RIP

Marcia Wallace, the voice of Mrs. Krabappel, died of pneumonia complications Friday night at the age of 70.

Once a student teacher in Iowa, Wallace moved to New York in 1964 and got her start in show business typing scripts. She eventually worked her way up to regular appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, which caught the attention of CBS founder Bill Paley, who personally demanded she be given a role on The Bob Newhart Show in 1972. For six seasons (and a 1994 episode of Murphy Brown), Wallace played the smart-mouthed and lovelorn secretary Carol Kester, a role that made her a star. Afterwards, she became a regular on various game shows, including Hollywood Squares. In the late 1980s she became a voice actress for cartoons including Darkwing Duck, Captain Planet, and The Simpsons. She was also a stage actress in a number of regional productions, including a starring role in An Almost Perfect Person.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985, Wallace became an activist for breast cancer awareness and a motivational speaker. She lost her husband of six years, Dennis Hawley, to pancreatic cancer in 1992, leaving her to raise their adopted son alone. She wrote about her ordeals in her 2004 memoir, Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way:

Ten years ago, I was a devastated widow with a little kid, a house that was ready to be foreclosed, and a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of debts. Now all that’s paid off and my house is secure. And I’m opening up to new possibilities. Who knows what’s around the corner? I feel ready to find out. You know me, hon, I’m a scrappy gal. And I’m not looking back… ’cause I’m not going that way.

For 25 seasons, Marcia Wallace played Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpson’s acerbic chain-smoking fourth grade teacher. Openly disdainful of her students, Krabappel was a exquisite personification of an uncaring public school system, and her caustic “ha!” became a trademark. She dated Principal Skinner a while, and in recent seasons married Ned Flanders. Wallace won an Emmy in 1992 for her performance in the episode “Bart the Lover.”

Technically a recurring guest star, Wallace is the third cast member of the The Simpsons to pass away, following Doris Grau (Lunchlady Doris) in 1995 and Phil Hartman (Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure) in 1998. As with Hartman’s characters, Mrs. Krabappel’s “irreplaceable character” will be retired, according to showrunner Al Jean:

Before her death Wallace “recorded several lines which will appear in upcoming shows,” Jean said. “But I don’t intend to have anyone else play Mrs. Krabappel. I think Bart will get a new teacher and Ned Flanders will be a widower again.”

Simpsons staffers have been expressing their sympathies. Jean told the Los Angeles Times that she was “sweet, funny, not at all pretentious […] and just a wonderful person to be around.” Co-star Yeardley Smith tweeted “Heaven is now a much funnier place b/c of you, Marcia.” Director David Silverman drew a tribute sketch.

Wallace has a small role in the upcoming film Muffin Top: A Love Story, scheduled for release next year.

[Deadline, TMZ, MarciaWallace.com, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times]

VOICE BOX

homer gynecologist

How did multi-millionaire actress and shoe mogul Yeardley Smith celebrate her birthday? By showing up to her gynecology appointment, of course! The voice of Lisa Simpson recounted her 49th birthday in a minute-by-minute breakdown on her Tumblr blog:

9:05 AM–Drive to the gynecologist. (Note to self: Do not schedule any more appointments with the gynecologist on your birthday!)

It’s probably a good idea to schedule as many gynecology appointments as possible before women’s health is outlawed, particularly in Texas.

Anyway, here’s a fun factoid to add to the “Jesus, Just How Long Has This Show Been On?” pile: Yeardley Smith has voiced Lisa for more than half her life.

[Gobbing Off!]

NEWS BRIEFS

police dog

  • The Simpsons lost every Annie Award it was nominated for (including one for the infamous rag episode), but Simpsons alumni Rich Moore won Best Director and his film Wreck-It Ralph won Best Feature, so good for him!
  • My Google Alert for “Yeardley Smith sex tape” has finally beared fruit! Here is a photo of Lisa Simpson’s voice actress cavorting with a naked man in broad daylight.
  • Simpsons producer James L. Brooks is literally on the National Rifle Association’s enemies list. No word on Matt “NRA4EVER” Groening, though.
  • Speaking of Brooks, looks like he got his Twitter hacked, with little success at stopping it. He appears to be waging a hilarious battle with the Twitter-jacker over which one is the real one. Just goes to show you, even if you’re a big-time Hollywood mega-producer, you can still get your stuff hacked. Stay protected, yo. [via @vmcampos]
  • Former showrunner Bill Oakley posted the pre-distortion audio file of Ned Flanders from Homer’s chili-induced hallucination. Much respect for Harry Shearer.
  • UNRELATED SIMPSONS IN THE NEWS: 81-year old ex-senator Alan Simpson, namesake of the Simpson-Bowles commission, attempted to perform the Gangnam Style dance in a bid to turn young people into granny-starving deficit hawks. [via kushibo]
ROCK BOTTOM

joanna!!!!!Popular songstress and harpy Joanna Newsom is reportedly appearing in an upcoming Simpsons episode. It’s being described as a “guest appearance,” but I have reason to believe this is merely a smokescreen for the real truth: the producers are secretly bringing in Newsom to replace Yeardley Smith as the voice of Lisa Simpson.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: hey, the Yeardster’s voiced America’s favorite starfish-haired feminist for nearly 25 years! They’re not just going to throw her under the bus! Well, let’s take a look at the evidence:

FACT: Newsom’s voice is often compared to that of Lisa Simpson’s.

FACT: The voice actors are not getting any younger.

Just look at what happened to Frank Welker, who used to voice the dog: the producers discovered Dan Castelleneta could voice the dog just as good, so they gave Frankie the boot. Could history repeat itself again when Newsom comes in to record what she believes is a cameo? Let’s say, hypothetically, a director slides her a script and asks her, just for funsies, to read some of Lisa’s lines. And what if, that night, the producers get together, in secret, and compare her vocal track with Smith’s… and decide Newsom’s is better?

If I were Yeardley Smith, I’d be looking over my shoulder at all times. And I were Joanna Newsom, I’d leave the harp at home, in order to prevent any Nancy Kerrigan-type shenanigans… Developing… [TwentyFourBit ]

UPDATE (10/20/2010): IN THE NEWS has successfully shamed the producers from going through with their plan, and Joanna Newsom’s cameo is definitely not happening. Yeardley Smith, you’re welcome. [Pitchfork]

VOICE BOX

The cast of The Simpsons finally got around to renegotiating their contracts, thus putting an end to the pay dispute that threatened to tear apart humanity and resulted in at least thirty artists losing their jobs while production was halted. Dan Castellenta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Maggie), and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) will now each get $500,000 $400,000 per episode, an increase from $360,000, to donate to Scientology. Ironically, this pay increase comes at a time when viewership has dwindled by nearly fifty percent over the past five years. Aye carumba! [telegraph.co.uk]