Inga Swenson

Actor
A schooled stage actress, Inga Swenson became nationally known as the formidable Gretchen Kraus, bane of Robert Guillaume's existence on the long-running ABC series "Benson" (1979-1986). She so convincingly played the ... Read more »
Born: 12/29/1932 in Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Filmography

Actor (16)

Doctor, Doctor 1988 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Benson 1979 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

My Dear Uncle Sherlock 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Actor

The Betsy 1977 (Movie)

Mrs Craddock (Actor)

Advise and Consent 1962 (Movie)

Ellen Anderson (Actor)

DuPont Show of the Month 1957 - 1961 (TV Show)

Actor

The Miracle Worker 1961 (Movie)

Kate Keller (Actor)

Bay Coven (TV Show)

Actor

Bonanza (TV Show)

Actor

Earth II (TV Show)

Actor

North and South (TV Show)

Actor

North and South: Book II (TV Show)

Actor

Testimony of Two Men (TV Show)

Actor

The Terrible Secret (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

A schooled stage actress, Inga Swenson became nationally known as the formidable Gretchen Kraus, bane of Robert Guillaume's existence on the long-running ABC series "Benson" (1979-1986). She so convincingly played the German-born housekeeper that some might find it difficult to believe she was born and raised in Omaha, NE. Swenson later played the matriarch Maude Hazzard on "North and South" (ABC, 1985) and its sequel, and Matt Frewer's mother on "Doctor, Doctor" (CBS, 1990-1991).

From the age of 15, Swenson was acting professionally on stage, debuting in summer stock as the maid in "Peg o' My Heart" at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, MA. She made her Broadway debut as one of the "New Faces of '56" before training under Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof and Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Highlights of her prolific stage career include Princess Charlotte in "The First Gentleman" (1957), for which she won an Outer Circle Critics Award. She won another Outer Critics Circle Award, and also was nominated for a Tony Award for her work as the aging spinster Lizzie in "110 in the Shade", a musicalized version of "The Rainmaker", which she played on Broadway in 1963, on tour from 1963-1964, and in London in 1967. Swenson received another Tony nomination for the Sherlock Holmes musical "Baker Street" (1965). She also spent a season with the American Shakespeare Festival in 1958, where she played Ophelia and has played classic roles ranging from Desdemona in an Arena Stage (Washington, DC) production of "Othello" (1963), to Eliza Doolittle in a 1968 Broadway revival of "My Fair Lady".

Swenson's TV work began with a singing performance on the Canadian Broadcasting Company's "Chrysler Special" (1957). Trivia enthusiasts may recall that she played the mother of Hoss Cartwright in several flashback episodes of "Bonanza" (NBC), beginning in 1962. Swenson made her TV-movie debut in 1971 playing a Russian member of a space outpost in "Earth II" (ABC) and later co-starred in "Testimony of Two Men" (syndicated, 1977), and played stage star Nora Bayes in "Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women" (NBC, 1978). Her feature film work has been sporadic: she was the wife of a closeted homosexual in "Advise and Consent" (1962) and was mother to Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker" (1962). Swenson also appeared as a nun in "Lipstick" (1976) and had a small role in "The Betsy" (1978).

Relationships

A C R Swenson

Father

Geneva Swenson

Mother

Lowell Harris

Husband
married in 1953

James Harris

Son
died in a 1987 motorcycle accident at age 26 had daughter Lily (born c. 1987)

Mark Harris

Son
born c. 1953

EDUCATION

Northwestern University

Evanston , Illinois 1954

Actors Studio

New York , New York 1958
studied with Lee Strasberg

HB Studios

New York , New York 1954
studied with Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof

Milestones

1991

"Retired" from acting (date approximate)

1985

Played Maude Hazzard in "North and South" (ABC)

1979

Co-starred as Gretchen Krause on "Benson" (ABC)

1978

Played Nora Bayes in "Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women" (NBC)

1970

TV-movie debut in "Earth II" (ABC)

1967

London stage debut, recreating her Broadway role of Lizzie in "110 in the Shade"

1964

Earned second Tony nomination for her performance in the musical "Baker Street"

1963

Had one of her best stage roles in "110 in the Shade", a musical based on "The Rainmaker"; earned Tony nomination as Actress in a Musical

1962

Played Hoss' mother in first of several flashback episodes of "Bonanza" (NBC)

1962

Played Mother of Helen Keller in film version of "The Miracle Worker"

1962

First film role, "Advise and Consent"

1958

Appeared with American Shakespeare Festival, including playing Ophelia in "Hamlet"

1957

Had stage success with "The First Gentleman"

1957

TV debut singing on "Chrysler Special" for the CBC in Canada

1956

Broadway debut in "New Faces of '56"

1949

Stage acting debut in "Peg O' My Heart" at the Berkshire Playhouse in Massachusetts

Played mother of "Doctor, Doctor" (CBS)

Bonus Trivia

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Besides performing in stage productions, Swenson has appeared as a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and with her hometown Omaha Symphony.

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