Estelle Harris, George's mother in 'Seinfeld', dies at 93

Estelle Harris, who carved her way into the hearts of millions of “Seinfeld” fans as George’s mother, Estelle Costanza, died Saturday in...


Estelle Harris, who carved her way into the hearts of millions of “Seinfeld” fans as George’s mother, Estelle Costanza, died Saturday in Palm Desert, Calif. She was 93 years old.

Her son Glen Harris announced the death in a statement sent by Ms Harris’ agent.

In 27 episodes – beginning in 1992 during the fourth season of “Seinfeld,” around the time the show became a pop culture sensation, and continuing until its final episode in 1998 – Ms. Harris has embarrassed and harangued his son, one of the four main characters, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), and his father, Frank (Jerry Stiller).

During her character meltdowns, often in response to slights and breaches of decorum, Ms. Harris unleashed a cry that had the urgency of a dying hyena. When she complained about “waiting for hours,” that last word had three, maybe four syllables sounding like moans. The combination of stiffness and violence in his gesticulations expressed a forbidding level of psychological tension.

Mrs. Harris knew how to turn outrage into a joke.

“You’re not acting,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 1995. “It’s like that Jewish expression ‘to cry with laughter.’ ‘they must have laughed a little louder.

His debut in “Seinfeld” was one of the most famous episodes of the series: “The Contest”. After George’s mother catches him having a private moment with one of her issues of Glamor magazine, she falls into shock, throws herself on her back, and enters a hospital.

“I go out to get a liter of milk; I come home to find my son treating his body like it’s an amusement park,” Mrs. Harris said. ‘Too bad you can’t do this for a living’ – and now, voice rising, she used her working-class New York accent to draw sarcasm from the script: ‘You could sell Madison Square GAAARDEN. Thousands of people could be watching you. You could be a BIIIG STARRR.”

This set the pattern for his later appearances, including on other beloved episodes like “The Fusilli Jerrys” (1995) and ” The Rye “ (1996). She began her scenes in a healthy register of volatile emotion – recrimination, self-pity, bewilderment – ​​and at the end of the sequence came to an outburst so intense it could only be farce.

Ms. Harris’s success in the role led to other opportunities to play the shrill and unhinged, including in the “Toy Story” film franchise, for which she provided the voice of Ms. Potato Head.

At the height of “Seinfeld’s” popularity, Ms. Harris found herself the kind of celebrity who caught eyes on the street. Something about the emotionality with which she portrayed Estelle Costanza had elicited affectionate recognition in a national audience.

“Blacks, Asians, WASPs, Italians, Jews — they all say, ‘Oh, you’re like my mother,’” she told The Tribune.

Estelle Nussbaum was born on April 22, 1928, in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, where her Polish-Jewish parents owned a candy store. She grew up largely in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, a mining town where her parents moved to help relatives run a general store and to provide Estelle with a softer childhood setting.

Although she faced anti-Semitic taunts in her small town, Estelle found an outlet in stage performances. Her father, who she said “spoke King’s English”, insisted that she take elocution lessons from an early age.

She moved back to New York in her late teens and later married Sy Harris, a window treatment salesman. They had three children and for a time Mrs Harris was a homemaker.

She worked her way through dinner theaters and TV commercials, including a 1983 spot for Handi-Wrap:’ she sang with schmaltzy enthusiasm.

After her big break on “Seinfeld,” Ms. Harris’ other major credits included the films “Out to Sea” (1997), starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and “My Giant” (1998), starring Billy Crystal.

Mr. Harris passed away last year. In addition to her son Glen, Mrs. Harris is survived by another son, Eric; one daughter, Taryn; three grandsons; and a great-grandson.

In her Tribune profile, Ms. Harris said she complained to “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David about her character’s constant screaming, but the experience proved her right: “The more I scream, the more they laugh”. noted.

Ms Harris admitted her personal life prepared her for the role.

“I yell at my husband, but he doesn’t mind,” she said. “He’s grateful for the attention.”

Tiffany May contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Estelle Harris, George's mother in 'Seinfeld', dies at 93
Estelle Harris, George's mother in 'Seinfeld', dies at 93
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