Dixie Carter

Actor, Singer
Actress Dixie Carter belied the stereotypical image of a Southern belle with her smart choices in roles that often showcased strong-willed and steely characters. Audiences loved her as the classy-yet-brassy Julia ... Read more »
Born: 05/24/1939 in McLemoresville, Tennessee, USA

Filmography

Actor (57)

One Life to Live 1967 - 2010 (TV Show)

Actor

Our First Christmas 2008 - 2009 (TV Show)

Actor

That Evening Sun 2009 (Movie)

Ellen Meecham (Actor)

Desperate Housewives 2006 - 2007 (Tv Show)

Actor

Hope & Faith 2005 (Tv Show)

Actor

Comfort and Joy 2003 - 2004 (TV Show)

Actor

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 2004 (Tv Show)

Actor

Reading Rainbow 1982 - 2003 (TV Show)

Narrator

The Designing Women Reunion 2002 - 2003 (TV Show)

Actor

Christy 1994 - 1995, 1997 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Diagnosis Murder 1994 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Family Law 1999 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Fired Up 1997 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Ladies Man 1999 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Holidays With the Stars 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Intimate Portrait: Sharon Lawrence 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Narrator

The 2001 Genesis Awards 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

The 27th Annual People's Choice Awards 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

The 54th Annual Tony Awards (CBS) 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Southern Living: Our Holiday Memories 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment 1999 (Movie)

(Actor)

We Met on the Vineyard 1998 (Movie)

Carol Kendrick (Actor)

The 51st Annual Tony Awards 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Judith Kranz's Dazzle 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Cabaret 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Designing Women 1986 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

The Ninth Annual Soap Opera Awards 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

All New Circus of the Stars & Side Show 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Hope's 1990 Christmas Show From Bermuda 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Face to Face With Connie Chung (05/14/90) 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Soap Opera Awards 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

The 41st Annual Emmy Awards 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

The 44th Annual Tony Awards 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

US Magazine -- Live at the Emmys! 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Diff'rent Strokes 1978 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

The Edge of Night 1955 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

Going Berserk 1983 (Movie)

Angela (Actor)

The Greatest American Hero 1980 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

Bret Maverick 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

Lou Grant 1977 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

Out of the Blue 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)

Actor

Quincy, M.E. 1976 (TV Show)

Actor

Filthy Rich (TV Show)

Actor

Gone in the Night (TV Show)

Actor

Ohms (TV Show)

Actor

On Our Own (TV Show)

Actor
Music (1)

The Kentucky Derby 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Song Performer

Biography

Actress Dixie Carter belied the stereotypical image of a Southern belle with her smart choices in roles that often showcased strong-willed and steely characters. Audiences loved her as the classy-yet-brassy Julia Sugarbaker on "Designing Women" (CBS, 1986-1993), a Southern-flavored sitcom centered on four women who worked together at an interior design firm. On "Designing Women," Carter imbued her character with the perfect combination of wit, charm and beauty, and helped make the series one of the network's most watched shows during its seven-year run. The theater-trained actress' career peaked with the CBS series, but she remained a vibrant figure on television and was highly sought out to play tough characters such as a lawyer on "Family Law" (CBS, 1999-2002) or an overbearing matriarch on "Ladies Man" (CBS, 1999-2001). In 2007, Carter revived her career with a critically acclaimed performance on the comedy "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004- ), playing a Machiavellian mother obsessed with her son. Whether playing the strong women she became known for or belting out a song on Broadway, Carter's long acting career was a testament to her undeniable talent and versatility and her happy marriage to fellow actor Hal Holbrook was an inspiration in an industry sometimes brutal on interpersonal relationships.

Dixie Virginia Carter was born on May 25, 1939 in McLemoresville, TN. As a young child, Carter aspired to be an opera singer; however, a botched tonsillectomy at age seven foiled that dream. In spite of the unfortunate incident, Carter sang, studied classical music, and learned to play the piano, trumpet and the harmonica before graduating with an English degree from Memphis State University. In 1960, she made her acting debut in a local production of "Carousel" and followed that up with several soprano lead performances on "The King and I," "Babes in Arms" and "Oklahoma!" She moved to New York in 1963 and landed a role in an off-Broadway production of William Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale." Carter was slowly making a name for herself in New York, but she left her promising career to get married and raise two children.

After an eight-year absence spent nurturing her family, Carter returned to acting and began a long career on television with a featured role as a lawyer on the popular daytime soap opera "The Edge of Night" (CBS, 1956-1975; ABC, 1975-1984). She appeared as a series regular on the CBS drama "On Our Own" (1977-78), playing a copywriter at a New York advertising agency, as well as in a starring role on the ABC comedy "Out of the Blue" (1979). By the early 1980s, Carter's television career was in full swing. Carter made numerous guest appearances on various TV programs like the action adventure series "The Greatest American Hero" (ABC, 1981-83), the Angie Dickinson crime drama "Cassie & Co." (NBC, 1982), and the mystery thriller "Quincy, M.E." (NBC, 1976-1983), in which she played a doctor. Carter also starred in the comedy series "Filthy Rich" (CBS, 1982-83) as a snobby heiress forced to live with her father's illegitimate son and his family. It was the show that first brought Carter and Delta Burke together as TV sisters. The duo's chemistry did not go unnoticed, but the show soon suffered from competition from other more established hit programs and it was canceled after one season. However, Carter's luck was about to change.

Parlaying her burgeoning fame into a career-defining role, Carter was cast on the top-rated series "Designing Women," which followed four women - played by her former "Filthy Rich" co-star Burke, Annie Potts and Jean Smart - working together in an Atlanta interior design firm. As the company's owner, Julia Sugarbaker, Carter was sophisticated, practical, and an liberal feminist who was often at odds with her self-absorbed and haughty beauty queen sister, Suzanne (Burke). "Designing Women" made Carter a household name and also provided her a chance to work with the award-winning actor Hal Holbrook, who had a recurring role on the show as Julia's suitor. A smitten Holbrook married the twice-divorced Carter in real life in 1984 and the couple began one of Hollywood's happiest unions. While "Designing Women" focused on the lives and loves of the four women on the show, it was also highly praised for tackling timely - even controversial - topics such as racism, homosexuality and spousal abuse. Ironically, the biggest controversy that arose from the show was Burke's falling out with her co-stars - particularly Carter - and the show's producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason over Burke's weight gain and her diva-like attitude on-set during the show's last two seasons. While all four women received top billing and equal screen time, Burke slowly emerged as the sitcom's biggest star, causing tension among the cast and Bloodworth-Thomason. Carter's riff with Burke was perhaps the most bitter as the two women were close friends; Carter was even the maid of honor at Burke's wedding to actor Gerald McRaney in 1989. Ultimately, Burke's litigious relationship with Thomason resulted with Burke being fired at the end of the fifth season and the show ending after a successful seven-year run, during which time it had been cancelled by CBS execs and saved by a loyal and vocal audience.

After her stint on "Designing Women" ended, Carter's popularity waned slightly. In response, she started taking on projects that surprised even her core group of fans. In 1992, she produced and starred in "Dixie Carter's Unworkout," a 70-minute yoga routine that showed a silk pajama-clad Carter guiding viewers through various stretching and breathing exercises while making them laugh with her self-deprecating commentaries. She also wrote the book Trying to Get to Heaven: Opinions of a Tennessee Talker (1996), where she opined about all sorts of topics ranging from her secrets to inner and outer beauty to tips on finding lasting happiness. After an unsuccessful attempt at becoming a fitness trainer and author, Carter went back to her television roots, appearing on various series such as "Diagnosis Murder" (CBS, 1993-2001) as a lawyer and the short-lived comedy, "Ladies Man" where she was a manipulative mother. Carter had a recurring role on "Family Law," playing a Southern belle who had killed her abusive husband before becoming a sharp-tongued lawyer with a deep-rooted hatred for all men.

In 2006, Carter gained a new generation of fans with a memorable role on "Desperate Housewives" as Kyle MacLachlan's devious mother who harbors a very dangerous obsession with her son. The series creator, Marc Cherry, had at one time been Carter's personal assistant years prior and felt she would be the best person for the part. The performance earned Carter an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2007. The following year, she starred in the inspiring made-for-TV drama, "Our First Christmas," about a newly blended family who clash over their conflicting holiday traditions. In 2009, Carter acted opposite her husband in the critically acclaimed film "That Evening Sun," playing Holbrook's long-dead wife who keeps reappearing in his dreams. It would be one of her final performances. Shockingly, on April 10, 2010, Carter passed away of undisclosed causes, with her famous husband releasing only the briefest of statements: "This has been a terrible blow to our family. We would appreciate everyone understanding that this is a private family tragedy. Thank you."

Relationships

Virginia Carter

Mother

Arthur Carter

Husband
Married Dec. 2, 1967 Divorced 1977

Halbert Carter

Father

Ginna Carter

Daughter
Born c. 1970 father, Arthur Carter

Mary Carter

Daughter
Born c. 1972 father, Arthur Carter

Halbert Carter

Brother

George Hearn Actor

Husband
Married 1977 Divorced 1979

Melba Heath

Sister

Hal Holbrook Actor

Husband
Acted together in the TV-movie "The Killing of Randy Webster" (1981) Married May 27, 1984 until her death April 10, 2010 Holbrook had recurring role as the boyfriend of Carter's character Julia Sugarbaker on "Designing Women" (CBS)

EDUCATION

Southwestern at Memphis

Memphis , Tennessee
Now know as Rhodes College

Huntingdon High School

Huntingdon , Tennessee
Graduated with the Mathematics Award and as valedictorian of her class

University of Tennessee

Knoxville , Tennessee

Memphis State University

Memphis , Tennessee
Now known as University of Memphis

Milestones

2009

Co-starred with her husband Hal Holbrook in her final film appearance, "That Evening Sun"

2006

Had a recurring role on ABC's "Desperate Housewives" as Orson's (Kyle MacLachlan) mother; re-teamed with creator Marc Cherry who was once her personal assistant; earned an Emmy nomination for the role

2004

Guest-starred on an episode of NBC's "Law and Order: SVU" playing a defense attorney named Denise Brockmorton

2004

Played the role of Mrs. Meers in the Broadway musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie"

1999

Had recurring role as Lawrence's mother in the CBS sitcom "Ladies Man"

1999

Portrayed Randi King on the CBS legal drama "Family Law"

1997

First played Sharon Lawrence's mother in an episode of the NBC sitcom "Fired Up"

1997

Replaced Patti LuPone in the role of Maria Callas in the Broadway production of "Master Class"

1994

Acted with husband Hal Holbrook in "A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Lethal Lifestyle" (NBC)

1994

Portrayed Lillie Langtry in "The Gambler V: Playing For Keeps," a CBS miniseries starring Kenny Rogers

1993

Performed live at the White House, singing three songs as part of "Cabaret" (aired on PBS in 1994)

1992

Released "Dixie Carter's Unworkout" exercise tape

1989

Began annual nightclub engagements singing at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City

1986

Played interior decorator Julia Sugarbaker on the successful CBS sitcom "Designing Women"; re-teamed with Bloodworth-Thomason and Burke

1984

Played the recurring role of Maggie McKinney, Mr. Drummond's girlfriend, on NBC's popular sitcom "Different Strokes"; role later played by Mary Ann Mobley

1983

Made film debut in the comedy "Going Berserk"

1983

Made London stage debut as Liz Conlon in "Buried Inside Extra" at the Royal Court Theatre

1982

First collaboration with producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, played the role of Carlotta Beck, on the CBS comedy "Filthy Rich"; Delta Burke was also prominent in cast

1981

Met future husband Hal Holbrook while starring opposite him in the CBS movie "The Killing of Randy Webster"

1980

Played Hannah Mae Bindler in New York stage production of "A Couple of White Chicks Sitting Around Talking"

1979

Portrayed Aunt Marion on short-lived ABC comedy "Out of the Blue"

1977

Cast in the role of copywriter April Baxter on the CBS sitcom "On Our Own"

1976

Appeared as Melba in New York stage revival of "Pal Joey"

1974

First appeared on television in the role of Brandy Henderson on long-running ABC soap opera "The Edge of Night"

1974

Returned to acting after an eight-year hiatus to co-star on Broadway in the musical "Sextet"

1963

Made off-Broadway debut as Perdita in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "A Winter's Tale"

1961

Made stage debut as Julie in "Carousel" at the Front Street Theatre in Memphis

1959

Placed first runner-up in the Miss Tennessee pageant

Bonus Trivia

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Nervously referring to her engagement as a nightclub chanteuse in New York City, Carter drawled, "You're going to see a middle-aged woman make a big fool of herself, but I think it's gonna work." - quoted in People magazine, April 29, 1991

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"You know, being in movies or on TV does not give one any psychic income, and that's a horrible, callous fact. Hollywood is where we live because I like to live well, and I earn a good living there. But if you want psychic rewards, you don't get it looking into the eye of a camera. You need a live audience." - Carter to the Daily News, Jan. 28, 1997

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The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center (informally called "The Dixie") in Huntingdon, TN is named in honor of Carter.

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In 1996, Carter published a memoir titled Trying to Get to Heaven, in which she talked frankly about her life with Hal Holbrook, Designing Women, and her plastic surgery during the show's run.

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