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Photo: Estelle Harris
With the tragic deaths of celebrities such as Bob Saget, Louie Anderson, and Taylor Hawkins, happening not even six months into 2022, it seems as though this year can be remembered as one where we would lose the greats here in America. Sadly, another celebrity death has been added to this tragic list by marking the world of comedy with the loss of a dear and beyond hilarious soul, someone who you could never forget once you heard her thrilling one-of-a-kind voice, on Saturday, April 2nd: Estelle Harris.
Passing just twenty days shy of her 94th birthday, we remember Harris for her vibrant personality that would couple in perfect harmony with her unique voice and how she would use her fantastic individual quirks to bring out phenomenal and memorable roles/performances during her entire career; which spanned from 1977 to 2019. Harris was a small, but mighty person, and it was with her bright and ever-so loving spirit that she has cemented a spot for herself within the world of comedy.
Estelle Harris: The Comedic Candy Store Girl
Estelle Harris, born Estelle Nussbaum, arrived in the world on April 22nd, 1928. She was an American actress who was mainly known for her voice acting work in a variety of shows; most famously known for her role as Estelle Costanza (George Constanza’s mom) in the American sitcom ‘Seinfeld’. Her most defining feature in the comedy world being her exaggerated voice, Harris was a subtly vital asset to comedic television and film; and she deserves to be remembered for such.
Being born in Hell’s Kitchen (neighborhood of Manhattan), Harris was the youngest child of Isaac and Anna Nussbaum; who were Polish Jewish immigrants who owned a candy store. It wasn’t until Harris moved to Tarentum, Pennsylvania when she was seven years old to live with her aunt and uncle that she would work in her relatives’ candy store. In terms of other aspects of her personal life, Harris had been married to actor Sy Harris from 1953 up until his death in 2021; along with two sons, Eric (born 1957) and Glen Harris (born 1961), and her daughter Taryn Harris (born 1964), on top of having three grandsons and one great-grandson.
After the birth of her children, Harris would then go on to pursue acting and gain success in such after booking a myriad of television commercials. It wouldn’t be until 1977, however, that things would begin to look up even more for Harris when she would star in the film ‘Looking Up’. This 1977 film would be the catalyst for Harris achieving a long acting career, beginning with the part of Estelle Costanza in ‘Seinfeld’ and up until her final film role as her reprisal of Mrs. Potato Head in the 2019 film ‘Toy Story 4’.
Overall, there’s not much that we know about Estelle Harris’ personal life; and, strangely enough, that interestingly makes her more charming. Harris seemingly lived a wonderful, simple life; and along the way, became an icon and a stable in the comedy entertainment world with the simple beauty of just using her one-of-a-kind voice.
Sounding Shrill In All The Right Ways
As mentioned above, Harris is mainly known for her voice acting work; and ultimately, this makes a whole lot of sense due to her signature voice being the defining thing that makes everyone remember her. Personally, I remember her fondly because of this as well, and how her voice would give me a sense of comfort (strangely enough). I’m not sure if this is because as someone who was born in the north in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the sound of Harris’ voice felt so familiar and oddly nurturing to me. But, regardless of the reason, the fire that was captured within Harris was completely captivating, and it kept her as a beneficial outlier in the comedy world.
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Besides her roles in ‘Seinfeld’ and Mrs. Potato Head in the ‘Toy Story’ franchise, Harris is also largely known for her roles as Muriel in ‘The Suite Life of Zack & Cody’ and the Old Lady Bear in ‘Brother Bear’. Of course, she has a multitude of other roles than just the previously mentioned three. But, it’s with these roles that she has made an utmost positive impact on audiences and gave her the power to cement that wondrous voice of hers into our minds. Not to mention how well she can convey emotion and comedic timing just through her voice; a true talent for the ages.
It’s fair to say that even if you aren’t familiar with how she looks, or don’t entirely recognize everything that she’s been in, once you hear Harris’ voice you will instantly be transported back into that sense of familiarity. Her voice has echoed throughout many of our brains during many of our childhoods, and even to the older crowd, she was stable in the sitcom ‘Seinfeld’ (no matter how minor the character was).
A Loss Of Greatness
Estelle Harris died of natural causes in her home in California, which brings us to hope that she got the opportunity to pass onto the next life peacefully as she was well-deserving of it. Like I mentioned before, even if you weren’t physically familiar with Harris herself, it’s entirely more likely that her voice felt like a dear friend to you. Comedy is no easy feat to pull off, and through the sheer use and talent of simply using her voice, Estelle Harris surely influenced a lot of individuals and fans alike.
Harris was a charming individual in the world, and it’s rather tough to see yet another comedic genius be lost to us; but, that just gives us more incentive to watch more of her work and see all that she had accomplished during her successful and worthwhile years on this earth. She is remembered through her family, along with Jason Alexander honoring her memory. She sparked imagination in us and left a memorable mark on our brains (no matter how small), and paved a path for ways to utilize unforgettable voice-acting comedy like nobody else.
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, F. Murray Abraham, Gaspard Ulliel, Fernanda Andrade, Sofia Danu
- Directors – Justin Benson, Mohamed Diab, Aaron Moorhead
- Producers – Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito, Kevin Feige, Grant Curtis, Oscar Isaac, Mohamed Diab, Brad Winderbaum, Jeremy Slater
- Editors – Ahmed Hafez, Joan Sobel
- Writers – Doug Moench, Jeremy Slater, Peter Cameron, Sabir Pirzada, Beau DeMayo, Michael Kastelein, Alex Meenehan
By Leah Donato
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