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Carol Bruce, 87; singer, actress had role in ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Carol Bruce, 87, a versatile actress and singer who appeared in Broadway musicals, film and television, most notably as Mama Carlson on the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” died Tuesday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Born Shirley Levy in Great Neck, N.Y., on Nov. 15, 1919, she began her career singing at a nightclub in Montreal in 1937. Her deep, sultry singing voice got her roles in stage musicals, and she made her Broadway debut as Carol Bruce in 1940 in the musical comedy “Louisiana Purchase.”

She signed a contract with Universal Studios, making three films between 1941 and 1942 -- “This Woman Is Mine,” “Keep ‘em Flying” and “Behind the Eight Ball” -- before returning to the stage.

Bruce received critical praise for Broadway performances in a 1946 revival of “Showboat” (as Julie), the 1949 musical revue “Along Fifth Avenue” and the 1965 musical “Do I Hear a Waltz?”

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Though she concentrated on stage roles for the next few decades, she had a few television appearances in the early 1950s and small film roles in the 1980s.

In 1979 she took over the role that Sylvia Sidney had originated on “WKRP in Cincinnati” a year earlier as Mama Carlson, the tough-talking owner of a radio station managed by her son Arthur, played by Gordon Jump. Bruce kept the recurring role until the series ended in 1982. Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s she made guest appearances in network TV series.


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