Rosetta LeNoire

Actor, Artistic director, Singer
Short and sassy, Rosetta LeNoire was a senior citizen before America discovered her allure through her appearances as Nell Carter's mother on the NBC sitcom "Gimme a Break" in the 1980s and as Mother Winslow on "Family ... Read more »
Born: 08/07/1911 in New York City, New York, USA

Filmography

Actor (21)

Guiding Light 1951 - 2009 (TV Show)

Actor

Cosby 1998 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Actor

Maverick Square 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Ryan's Hope 1974 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Gimme a Break 1981 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

Whatever It Takes 1986 (Movie)

Millie (Actor)

Brewster's Millions 1985 (Movie)

Judge (Actor)

Lily in Love 1985 (Movie)

(Actor)

Moscow on the Hudson 1984 (Movie)

Judge (Actor)

The Brother From Another Planet 1984 (Movie)

Mama (Actor)

Daniel 1983 (Movie)

Prison Matron (Actor)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner 1974 - 1975 (TV Show)

Actor

The Sunshine Boys 1975 (Movie)

Nurse (Actor)

Calucci's Department 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

Fritz the Cat 1972 (Movie)

(Voice)

A World Apart 1969 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

Anna Lucasta 1957 (Movie)

Stella (Actor)

The Defender 1956 - 1957 (TV Show)

Actor

Benny's Place (TV Show)

Actor

Mandy's Grandmother (TV Show)

Actor

The Father Clements Story (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

Short and sassy, Rosetta LeNoire was a senior citizen before America discovered her allure through her appearances as Nell Carter's mother on the NBC sitcom "Gimme a Break" in the 1980s and as Mother Winslow on "Family Matters" in the 90s. But, truth be told, LeNoire was not just a Broadway veteran; she had danced with her godfather Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson, had done experimental TV in the 40s, had founded a respected theater company and so loved to perform that she would perform Shakespeare at a convalescent home if that were her only venue (and she has!)

Born in New York to a family with connections in the burgeoning artistic milieu of Harlem, the teenaged LeNoire took piano lessons from the equally legendary composer Eubie Blake. She first performed professionally in 1926 as a dancer in a revue with Bojangles, and in 1936 played the First Witch in a production of "Macbeth". She reached Broadway in 1939 alongside Bojangles in "The Hot Mikado" and later toured with the show. She was in the original Broadway cast of Philip Yordan's "Anna Lucasta"--which was turned from all-black to all-white for the 1949 film version. LeNoire, however, reprised her stage role in the all-black 1958 remake, co-starring with Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr. In the 1950s, LeNoire was much associated with the Corning Glass Theatre, and she last performed on Broadway as Rheba in "You Can't Take It With You" (1983, reprising the role in a cable TV production).

LeNoire is also legendary as a theatrical producer. In 1968, she founded the AMAS (Spanish for "to love") Repertory Theatre Company and has since produced, created and occasionally appeared in a host of productions, including the original 1980 version of "Mama, I Want to Sing", which later toured the country (LeNoire produced, but did not perform). In 1976, she established the Eubie Blake Children's Theatre and LeNoire has since spent much of her time performing in school, youth centers, and even shelters.

While she did some experimental TV work in the 40s and appeared as Noah's Wife in the 1957 "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production of Marc Connolly's "Green Pastures" (NBC), LeNoire did not see her TV career become solid until the late 60s, when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera "A World Apart" in a regular role. She then went on to appear on "The Guiding Light" (CBS, 1971), "Another World" (NBC, 1971-73) and "Ryan's Hope" (ABC, 1975). The actress moved to primetime with the short-lived "Calucci's Department" (CBS, 1973). But it was in the 80s when she finally clicked. Beginning in 1981, LeNoire made several guest appearances on "Gimme a Break" as Nell Carter's contentious mother. Finally, in 1986, she became a regular, moving in with Nell despite the fact the two did not get along. The exposure gave LeNoire a TV Q and she was cast as the widowed Mother Winslow who moves in with her son's family on the premiere episode of "Family Matters" (ABC, 1989-97; CBS, 1997-98). She has remained with the series, although in more recent seasons her character remarried and she moved out of the Winslow home, reducing her role into a more recurring rather than regular one. (It also has been said that LeNoire takes much of her hefty TV pay checks and puts it back into her theater foundations.)

LeNoire has also appeared in a handful of TV-movies, notably in "The Father Clements Story" (NBC, 1987), as mother to priest Louis Gossett Jr. Her feature film work has been limited mostly to smaller roles. In 1972, she did voice work for the animated "Fritz the Cat" and was the nurse to Walter Matthau's Willie in "The Sunshine Boys" (1975). LeNoire was Ethel Rosenberg's prison matron in "Daniel" (1983), a judge opposite Robin Williams in "Moscow on the Hudson" (1984), and a kindly woman with whom Joe Morton has contact in John Sayles' "The Brother From Another Planet" (also 1984).

Relationships

Egbert Brown

Husband
married in 1948 until his death

Harold Burton

Father
reportedly one of the first black men to be licensed as a plumber and electrician in New York state

Marie Burton

Mother
died of pneumonia at the age of 27

Warren Burton

Brother
survived her

Wimote Burton

Brother
survived her

Mary Francis

Sister
survived her

William LeNoire

Husband
married on September 27, 1929 divorced on May 7, 1943

William LeNoire

Son
from first marriage

Bill Robinson

Godfather
LeNoire appeared with him as a teenager

EDUCATION

Hunter College

New York , New York

ASFTA Dramatic School

New York , New York 1955 - 1958
studied with Morris Carnovsky

Betty Cashman Dramatic School

New York , New York 1946

studied singing with Reginald Beane, Nat Jones, Kenneth Welch and Robert Gorman

American Theatre Wing

New York , New York 1950

Commerce High School

New York , New York 1935

Milestones

1983

Returned to Broadway in revival of "You Can't Take It With You"; recreated role for the TV version

1981

Made first appearance on the NBC sitcom "Gimme a Break" as Nell's mother; became a series regular in 1986

1976

Founded the Eubie Blake Children's Theatre

1975

Played Walter Matthau's nurse in the feature "The Sunshine Boys"

1975

Produced and helped to shape the musical "Bubbling Brown Sugar" at AMAS; show later was produced on Broadway

1975

Returned to daytime with a role on "Ryan's Hope" (ABC)

1973

Had first primetime regular series role on "Calucci's Department" (CBS)

1970

Had regular role on "The Guiding Light" (CBS)

1970

Appeared regularly on "Another World" (NBC)

1968

Was regular on soap opera "A World Apart" (ABC)

1968

Founded AMAS Repertory Theatre

1958

Reprised stage role in feature version of "Anna Lucasta"

1957

Co-starred in TV version of "Green Pastures" (NBC)

1951

Was member of the Corning Glass Theater in Corning, New York

1943

Originated role of Stella in "Anna Lucasta"; reprised role in 1947 Broadway production

1942

Toured with USO troupe of "Your Can't Take It With You"

1939

Broadway debut, "The Hot Mikado"; toured USA in role in 1941-42

1936

Played the First Witch in a NYC stage production of "Macbeth", produced by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre

1926

Performed with Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson as a member of the Time Steppers

1924

Took music lessons from Eubie Blake at age 13

As a child suffered from rickets; at age seven, doctors broke both her legs so the bones could grow properly

Played Mother Winslow on "Family Matters" (ABC, 1989-1997; CBS 1997-1998)

Bonus Trivia

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In 1989, Actors Equity Association founded the annual Rosetta LeNoire Award; LeNoire was the first recipient which recognized "her outstanding artistic contributions to the universality of the human experience in the American theater."

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