Ann Morgan Guilbert was an American actress who left behind a rich legacy by playing some of the funniest and most remarkable roles on TV during her career. While her acting innings started on stage, she made an enduring impression on the audience with her portrayal of Millie Helper, the meddling-nosy neighbor, on the TV sitcom ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’. She is equally famous for her portrayal of Yetta Rosenberg, the loving grandmother, in the comedy TV series ‘The Nanny’. Guilbert was also an accomplished Broadway actress who had stellar performances in ‘The Billy Barnes Revue’ and ‘A Naked Girl on the Appian Way’ in her portfolio. While she appeared in only a handful of movies, she made sure to leave behind a lasting impression through her performances in ‘The Man from the Diners' Club’ and ‘One Man’s Way’, to name a few. She also won the ‘Robert Altman Award’ for her scene-stealing performance in the dark comedy film ‘Please Give’.
If Ann Morgan Guilbert had managed to follow in her physician father’s footsteps, she would have joined his profession to become a nurse after graduating from the Stanford University. But the curriculum proved to be too difficult for her, and as luck would have it, she landed a role in the stage production of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ at the university. After finding her passion, she graduated from the university, majoring in speech and drama.
While studying at Stanford, she met her future husband, writer and producer George Eckstein. He was the catalyst who pushed her into acting. After graduating, Guilbert moved to Los Angeles with George. It was here that she landed a role in the off-Broadway production of ‘The Billy Barnes Revue’. George became a producer for the play in 1959, and it was eventually performed on Broadway.
During her Broadway performance, Guilbert was spotted by writer-producer Carl Reiner. He cast her in the sitcom ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, which ran from 1961 to 1966. On the show, she played a stereotypical next-door neighbor of Dick Van Dyke's Rob Petrie and his wife Laura. Providing a humorous contrast to Laura Petrie, Guilbert’s portrayal made her a darling of American TV.
She also started quickly making her mark in movies by delivering some great performances in ‘Two for the Seesaw’ (1962), ‘The Man From Diner’s Club’ (1963) and ‘One Man’s Way’ (1964).
In the next few years, Guilbert became a familiar face on TV, and appeared on several series like ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ (1967), ‘Adam-12’ (1968), and ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ (1969), etc. Her characteristic wit and comic timing brought a new dimension to every role that she played.
Guilbert received particular praise for acting in the TV series ‘Dragnet 1967’ (1967, 1970). Her next major role was that of Nora in ‘The New Andy Griffith Show’ (1971). However, the show was panned by audiences and critics alike and ended after airing only 10 episodes.
She remained a regular fixture on TV screens by appearing on several popular series like ‘Love American Style’ (1970 – 1971) and ‘Emergency!’ (1972 – 1974). In 1991, she earned praise for playing Theresa Fanelli in the sitcom ‘The Fanelli Boys’. She also showed her versatility when she stepped away from the sitcom world to portray Myriam Wambaugh in the crime-drama series ‘Picket Fences’ (1992 – 1994).
Comedy remained Guilbert’s forte throughout her career, and she never regretted being cast in sitcoms. Her portrayal of Yetta Rosenberg in the popular sitcom ‘The Nanny’ (1993 – 1999) brought her back into the limelight. And in 2010, she gave a show-stealing performance in the dark comedy film 'Please Give’.
Perhaps it goes to show the longevity of her career that she was cast in the recurring role of Birdy Lamb at the age of 84 on the show ‘Getting On’ (2013 – 2015). The respect she deservedly got from the industry was highlighted when, after her death, an entire episode was dedicated to her in the TV series ‘Life in Pieces’ (2016), in which she played the character of GiGi.
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Family & Personal Life
Ann Morgan Guilbert was born on October 16, 1928, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA to Dr. Gerald Guilbert, a physician, and Cornelia Guilbert. She graduated from Solomon Juneau High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1946. Later, she enrolled in Stanford University, graduating from there with a major in speech and drama in 1950.
She met her future husband George Eckstein, a theatre major, while studying at the Stanford. The couple got married in 1951, and divorced in 1966. They had two children together, acting coach-writer Nora Eckstein (born February 4, 1955) and actress Hallie Jane Eckstein (born on January 7, 1962).
She met Guy Raymond when he was a married man. She married him on September 8, 1969. Raymond passed away on January 26, 1997. Ann Morgan Guilbert succumbed to pancreatic cancer on June 14, 2016.