Clarice Taylor, Television and Stage Actress, Dies at 93

Obituaries   Clarice Taylor, Television and Stage Actress, Dies at 93
Clarice Taylor, a stage actress who won late fame playing Bill Cosby's mother in "The Cosby Show," died in Englewood, NJ, on May 30. She was 93.

Born September 20, 1917, in rural Virginia, Ms. Taylor was raised in the Harlem section of New York City. She started working in the theatre with the American Negro Theatre. While struggling to get a foothold in the theatre, she followed in her father Leon's footsteps, working at the Post Office.

Ms. Taylor was one of the founding members of the famed Negro Ensemble Company, first headquartered in the East Village on St. Marks Place. The company provided acting opportunities for African-American performers at a time when few were to be had.

She found steady television work on "Sesame Street," playing Harriet, the mother of the character David, for 14 years. But she became a nationally recognizable face when she was cast as the always-smiling, gently chiding Anna Huxtable, the mother of Cliff, played by Bill Cosby. Earl Hyman, another stage veteran, played her husband. Ms. Taylor received an Emmy nomination for her work.

She won an Obie Award for her performance in a one-woman show about Moms Mabley, written by Alice Childress. But the collaboration with Childress was a bitter one. The two women had known each other for four decades and had collaborated many times, Ms. Taylor acting in Childress' plays, including Wedding Band, at NEC. Childress wrote at the actress' request. The play debuted at the Hudson Guild Theater in February 1987. But differences developed, and in August of that year, Ms. Taylor appeared in a second play called Moms, ostensibly written by another author. The case ended up in court, where the actress' claims at co-authorship were unsuccessful.

On Broadway, she played the Good Witch of the North in The Wiz, the black musical version of "The Wizard of Oz." Other Off-Broadway credits include Charlie L. Russell's On the Black Hand Side in 1970, a part Ms. Taylor subsequently repeated on screen.

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