Estelle Harris, who was best known for her performance as Mrs. Potato Head in the superhit animated film ‘Toy Story’ and played George Costanza’s cranky mother on ‘Seinfeld’, has died. She was 93 years old at the time of her death.
In the 1990s hit sitcom, Harris’ portrayal of middle-class mother Estelle Costanza left a lasting impression on her recurring role. It was difficult not to regard her as the incarnation of mother rage with her high-pitched voice and comically domineering demeanor.
With her on-screen spouse, Jerry Stiller, trading insults and absurdities, Harris helped create a parenting duet that would leave even a psychiatrist powerless to do anything but hope they’d relocate to Florida, as their son, Jason Alexander, futilely pushed them to do.
On Saturday night, Harris’ agent, Michael Eisenstadt, confirmed the actor’s death in Palm Desert, California.
Frequently, viewers of many nationalities informed Harris that she reminded them of their own mothers.
Despite her irritability, Harris said that everyone adored her as a mother, according to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.
She landed the job that would define her career after decades on stage and screen. Harris was born in New York City on April 22, 1928, and raised in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb where her father ran a candy store.
According to People magazine in 1995, she began honing her comic skills in high school performances, where she discovered she could make the audience laugh out loud.
When “Seinfeld” concluded after nine seasons, Harris continued to perform on stage and television. Mrs. Potato Head in the 1999 animated series “Toy Story 2” and Muriel in the hit Disney Channel sitcom “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” are two of her many memorable roles.
When she married in the early 1950s, she had given up acting, but as her three children grew older, she resumed it in amateur groups, dinner theatre, and other performances and advertisements. After that interaction, she voiced a desire to be free of diapers, bottles, and other baby stuff.
She starred in TV shows like Night Court, a courtroom comedy, and films like Sergio Leone’s 1984 gangland epic Once Upon a Time in America.
Her debut episode on ‘Seinfeld’ was the Emmy Award-winning ‘The Contest,’ in which the main characters try to avoid doing anything.
Harris would have appeared in dozens more show episodes about nothing in the coming years. She was enraged by George’s hanky-panky in the parental bed, and she was preparing for Festivus, her film husband Frank’s strange holiday.
“Estelle is a born entertainer,” Stiller said in 1998. “I just do the best I can with what I’ve got.”
Despite this, Harris found Estelle’s portrayal sympathetic, citing her ineffective friend and cunning slacker son as sources of anguish.
“Just look at her as hilarious, engaging, and a loudmouth,” she told an interviewer in 1998. But that is not how I perceive her. “Underneath it all, I’m painting her in agony.”
Three children, three grandchildren, and a great-grandson survive her.
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