Bibiana Maria Köchert, known as Bibi Besch, was an Austrian-American actress. She garnered prominence for her performances on all three major mediums of performing arts. A native of Vienna, Besch immigrated to the United States of America along with her mother and sister after the end of the World War II. She was raised in Chappaqua, New York, and later moved to the New York City to pursue an acting career. Besch made her screen debut in 1964 in the television show ‘NBC Children's Theatre’. She had her big screen debut over a decade later, in the 1975 romance drama ‘Distance’. Over the course of her 42-year-long career, some of the most important roles she played were Ms. Worthington in ‘Who’s That Girl’, Belle Marmillion in ‘Steel Magnolias’, and Megan Wallace in ‘Tremors’. Her most popular role is unarguably that of Dr. Carol Marcus in the science fiction film ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’. Besch was a two-time Primetime Emmy Award nominee.
In 1964, Bibi Besch had her screen debut in the episode ‘Robin Hood’ of ‘NBC Children's Theatre’, portraying the character Hypatia. She then played Janet Hill in CBS’ soap opera ‘The Secret Room’ from 1966 to 1967 and Susan Forbes in another CBS soap opera, ‘The Edge of Night’. In 1974, she was cast as Eve Lawrence Paisley in four episodes of the NBC soap opera, ‘Somerset’.
The 1975 romance drama ‘Distance’ was her first big screen appearance. She played Joanne Morse in the film that also stars Paul Benjamin, Eija Pokkinen, and James Woods. That year, she also appeared in her debut telefilm, ‘First Ladies Diaries: Martha Washington’, portraying the historical figure Sally Fairfax.
Besch played a variety of roles in TV shows like ‘Love Is a Many Splendored Thing’, ‘Dallas’, ‘The Golden Girls’, ‘Murder, She Wrote’, ‘Backstairs at the White House’, ‘It's Garry Shandling's Show’, and ‘Date with an Angel’. In 1982, she was cast as Dr. Carol Marcus, a love interest of Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.’ The role garnered her credibility in the American pop culture.
She earned her first Emmy nomination (for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special) for portraying Lisa Carter in the 1992 telefilm ‘Doing Time on Maple Drive’. She was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 1993 for her performance as Jane O'Connell in CBS’ comedy-drama ‘Northern Exposure’. In 1984, she received the dubious honour of being nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress for her appearance as Veronica Randall in Critically panned drama, ‘The Lonely Lady’.
She played the recurring character Lois in NBC’s ‘The Jeff Foxworthy Show’ and guest-starred in the first episode of season five of Fox’s primetime soap opera ‘Melrose Place’. Her final project was the 1999 romantic comedy ‘California Myth’, which was released about three years after her death.
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Family & Personal Life
Born on February 1, 1942, in Vienna, Austria, Bibi Besch was the daughter of Gusti Huber and Gotfrid Köchert. Her mother was an actress while her father was an Austrian racing car driver who later flew planes for the Wehrmacht. She and her older sister, Christiana Barbara Köchert, stayed with their mother in Vienna until the end of the war. They then immigrated to the United States and Huber, now a divorcee, married radio executive and former U.S. Army captain Joseph Besch. Gusti and her daughters went on to adopt the surname of her new husband. Besch later had two half-siblings, Drea and Andrew, through her mother’s marriage to Joseph.
Besch was raised in Chappaqua, New York, alongside Christiana, Drea, and Andrew. After studying at a local elementary, she attended Horace Greeley High School, graduating in 1959. She subsequently enrolled at Connecticut College for Women, only to drop out later and relocate to the New York City in pursuit of an acting career.
In 1965, Besch married civil rights activist and US government official Donald B. Mathis. They had a daughter together, actress Samantha Mathis, and parted ways in 1973.
Death & Legacy
Bibi Besch passed away on September 7, 1996, after losing a long battle to breast cancer. She was 54 years old at the time. She is considered to be one of the most prominent Austrian expatriates in the American film industry.