Tammy Lee Grimes (born January 30, 1934) is an American actress and singer.
Grimes was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the daughter of Eola Willard (née Niles), a naturalist and spiritualist, and Nicholas Luther Grimes, an innkeeper, country-club manager, and farmer. She attended high school at the then-all-girls school, Beaver Country Day School, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, and then studied acting at New York City's prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse.
Known for a speaking voice that has been compared to a buzz saw, a "lyric baritone" singing voice that one critic called "a low, throaty quiver, a hum that takes wings", and "the stage personality of a daffy but endearing pseudo-English eccentric", Grimes made her debut on the New York stage at the Neighborhood Playhouse in May 1955 in Jonah and the Whale. She made her Broadway stage debut as an understudy for Kim Stanley in the starring role in Bus Stop in June 1955. In 1956, she appeared in the off-Broadwayproduction, The Littlest Revue, and in 1959 had the lead role in the Broadway production of Noël Coward's play Look After Lulu!, after she was discovered in a nightclub by the playwright.
She starred in the 1960 musical comedy The Unsinkable Molly Brown for which she won a Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) for what The New York Times called her "buoyant" performance as a rough-hewn Colorado social climber. She portrayed the title character, a Western mining millionairess who survived the sinking of the Titanic. In 1964, she appeared in the episode "The He-She Chemistry" of Craig Stevens's CBS drama Mr. Broadway. She made two separate appearances on the early '60s TV series Route 66. On May 16, 1960, Grimes acted and sang as Mehetabel in an abridged version of the musical Archy and Mehitabel as part of the syndicated TV anthology series Play of the Week presented by David Susskind. The cast included Bracken, Tammy Grimes, and Jules Munshin.
Tammy Grimes was originally chosen to play the part given to Elizabeth Montgomery in the hit television situation comedy Bewitched, but was let out of her contract when Noël Coward asked her to star in High Spirits, a Broadway musical directed by Coward based on his play Blithe Spirit.
In 1966, Grimes starred in her own ABC television series, The Tammy Grimes Show, in which she played a modern-day heiress who loved to spend money. Receiving "unfavorable critical reaction and poor ratings", it ran for only a month, although an additional six episodes had already been made.The Tammy Grimes Show remains one of the shortest series in television history.
Returning to the Broadway stage in 1969 after almost a decade of performing in what The New York Times called "dubious delights", Grimes appeared in a revival of Noël Coward's Private Livesas "Amanda", winning the Tony Award for Best Actress. Clive Barnes in The New York Times review called her performance "outrageously appealing. She plays every cheap trick in the histrionic book with supreme aplomb and adorable confidence. Her voice moans, purrs, splutters; she gesticulates with her eyes, almost shouts with her hair. She is all campy, impossible woman, a lovable phony with the hint of tigress about her, so ridiculously artificial that she just has to be for real".
During her career, she spent several seasons at the Stratford Festival of Canada in Stratford, Ontario and has appeared in a number of television series and motion pictures. Grimes has also entertained at various New York City night clubs and recorded several albums of songs; she also recited poetry as part of a 1968 solo act in the Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel. Her voice can be heard in romantic duets on some of Ben Bagley's anthology albums of Broadway songs under his Painted Smiles record label. In 1982, she hosted the final season of CBS Radio Mystery Theater. In 1983 Grimes was dismissed from her co-starring role in the Neil Simon play Actors and Actresses, reportedly due to an inability to learn her lines.
In 2003, Grimes was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. She also appeared in the rotating cast of the Off-Broadway staged reading of Wit & Wisdom.
In 2004 she joined the company of "Tasting Memories", a "compilation of delicious reveries in poetry, song and prose," with a starry rotating cast including Kitty Carlisle Hart, Rosemary Harris, Philip Bosco, Alvin Epstein, Joy Franz and Kathleen Noone.
In 2005 Grimes worked with director Brandon Jameson to voice UNICEF's multi-award winning tribute to Sesame Workshop.
In recent years, Grimes has showcased her talents in a critically acclaimed one-woman show.
Grimes married Canadian actor Christopher Plummer in August 1956, with whom she had a daughter, actress Amanda Plummer. They were divorced in 1960.
Her second husband was actor Jeremy Slate, whom she married in 1966 and divorced a year later.
Her third husband was composer Richard Bell (died 2005), whom she married in 1971.
In 1965 Grimes made headlines after she had been beaten and injured twice in four days by what were described as "white racists". According to a report, "Miss Grimes said she believed the attacks were related to her association with several Negro entertainers and recent appearances in public with Sammy Davis Jr., the Negro actor, who was said to be staging a night club act for her".