Tony Award-Winning Comic Actress Madeline Kahn is Dead at 57

Obituaries   Tony Award-Winning Comic Actress Madeline Kahn is Dead at 57 Madeline Kahn, a 1993 Tony Award winner for playing a character named Dr. Gorgeous in The Sisters Rosensweig, and best-known for playing gorgeously baroque vamps in the Mel Brooks spoofs, "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein," has died at age 57. Reuters reports that Ms. Kahn died of ovarian cancer Dec. 3.
Kahn in On the Twentieth Century; Christine Estabrook, Jane Alexander and Kahn in The Sisters Rosensweig.
Kahn in On the Twentieth Century; Christine Estabrook, Jane Alexander and Kahn in The Sisters Rosensweig. (Photo by Photos by Martha Swope)

Madeline Kahn, a 1993 Tony Award winner for playing a character named Dr. Gorgeous in The Sisters Rosensweig, and best-known for playing gorgeously baroque vamps in the Mel Brooks spoofs, "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein," has died at age 57. Reuters reports that Ms. Kahn died of ovarian cancer Dec. 3.

According to Reuters, her husband, John Hansbury, said in a statement, "Madeline was a performer of brilliance and a loyal and trusted friend to everyone she encountered... While we mourn her passing, we celebrate a full and wonderful life."

Ms. Kahn's other Broadway credits include three other Tony-nominated roles: In the Boom Boom Room (1973), On The 20th Century (1978) and a revival of Born Yesterday opposite Edward Asner (1989).

Although she was a comic hit as Lily Garland in the Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Cy Coleman musical, On the 20th Century, she left that musical early, providing understudy Judy Kaye a chance to shine and eventually become a star herself (Kaye would later win a Tony for The Phantom of the Opera). Ms. Kahn also appeared with Danny Kaye in the Noah-themed Richard Rodgers musical, Two by Two.

A trained opera singer, Ms. Kahn was born in Boston on Sept. 29, 1942 and graduated from Long Island's Hofstra University. Ms. Kahn received Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations for her work in "Blazing Saddles" and "Paper Moon," in 1973 and 1974, respectively. Among other theatre-related projects, Ms. Kahn had a featured role in a 1996 TV adaptation of Neil Simon's "London Suite."

In its obituary on the actress, Associated Press quotes Mel Brooks as having once said, "She is one of the most talented people that ever lived."

Ms. Kahn's illness was made public in October. In statement, the actress had said, "It is my hope that I might raise awareness of this awful disease and hasten the day that an effective test can be discovered to give women a fighting chance to catch this cancer in its earliest stage."

Kahn had faced the disease for a year.

She recently appeared on TV's "Cosby," and had a short-lived TV series of her own, "Oh, Madeline," in the 1980s, but might be best known for being one of movie director Brooks' favorite comic actresses, appearing in "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein," "High Anxiety" and "History of the World Part 1." She also stole scenes in "Paper Moon" and "What's Up Doc?"

She won a 1993 Tony Award for Best Actress (Play) as the Chanel-loving radio talk show host, Dr. Gorgeous Teitelbaum in Wendy Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig.