Mary Grace Canfield, a character actress best known as part of the daffy Ralph-and-Alf brother-sister carpenter team on the TV comedy “Green Acres,” died Saturday in a Santa Barbara hospice. She was 89.
The cause was lung cancer, her daughter Phoebe Alexiades said.
On “Green Acres,” Canfield was Ralph Monroe, who, with her brother Alf, was perennially working on the bedroom of a city slicker couple (Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor) at their newly acquired farm near Hooterville. She was a down-home gal in bib overalls and a white painter’s cap worn backward, a funny, plain-spoken woman doing “man’s work” before feminism made the term quaint.
The show ran from 1965 to 1971. Looking back at it, Canfield had mixed feelings.
“To be remembered for Ralph kind of upsets me — only in the sense that it was so easy and undemanding,” she said in a 2006 interview with the Bangor Daily News in Maine, where she lived for many years. “It’s being known for something easy to do instead of something you worked hard to achieve.”
Canfield also appeared on TV in “Bewitched,” “General Hospital,” “The Love Boat” and other shows. In a memorable 1963 episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” she was Gomer Pyle’s blind date; the two socially awkward, lovable bumpkins defied everyone’s expectations and had a wonderful time, jitterbugging.
Born in Rochester, N.Y., on Sept. 3, 1924, Canfield attended an acting school run by famed teacher Jason Deeter in Rose Valley, Pa.
“I didn’t want to go to college because I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “Later, when I asked my parents what they thought of this little skinny girl wanting to be an actress, they said they were so relieved that I wanted to do something.’'
Canfield appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway plays before heading to Hollywood. Her early TV shows included “The Hathaways,” a 1961-62 sitcom about a Los Angeles couple and their three performing chimps. Canfield played the housekeeper.
Her film work includes a role as the ironically named Angelica, a sourpuss upstairs maid in “Pollyanna” (1960). In “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” a 1983 adaptation of a Ray Bradbury story, she plays a seventh-grade teacher whose world is shattered by a diabolical traveling circus.
Canfield lived in Montecito from 1968 to 1984 and then moved to Sedgwick, Maine. She had fallen in love with the state during summer stock productions there years before, her daughter said.
She relocated to Santa Barbara in 2011, when her health was declining.
Her first marriage, to Charles Carey, ended in divorce in 1955.
In addition to daughter Phoebe, Canfield is survived by John Bischof, her husband of 25 years; daughter Alison Carey; and three grandsons.