Sunday, April 21, 2013
You know her and you know you love her. Her name was Irene Ryan and she was a tour de force in American theater. Who was Irene Ryan? Unless you are a musical theater fanatic you know her by her most famous character's name Daisy Moses. What you don't know the name Daisy Moses? Perhaps you know her by her character's better known name; Granny. Yes Daisy Moses was commonly known as Granny Clampett. She moved to the hills, Beverly, that is.
Irene Ryan did have a life and a career before she embodied Granny. She was a Broadway star and that is where she died. Irene Ryan was a star of "Pippin" when it was making its first run on Broadway. She actually died while doing "Pippin". Yes, Granny was a Broadway star. She had been in the business for years before she became Granny.
Born Irene Noblette in El Paso, Texas in 1902 she made her stage debut in San Francisco at the age of 11 singing "Pretty Baby" in an amateur contest. Irene married actor-comedian Tim Ryan at the age of 20. They formed a vaudeville act. Their's was a "Dumb Dora" act billed as Tim & Irene. They toured the country and made several short subject films in the 1930's. In 1942 the couple divorced and Irene started touring with Bob Hope. She married again to a man named Harold Knox. In the 40's and 50's she worked in movies and did some television. Irene Ryan worked on the TV show "The Real McCoys" with Walter Brennan. It was in 1962 she was cast as Daisy Moses the mother-in-law of Jed Clampett and became a star. She was nominated for Emmy Awards in 1963 and 1964. When the series was cancelled as part of the "rural purge" Irene Ryan moved onto Broadway. Cast in Bob Fosse's "Pippin" she won a Tony award.
Irene Ryan had a stroke while working on "Pippin" and died shortly after in 1973. She is immotalized by the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship given by the Kennedy Center America College Theater Festival.