Who was Nancy Kulp?
Nancy Kulp was an American character actress best recognized for playing the role of Miss Jane Hathaway on the CBS series ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and of May Hopkins on the sitcom ‘Sanford and Son’. She was also famous for playing recurring characters in the TV shows ‘Our Miss Brooks’, ‘Date with the Angels’ and ‘The Bob Cummings Show’. Kulp appeared in guest roles in several television programs, such as ‘The Life of Riley’, ‘It's a Great Life’, ‘Cheyenne’, ‘The Red Skelton Show’, ‘Pete and Gladys’, ‘Petticoat Junction’, ‘Fantasy Island’, ‘Quantum Leap’, ‘Scarecrow and Mrs. King’ and ‘The Love Boat’, to name a few. The actress had contributed to the big screen as well, by appearing in the movies ‘The Marrying Kind’, ‘The Caddy’, ‘Sabrina’, ‘The Shrike’, ‘God Is My Partner’, ‘Kiss Them for Me’, ‘The Parent Trap’ and ‘The Patsy’. She performed on stage too, in the Broadway production of ‘Morning's at Seven’. While most people know her for her illustrious acting career, very few people are aware that Kulp had served in the United States Naval Reserve before entering Hollywood. She received the rank of lieutenant, junior grade and obtained numerous decorations while in the service. Coming to her awards and honors, the actress once won a Primetime Emmy Award nomination under the category Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Kulp, who suffered from cancer during her last days and received chemotherapy for the same, died on February 3, 1991, at age 69.
Childhood & Early Life
Nancy Kulp was born on August 28, 1921 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA as the only child of Marjorie and Robert Tilden Kulp. Her mother worked in a school as a teacher and later a principal, while her father was a traveling salesman.
Kulp attended Florida State University (Florida State College for Women) and graduated from there with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1943. Around this time, she also worked as a writer for ‘Miami Beach Tropics’ newspaper.
She then continued her education at the University of Miami. However, she left the university to join the ladies’ branch of the United States Naval Reserve. After receiving many decorations while in the service, she was discharged from the Reserve in 1946.
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In 1951, Nancy Kulp made her acting debut with the flick ‘The Model and the Marriage Broker’. The following year, she appeared in the movies ‘The Marrying Kind’ and ‘Steel Town’. Soon after this, she was cast as Emma in the Comedy–musical–sports flick ‘The Caddy’.
Then the actress got the opportunity to play the role of a maid in the romantic comedy movie ‘Sabrina’ in 1954. This movie was adapted from Samuel A. Taylor's play titled ‘Sabrina Fair.’ The same year, Kulp guest-starred in the TV dramas ‘Topper’ and ‘December Bride’.
She then joined the cast of ‘The Bob Cummings Show’ as Pamela Livingstone in 1955. That year, she also got featured in a handful of films like ‘The Shrike’, ‘Not as a Stranger’, ‘You're Never Too Young’ and ‘Count Three and Pray’. Kulp also guest-starred in several TV programs that year, including ‘It's a Great Life’, ‘Svengali and the Blonde’, ‘Topper’, ‘Schlitz Playhouse’ and ‘General Electric Theater’.
During 1956 and 1957, the American beauty was cast in recurring roles in the comedy show ‘Our Miss Brooks’ as well as in the sitcom ‘Date with the Angels’. During this time, she also became a part of several films, such as 'Anything Goes', 'God Is My Partner', 'The Three Faces of Eve', 'Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend' and 'Kiss Them for Me'.
From 1958 to 1961, Kulp appeared in episodes of 'Colgate Theatre', 'The Real McCoys', '77 Sunset Strip', 'Playhouse 90', 'Sunday Showcase', 'Bourbon Street Beat', 'Shirley Temple's Storybook', 'Mister Ed' and 'The Jack Benny Program'. She also acted in a few flicks during these years.
Nancy Kulp primarily focused on movies in the 1960s. She appeared in the comedy films ‘Who's Minding the Store’, ‘The Patsy’ and ‘Strange Bedfellows’ as well as in the Western adventure flick ‘The Night of the Grizzly’. She then started playing the role of Mrs. Gruber in the American sitcom ‘The Brian Keith Show’ in 1973.
From 1978 to 1989, Kulp guest-starred in numerous TV shows. This included ‘The Love Boat’, ‘CHiPs’, ‘Return of the Beverly Hillbillies’, ‘The Wilder Summer’, ‘Fantasy Island’, ‘Simon & Simon’, ‘Scarecrow and Mrs. King’, ‘Quantum Leap’ and ‘ABC Afterschool Special’.
In 1984, following her work with the Democratic state committee in the state of Pennsylvania over a period of years, she ran unopposed as the democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's 9th congressional district for United States House of Representatives. Following her defeat, she started working as an artist-in-residence at the private liberal arts college, Juniata College. Eventually, she began to teach acting.
From 1975 to 1976, Nancy Kulp portrayed the character of May Hopkins in the American sitcom ‘Sanford and Son’. The series, which was based on BBC’s ‘Steptoe and Son’ and aired on NBC television network, was known for its edgy running gags, racial humor, and catchphrases.
The actress performed on stage in the production of ‘Morning's at Seven’ from 1980 to 1981. She acted in the play as a replacement for Elizabeth Wilson. Her performance received acclaim from critics.
Awards & Achievements
Nancy Kulp obtained numerous decorations, including the American Campaign Medal, while serving in the United States Naval Reserve before being honorably discharged in 1946.
In 1967, she earned a nomination for the ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ under the category Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance in ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’
Personal Life & Legacy
Nancy Kulp got married to Charles Malcolm in April 1951 in Dade County, Florida. The couple divorced ten years later, in 1961.
The actress was diagnosed with cancer in the year 1990 and received chemotherapy for the same. However, the cancer spread rapidly despite the treatment and she died on February 3, 1991, at a friend’s house in Palm Desert, California. She was 69 that time. She was buried at the Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery.
Nancy Kulp was an avid football fan.
She was fluent in French language.
Her favorite personal quote was “I am a brain symbol, not a sex symbol.