Carol Bruce (November 15, 1919 – October 9, 2007) was an American band singer, Broadway star, and film and television actress.
Bruce was born Shirley Levy in Great Neck, New York, the daughter of Beatrice and Harry Levy. She began her career as a singer in the late 1930s with Larry Clinton and his band. A graduate of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York, she made her Broadway debut in Louisiana Purchase," with songs by Irving Berlin who discovered her at a nightclub in Newark, New Jersey. She was the first actress to play the role of Julie in a Broadway production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Show Boat since the 1932 Broadway revival. Bruce played the role onstage in 1946 and garnered favorable comparisons to Helen Morgan, who had originated the role onstage in 1927 and repeated it in both the 1932 revival and the 1936 film, but had died prematurely in 1941.
After a long career as a singer and in films, Bruce is probably best-remembered for her recurring role as the domineering and meddlesome "Mama Carlson," mother of the station manager Arthur Carlson played by Gordon Jump on CBS' WKRP in Cincinnati. "She played the role, originated bySylvia Sidney in the pilot episode, from 1979 until the show ended its run in 1982. Ms. Bruce made guest appearances on more than 25 television shows, including “The Golden Girls,” “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Knots Landing,” “The Twilight Zone” and “Party of Five.”
"She first earned public attention and critical acclaim in 1940 on Broadway in “Louisiana Purchase,” a satirical Irving Berlin musical about politics in the South. She left the show early when she signed a contract with Universal Studios. In 1941 and 1942 she made three movies for Universal: “This Woman Is Mine,” “Behind the Eight Ball” and “Keep ’Em Flying,” an Abbott and Costello comedy about the Army Air Corps. Later in her career she appeared in “American Gigolo” (1980) and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987). She also continued to work occasionally on Broadway, appearing in a revival of “Show Boat” in 1946, “Along Fifth Avenue” in 1949, and “Henry, Sweet Henry” and “Do I Hear a Waltz?” in the 1960s. She worked as a saleswoman and model at Namm’s department store in Brooklyn, and then started her performing career as a nightclub singer in the ’30s. She eventually performed at Café Pierre, the Waldorf-Astoria, the Plaza and other rooms" [Information accessed from Steve Hoffman Music Forums].
Her only marriage to Milton Nathanson, which ended in divorce produced a daughter, Julie, an actress, singer and playwright who married jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. Bruce's grandchildren, Murali Coryell and Julian Coryell are both musicians as well. Bruce died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, a month before her 88th birthday.