July 21, 1940
Durham, North Carolina, United States
A prolific television actress, Penny Fuller first came to attention in show biz circles as the scheming Eve Harrington in the Broadway production of "Applause," the 1970 musical version of Joseph L Mankiewicz's classic 1950 feature "All About Eve." More than holding her own against Lauren Bacall's Margo Channing, Fuller won strong reviews, earned a Tony nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical and reprised the role in the 1973 CBS TV adaptation.The petite redhead with expressive eyes went on to establish herself as a fine character actress on the small screen. (Her big screen credits are limited to a small role in 1976's "All the President's Men" and 1993's "The Beverly Hillbillies.") She made her TV-movie debut alongside Lois Nettleton and Jessica Walter as one of the "Women in Chains" (ABC, 1972), which also marked Ida Lupino's telefilm debut. She went on to offer support to Dennis Weaver and Mare Winningham in "Amber Waves" (ABC, 1980) and landed her first series berth as a gossip columnist in the short-lived NBC series "Bare Essence." As the English actress Madge Kendal who befriends the deformed title character (played by Philip Anglim) in "The Elephant Man" (NBC, 1982), Fuller earned her first Emmy Award. She won praise for her bitchy sister-in-law to Tommy Lee Jones' Brick and Jessica Lange's Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (Showtime, 1984; PBS, 1985). On the short-lived cop drama "Fortune Dane," she was tough female mayor of a West Coast town. Other notable longforms include the CBS miniseries "George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation" (1986), "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" (NBC, 1987) and "Miss Rose White" (NBC, 1992). Fuller has also had recurring roles on "China Beach" (ABC, 1989-90) as the mother of Dana Delany's McMurphy, and simultaneously on "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1994-95) and "Mad About You" (NBC, 1994-95). In the latter, she appeared as the mother of Jmaie Buchman (Helen Hunt). For her guest appearance on the second season premiere of the NBC medical drama "ER" (1996), Fuller earned a third Emmy nomination.