Very sad news to pass along today … famed television actress Dixie Carter passed away yesterday here in Los Angeles, CA at the age of 70. In the press release announcement confirming her death, no cause for her passing has been disclosed but with extremely sad news like this no detailed information would make the news any less tragic. I know some of you younger readers may not be as familiar with Dixie Carter as others but I can assure you, she was an terribly talented actress who will be sorely missed in Hollywood:
“Designing Women” star Dixie Carter, whose Southern charm and natural beauty won her a host of television roles, has died at age 70. Carter died Saturday morning, according to publicist Steve Rohr, who represents Carter and her husband, actor Hal Holbrook. He declined to disclose the cause of death or where she died. Carter lived with Holbrook in the Los Angeles area. “This has been a terrible blow to our family,” Holbrook said in a written statement. “We would appreciate everyone understanding that this is a private family tragedy.” A native of Tennessee, Carter was most famous for playing wisecracking Southerner Julia Sugarbaker for seven years on “Designing Women,” the CBS sitcom that ran from 1986 to 1993. The series was the peak of a career in which she often played wealthy and self-important but independent Southern women. She was nominated for an Emmy in 2007 for her seven-episode guest stint on the ABC hit “Desperate Housewives.” Carter’s other credits include roles on the series “Family Law” and “Diff’rent Strokes.” She married Holbrook in 1984. The two had met four years earlier while making the TV movie “The Killing of Randy Webster,” and although attracted to one another, each had suffered two failed marriages and were wary at first. They finally wed two years before Carter landed her role on “Designing Women.” Holbrook appeared on the show regularly in the late 1980s as her boyfriend, Reese Watson. The two appeared together in her final project, the 2009 independent film “That Evening Sun,” shot in Tennessee and based on a short story by Southern novelist William Gay. The middle of three children, Carter was born in 1939 in McLemoresville, Tenn … She appeared in TV soap operas in the 1970s, but did not become a national star until her recurring roles on “Diff’rent Strokes” and another series, “Filthy Rich,” in the 1980s. Those two parts led to her role on “Designing Women,” a comedy about the lives of four women at an interior design firm in Atlanta. Carter and Delta Burke played the sparring sisters who ran the firm. The series also starred Annie Potts and Jean Smart. The show, whose reruns have rarely left the airwaves, was not a typical sitcom. It tackled such topics as sexism, ageism, body image and AIDS. “It was something so unique, because there had never been anything quite like it,” Potts told The Associated Press at a 2006 cast reunion. “We had Lucy and Ethel, but we never had that exponentially expanded, smart, attractive women who read newspapers and had passions about things and loved each other and stood by each other.” Carter appeared on the drama “Family Law” from 1999 to 2002, and in her last major TV appearance she played Gloria Hodge, the surly mother-in-law to Marcia Cross’s Bree on “Desperate Housewives.” Carter said the role was far from the kindly woman she played on “Designing Women.” “It’s a vast difference,” Carter said while filming the series. “Gloria Hodge doesn’t have any redeeming qualities except her intelligence.” In addition to Holbrook, Carter is survived by daughters Mary Dixie and Ginna.
This is just such sad news. For those of you who remember, you may recall that Designing Women — much like The Golden Girls before it — really changed the landscape of television in the 80′s. The show was able to feature progressive topics, from a female point of view, that other shows wouldn’t touch. I always thought of Designing Women as the younger sister show to The Golden Girls. Dixie played such a strong character on that show, Julia Sugerbaker truly was a character that women could look up and aspire to emulate. I, personally, remember fondly when Dixie Carter joined the cast of Diff’rent Strokes as new mom Maggie McKinney-Drummond … I was still very young when that show was on the air and I always saw Carter as a mother figure (mainly because I related to TV character way too much but also because she expertly played the role on the show … I never forgave Diff’rent Strokes for replacing her on the show with a different actress). Much love and condolences goes out to Dixie‘s family … it is my sincere hope that Ms. Carter is peacefully at rest now. She will be missed … so very much.