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: 08/08/1911 in New York City, New York, USA


Actor (21)

Guiding Light 1951 - 2009 (TV Show)


Cosby 1998 - 1999 (Tv Show)


Maverick Square 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)


Ryan's Hope 1974 - 1989 (TV Show)


Gimme a Break 1981 - 1987 (TV Show)


Whatever It Takes 1986 (Movie)

Millie (Actor)

Brewster's Millions 1985 (Movie)

Judge (Actor)

Lily in Love 1985 (Movie)


Moscow on the Hudson 1984 (Movie)

Judge (Actor)

The Brother From Another Planet 1984 (Movie)

Mama (Actor)

Daniel 1983 (Movie)

Prison Matron (Actor)

Mandy's Grandmother 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)


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


The Sunshine Boys 1975 (Movie)

Nurse (Actor)

Calucci's Department 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)


Fritz the Cat 1972 (Movie)


A World Apart 1969 - 1971 (TV Show)


Anna Lucasta 1957 (Movie)

Stella (Actor)

The Defender 1956 - 1957 (TV Show)


Benny's Place (TV Show)


The Father Clements Story (TV Show)



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).


Egbert Brown

married in 1948 until his death

Harold Burton

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

Marie Burton

died of pneumonia at the age of 27

Warren Burton

survived her

Wimote Burton

survived her

Mary Francis

survived her

William LeNoire

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

William LeNoire

from first marriage

Bill Robinson

LeNoire appeared with him as a teenager


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



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


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


Founded the Eubie Blake Children's Theatre


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


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


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


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


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


Appeared regularly on "Another World" (NBC)


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


Founded AMAS Repertory Theatre


Reprised stage role in feature version of "Anna Lucasta"


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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