Georgia Engel, who played the charmingly innocent, small-voiced Georgette on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and amassed a string of other TV and stage credits, has died. She was 70.
Engel died Friday in Princeton, N.J., said her friend and executor, John Quilty. The cause of death was unknown because she was a Christian Scientist and didn't see doctors, Quilty said.
Engel was best known for her role as Georgette on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," the character who was improbably destined to marry pompous anchorman Ted Baxter, played by Ted Knight.
(Actually now that I think of it, it’s the look as well. Along with Ms. Engel and Ms. Masina, I would add Felicity Kendall as Barbara Goode in ‘Good Neighbors’.)
I saw Ms. Engel once in Manhattan. A friend of mine was going to look into taking a dance class and I tagged along. And there she was in her class, and there I was in heaven. Of course, over in Toobworld, my televersion was an audience of one watching Georgette Franklin Baxter.
It’s the only way I can honor her memory in Toobworld, and it’s a meager one, but Georgette Franklin Baxter has been eligible for membership in the Television Crossover Hall of Fame since 1991 when she marked her third appearance on our TV screens. However, it was an oddity, a quirk of the magic of Toobworld, in that third appearance. So she would eventually have been inducted as part of a Birthday Honors List, or befitting her nature, the Christmas Honors List.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with Georgette….
Georgette Franklin Baxter (Georgia Engel) (1972–77) (Season 3-7) is the somewhat ditzy girlfriend (and later wife) of stentorian news anchor Ted Baxter(played by Ted Knight). Mary Tyler Moore described her as a cross between Stan Laurel and Marilyn Monroe. She and Mary got along fantastically, and she helped to somewhat fill the void that Phyllis Lindstrom and Rhoda left in Mary's life when they left for San Francisco and New York City, respectively. She made her first appearance at one of Mary Richards' parties. She worked as a window dresser at Hempel's Department Store in Minneapolis along with Rhoda Morgenstern. Later, she worked for a car rental service, as a Golden Girl, and for Rhoda selling plants. Georgette was devoted to Ted and they would eventually marry in Mary's apartment. They adopt a child named David (Robbie Rist), and later, she gives birth to a girl named Mary Lou, also in Mary's apartment.
These are the episodes which I think best exemplified the character of Georgette. (The plot summaries are from the IMDb. The remarks in parentheses are my own O’Bservations.)
Rhoda is offered a job at Bloomingdale's in New York City, and much to Mary's surprise, she accepts it. (This was Georgette’s first appearance on the show. Georgette and Rhoda worked together as window dressers at the Hempel’s Department Store.)
Mary and Rhoda give Georgette some sisterly advice when Ted starts taking her for granted. (This was her best showcase; as you watch it, you’re smiling with a lump in your throat.)
Ted convinces the newsroom that he is having an affair with Mary. No one believes her when she tries to deny it and then she has to face Georgette.
Ted can't help but spread the word not only around the newsroom but around the entire office building that he and Mary are an item, and through innuendo imply that they did more than they actually did. What may be as bad for Mary is what Georgette might think if she gets wind of what happened.
Frustrated by Ted's errant ways, Georgette decides to live it up. And then she decides to become a nun.
When Georgette tells Mary and Rhoda she wants to become a nun, if you look closely, Rhoda is sticking up her middle finger.
Everyone is getting on each others’ nerves when they are trapped in the newsroom by a snowstorm.
Marriage, Minneapolis Style
Ted asks Georgette to marry him and then he takes it back.
Ted and Georgette get married in Mary's apartment on an hour's notice.
Ted won't see a marriage counselor unless Lou goes with him.
Ted And The Kid
Ted and Georgette adopted after they were told they can't have children. Then Georgette makes a startling announcement.
Georgette gives birth at Mary's apartment with Lou and Mary attending. Ted and Georgette have a little girl named Mary Lou, the most exciting thing to ever happen in Mary's bedroom according to Sue Ann.
Murray Can't Lose
(I included this one because Georgette performed Steam Heat at the Teddy Awards.)
My Son The Genius
Ted and Georgette find out that their son is a genius who tries to take advantage of Ted.
Let's assume that... someone... has a kid with an incredible IQ. And that... someone... wasn't great in the fifth grade. Do you think that would cause any problems between the two?
No problems at all, Mr. Baxter. As long as the parent is a reasonably secure, mature, well-adjusted adult.
Boy, are we in trouble.
(It’s all in the delivery.)
Ted and Georgette do a show that becomes a hit, but Georgette would rather stay at home taking care of her family.
In the upside world of WJM, there's a shake up in the newsroom and everybody but Ted gets fired including Mary who is left to turn out the lights.
- Rhoda's Wedding: Part 1 (1974)
- Rhoda's Wedding: Part 2 (1974)
(Along with all of the newsroom, Georgette was in New York City to see Rhoda marry Joe Gerard.)
Okay, now we have the third appearance which qualifies her, but which needs a whole lotta splainin….
- Elaine Takes A Wife (1991)
This sitcom, which aired on ABC and Nick At Nite, was about a fictional family from TV Land who was now living in the “real” world. And with every episode, they were visited by other characters from old TV shows; but in their case they were from actual shows unlike the Nielsens.
They actually live in the main Toobworld and the characters who visit them are from a TV dimension created from the TV shows that were produced in Toobworld. The Nielsens had their own show and so the other characters are not from the TV shows we know, but the TV shows produced there in Toobworld. So this Georgette was the living embodiment of the “real” Georgette’s televersion. This means that in Toobworld, a TV show was created about the life of news producer Mary Richards and the people in her life. This may not have been the “actual” Georgette, but it acknowledges that she does exist in Toobworld. Was this Georgette played by the televersion of Georgia Engel? Perhaps. Or if there was a TV character played by Ms. Engel who was an actress….
Here’s a description of the episode:
Elaine, who keeps asking Honey for favors, feels that Lloyd is taking advantage of Honey's kindness, and convinces Elaine to look at a college catalogue. Mike finds that Babs is doing the same thing to him. A few days later, Mike and Honey, and Georgette Baxter, meet at the same class, "The Doormat Dilema – say yes to no." Georgette is the teacher, it turns out. She uses the idea of the U. S. S. Minnow and Mike and Honey being stranded. Mike is repairing the ship, while Honey is keeping the place clean, and she finds a sandwich. She gives it to him at first, then offers half to him, but spurred on by Georgette, Honey learns to become more assertive. She can't say no, but Georgette suggests she sing it. Honey can do that, and does so with great gusto. Mike wants the sandwich because he feels he needs his strength, but Honey counters that her work is just as important. In their increasing anger, they shout "Elaine" and "Babs", then refuse to give Georgette back her sandwich. Mike rips up the homework he's been doing for Babs, while Honey sings "No" to Elaine, and forces her to realize that she doesn't respect her fellow woman as much as she thinks she does.
Guest star: Georgia Engel as Georgette Franklin Baxter from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’
It's not much of a tribute, I know, but I’m glad to finally have her in the Hall. Georgette joins Mary Richards, Ted Baxter, and Lou Grant, plus producer Grant Tinker and guest star Walter Cronkite as members of the TVXOHOF.
Good night and may God bless….