leggy Peggy
1976 Drum Rachel
1986 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling Satin Doll
1993 Bank Robber Mother
1994 Drop Squad Aunt Tilly
1995 Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored Ma Pearl


Year Title Role Notes
1973 The Carol Burnett Show Dance Instructor "6.22”
1970 The Young Lawyers Wilma "A Busload of Bishops"
1970 Medical Center Ellie James "The Rebel in White"
1973 Sanford and Son Olayia "Lamont Goes African"
1974 Medical Center Ames "Saturday's Child"
1975 Cannon Cora Bloom "The Wedding March"
1975 The Streets of San Francisco Carol "Men Will Die"
1975-77 Police Woman Linda Summers "The Company", "Wednesday's Child", "Once a Snitch"
1976 The Streets of San Francisco A. Chamberlain "The Thrill Killers: Parts 1 & 2"
1976 Peter Pan Tiger Lily TV film
1976 Insight Grace (Holy Ghost) "Jesus B.C."
1977 The Richard Pryor Show Betty 'Satin Doll' "1.1"
1977 Kojak Janet Carlisle "The Queen of Hearts Is Wild"
1979 Good Times Dr. Kelly "Where Have All the Doctors Gone?"
1980 The Cheap Detective Inez Krowder TV short
1981 Insight "A Step Too Slow"
1981 Trapper John, M.D. Betty Simons "Straight and Narrow"
1983 Chiefs Liz Watts "Part 3"
1983 Feel the Heat Sally Long TV series
1984 Night Court Liz Williams Main role
1984 Hot Pursuit Connie "Portrait of a Lady Killer"
1984-85 Santa Barbara Ginger Jones Recurring role
1985 Hill Street Blues Mrs. Eagleton "Davenport in a Storm"
1985 Finder of Lost Loves Alice Taylor-Hancock "Aftershocks"
1986 St. Elsewhere Sylvia "Cheek to Cheek"
1986 Amen Leona "Rolly Falls in Love"
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Cassy TV film
1987 CBS Summer Playhouse Lt. Lois Poole "Kung Fu: The Next Generation"
1987 The Golden Girls Marguerite Brown "The Housekeeper"
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Theresa TV miniseries
1989 Mission: Impossible Pepper Leveau "Bayou"
1990 American Playhouse "Zora Is My Name!"
1991 Baby Talk Claire "Give a Sucker an Even Break", "The Whiz Kid", "Tooth and Nail"
1992 Room for Two Diahnn Boudreau "Not Quite... Room for Two", "Little White Lies"
1994 South Central Sweets "Pilot", "Men", "Gun: Part 2", "Date"
1995 University Hospital Dr. Leslie Bauer "Shadow of a Doubt"
1996 Run for the Dream: The Gail Devers Story Mrs. Devers TV film
1999 Any Day Now "Family Is Family"


  1. ^ Burrell, Walter (April 20, 1968). "Paula Kelly Is Star Bound". The Pittsburgh Courier. p. 13. Retrieved October 13, 2015 – via  
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ Staff writers (1990-11-19). "Don Chaffey; Directed Films, TV, Disney Features". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-11-09.

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