She first struck out in show business as a dancer, hoofing it through a series of 1940s Broadway musicals including Viva O'Brien, Something for the Boys, One Touch of Venus, Laffing Room Only and Miss Liberty (all as Dolores Goodman). The 1950s brought her Call Me Madam, Wonderful Town and My Darlin' Aida.. In 1955, she made a splash in Off Broadway's Shoestring Revue with the novelty song called "Someone's Been Sending Me Flowers" by Sheldon Harnick and David Baker.
Her airhead persona, buttressed by curly hair, wide childlike blue eyes and a long, loopy grin, attracted the attention of Jack Paar, then the host of "The Tonight Show." Beginning in 1957, he had Ms. Goodman on the show as a regular several times, in with she essentially played herself. She parlayed a distracted air, and a hesitant, befuddled delivery into laughter and soon became very popular with audiences. Ms. Goodman was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1957 as Best Continued Performance in a Series by a Comedienne. According to accounts, however, her willingness to upstage Paar and ad-lib too freely got her banished from the show soon after.
Ms. Goodman kept up her visibility with appearances on "Toast of the Town," "The Phil Silvers Show" and "The Merv Griffin Show." She headlined the 1960 Off-Broadway revue Parade, which first brought the songs of Jerry Herman to the public's attention. In 1970, she returned to "The Tonight Show," then under the control of Johnny Carson. She infrequently returned to Broadway, appearing in such flops as A Rainy Day in Newark, My Daughter, Your Son and a 1969 revival of The Front Page. She provided support as Mrs. Ella Spofford to Carol Channing's Lorelei Lee in the 1974 musical Lorelei.
Fame and good fortune returned in the late '70s when she took on the role of Martha Shumway in the widely praised, if short-lived, mock soap opera "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," and made a much-commented-upon supporting turn in the film of "Grease." A semi-regular role on "Diff'rent Strokes" followed. She was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her performance in an 1984 revival of Ah, Wilderness!. She also spent a great deal of time in productions of Nunsense and its sequels.
|photo by Carol Rosegg|
Nunsense creator Danny Goggin called Ms. Goodman "totally irreplaceable." He told Playbill.com on June 23, "I first met Dody when she starred in the national tour of Nunsense in 1989. She played Sister Amnesia and toured for two years. Dody and I became fast friends and when she said she'd like to play Mother Superior, we put her in the New York company Off-Broadway. She went on to play Mother Superior in companies all over the country and toured in Nuncrackers, our Christmas musical, at age 85. In a comic scene portraying the Sugar Plum Fairy she was still able to get her leg up over her head! We gave her her own nun's habit, shoes and rosary and was always ready to perform at a moment's notice. Her comedy was unique and her timing was impeccable. And she was the ultimate professional. As I told a friend, she was the only performer I knew who could walk on stage as Mother Superior and say, 'Are you ready to start?,' and have the audience in stitches. She didn't even need a funny line. She was the embodiment of comedy."