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Madeline Kahn

( b. Sep 29, 1942 Boston, Massachusetts, USA - d. Dec 03, 1999 New York, New York, USA ) Female
Also known as: Madeline Gail Wolfson [Birthname]

Madeline Kahn was an Oscar-nominated comedian best known for her work in the films "Paper Moon" and "Blazing Saddles" and in the Broadway revival of Born Yesterday. Once described as a Botticelli angel cracking a malicious grin, Ms. Kahn was one of the nation's queens of comedy on a par with Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin.

Ms. Kahn was nominated for Academy Awards for best supporting actress two years in a row, for her portrayal of a floozy named Trixie Delight in "Paper Moon" in 1973 and her role as a saloon singer in "Blazing Saddles" in 1974. She was also nominated for Tony Awards for In the Boom Boom Room in 1973; On the 20th Century in 1978, and the revival of Born Yesterday in 1989.

Ms. Kahn made her debut in the chorus line of the 1965 City Center revival of Kiss Me Kate. Her Broadway break was in Leonard Stillman's New Faces of 1968, for which she received glowing reviews. She won a Tony Award for best actress in 1993 with her role as a ditsy matron in the Broadway production of The Sisters Rosensweig.

Ms. Kahn was also known for her roles in the Mel Brooks movies "Young Frankenstein" and "High Anxiety." She had most recently taken on the part of Pauline, a neighbor on the CBS sitcom "Cosby."

Madeline Gail Kahn was born in Boston and grew up there and in New York, the child of divorced middle-class parents. Ms. Kahn took an early interest in acting. She continued to perform while a student at Hofstra University on Long Island. She was cautioned by a teacher that her baby-talk way of speaking -- which has been described as if "filtered through a ceramic nose" -- would be a handicap. But she turned this trait to her advantage. After flirting with a singing career, she made many movies in which she used her voice for comic effect and people remembered it.

Critics and fellow actors said her intuitive comic technique derived partly from the daffy, cartoonish way she spoke, savoring some words and flinging out others as if to pop soap bubbles. In "Blazing Saddles," Ms. Kahn used her classically trained voice in an amusing portrayal of a saloon singer who helps Gene Wilder foil Mel Brooks's evil plan to do in the new sheriff in town.

"She is one of the most talented people that ever lived," Mr. Brooks once said. "I mean, either in stand-up comedy, or acting, or whatever you want, you can't beat Madeline Kahn."

Discussing comic technique and audience reaction in an interview in 1989 just before she opened on Broadway in the Judy Holliday role in Born Yesterday, Ms. Kahn remarked: "Laughter is a strange response. I mean, what is it? It's a spasm of some kind! Is that always joy? It's very often discomfort. It's some sort of explosive reaction."

Flashing a devilish smile, she added musically, "It's very complex."

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
The Sisters Rosensweig
[Play, Original]
  • Starring: Madeline Kahn [Gorgeous Teitelbaum]
Mar 18, 1993 - Jul 16, 1994
Born Yesterday
[Play, Comedy, Revival]
  • Starring: Madeline Kahn [Billie Dawn]
Jan 29, 1989 - Jun 11, 1989
On the Twentieth Century
[Musical, Comedy, Original]
  • Starring: Madeline Kahn [Lily Garland]
Feb 19, 1978 - Mar 18, 1979
Boom Boom Room
[Play, Drama, Original]
  • Performer: Madeline Kahn [Chrissy]
Nov 08, 1973 - Dec 09, 1973
Two By Two
[Musical, Original]
  • Performer: Madeline Kahn [Goldie]
Nov 10, 1970 - Sep 11, 1971
Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1968
[Musical, Revue, Original]
  • Performer: Madeline Kahn
May 02, 1968 - Jun 15, 1968
1993 Tony Award® Best Actress in a Play
winner The Sisters Rosensweig [winner]
Starring: Madeline Kahn
1993 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
winner The Sisters Rosensweig [winner]
Starring: Madeline Kahn
1989 Tony Award® Best Actress in a Play
Born Yesterday [nominee]
Starring: Madeline Kahn
1978 Tony Award® Best Actress in a Musical
On the Twentieth Century [nominee]
Starring: Madeline Kahn
1974 Tony Award® Best Actress in a Play
Boom Boom Room [nominee]
Performer: Madeline Kahn
1974 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Performance
winner Boom Boom Room [winner]
Performer: Madeline Kahn
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