Actress Barbara Perry, known for her roles on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and most recently “Baskets,” died on Sunday, May 5, in Los Angeles of natural causes. She was 97.
In a career spanning eight decades, Perry had memorable roles in film, television, and was also a veteran Broadway performer.
Born on June 22, 1921, in Norfolk, Virginia, Perry grew up in a household filled with the arts. Both her parents worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York—her father as a keyboardist and conductor, and her mother as a choral singer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“SHE WAS THE ORIGINAL PICKLES.” That’s an odd way of explaining Barbara Perry’s fame. But if you try to instantly match a face to a name for someone, that would be it. Barbara Perry was 97, and had many other credits including recent sitcom work on Louie Anderson’s show. pic.twitter.com/dMT9DvulNL
— Ronald L. Smith (@smithronaldl) May 6, 2019
Perry started her stage career at a young age. When she was 4 years old, Perry made her debut in the Metropolitan Opera of New York’s “Madame Butterfly” production.
Following her Met premiere, she went on to study dancing and perform at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1930s.
“She danced every single day from the time she was around five years old,” her daughter, Laurel Lee, told the New York Daily News. “She was even dancing on her deathbed. We had music on and she was lying there with tubes everywhere giggling and winking at us. She was just adorable.”
In 1933 she made her first film debut in William Wyler’s “Counsellor at Law” starring John Barrymore. Then, two years later, she had an uncredited role in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” according to IMDb. She also appeared in such films as “Tap” (1989), “Father of the Bride” (1991), “Just Write” (1997), “Mr. Woodcock” (2007), and “The Back-up Plan” (2010).
Eventually, she made her way onto the Broadway stage, where, in 1946 she appeared in “Swan Song” and later that year, “If the Shoe Fits.” She also appeared in “Happy as Larry” (1950), “Rumple” (1957) where she danced opposite Eddie Foy Jr., and in 1981 she wrote and performed in award-winning one-woman show “Passionate Ladies,” according to The Broadway League.
“She just loved people, and she loved life. It was like love overload with her,” Lee told the New York Daily News.
Perry also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in the ’50s and ’60s, according to Deadline.
However, Perry is best known for her roles in various TV series.
She appeared in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as Buddy Sorrell’s wife Pickles. She also made appearances in “The Donna Reed Show,” The Hathaways,” “My Three Sons,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Bewitched” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”
She also appeared in CBS show “How I Met Your Mother,” where she played the neighbor who gives love advice to Ted for two episodes, and most recently, she played a gift shop employee in FX’s “Baskets” (2017).
“It was her final job. It was just the most charming show. The performances were so touching,” Lee told the New York Daily News.
Last October, she received the Founders Award from SAG-AFTRA for her historic contributions to the union, according to the official website of SAG-AFTRA.
She is survived by her daughter, Laurel Lee, granddaughter Audrey Lee and stepdaughters Karin and Michele. Perry was the widow of Disney Animation pioneer Art Babbitt, who was known for such films “Dumbo,” “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs,” and “Pinnochio.” They were married from 1967 to his death in 1992.