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Beth Howland, Vera on Alice, Passes Away at 74

By Brian Gallagher — May 25th, 2016

2016 has not been an easy year for the entertainment industry, with icons like David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman and many more passing away over the past few months. Today we have word that the film and TV industry has lost another one of its own. Although this death actually happened at the very end of last year. Actress Beth Howland, who starred in the hit 1970s TV series Alice, passed away in Santa Monica, California, on December 31, 2015.

The Associated Press broke the news of the actress' death, which was confirmed by her husband, actor Charles Kimbrough. The late actress' husband revealed that there was no public announcement, funeral or memorial service, because "that was her choice." It isn't known how long the actress was suffering from lung cancer.

Beth Howland was born May 28, 1941 in Boston, and began her acting career at a fairly early age. After graduating from high school at just 16, she moved to New York City, where she was cast as Lady Beth in the play Once Upon a Mattress and as a dancer in Bye Bye Birdie. In 1970, CBS noticed her talent on the stage and flew her out to Los Angeles for a small role in the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She went on to have minor roles in Love American Style, The Rookies and Bronk before her big break, landing the role of Vera on the hit series Alice. The character had been introduced on the big screen in the 1974 Martin Scorsese movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, with Beth Howland taking the role over from Valerie Curtin when it was adapted for the small screen. The character was lovingly refered to as 'Dingbat' by diner owner Mel. Vera was a neurotic, scatterbrained waitress at a local greasyspoon, and towards the end of the series, she wound up marrying a lovable cop named Elliot. She stayed with the show through its entire 9 season run from 1976 until 1985.

The actress received four Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of waitress Vera Louise Gorman on Alice, which ran from 1976 to 1985. She appeared in 202 episodes of the hit series, but after it had run its course, she essentially disappeared from acting, aside from occasional guest starring spots in shows like Murder, She Wrote, Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her final two acting credits were episodes of The Tick and As Told By Ginger, both in 2002.

Beth Howland also created a production company in 1988 with actress Jennifer Warren, who both produced the 1988 HBO documentary You Don't Have to Die, following a young boy's battle with cancer. The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. She is survived by her husband Charles Kimbrough and a daughter from a previous marriage to actor Michael J. Pollard.