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Actress Doris Roberts Of 'Everybody Loves Raymond' Dies At 90


One of TV's best-known moms has died. Doris Roberts, who played Ray Romano's meddling mom on "Everybody Loves Raymond," died here in Los Angeles on Sunday. She was said to be about 90, but Roberts' own statements about her age put her at 85. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: As Marie Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond," Doris Roberts was somehow both pushy and comforting. Here she is greeting her son's upper-class in-laws.


DORIS ROBERTS: (As Marie Barone) Oh, isn't this nice? Connecticut grandma and grandpa and regular grandma and grandpa.


BLAIR: "Everybody Loves Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal says more than 100 actors auditioned for the part of Marie Barone, including some pretty famous ones. Nobody nailed the part as well as Doris Roberts.

PHIL ROSENTHAL: There was not even a close second.

BLAIR: Rosenthal says Roberts was critical to the tremendous success of "Everybody Loves Raymond." In fact, he says, she helped clinch the deal with CBS with a scene from the pilot. Raymond gives his mother the Fruit of the Month Club.


ROBERTS: (As Marie Barone) There are over a dozen pears (laughter). What am I supposed to do with all those pears?

RAY ROMANO: (As Raymond) I think you're supposed to eat them, mom.

ROBERTS: (As Marie Barone) Myself?

ROMANO: (As Raymond) You. You and dad and Robert.

ROBERTS: (As Marie Barone) How many pears can Robert eat?


ROBERTS: (As Marie Barone) Look, I appreciate the thought, Raymond, but please don't ever send us any more food again, OK? Thanks.

BLAIR: As Marie Barone, Doris Roberts was the show's antagonist, the overbearing, intrusive mother. And yet, says Rosenthal, you loved her.

ROSENTHAL: She was able to nuance a character that was not a caricature, but someone with layers and levels.

BLAIR: Doris Mae Roberts was born in St. Louis, Mo. When she was little, her family moved to New York. She once said she was proud of her Russian Jewish heritage. She was a member of the prestigious Actors Studio and spent some 20 years appearing in Broadway plays. Among her many movie and TV credits? 1974's "The Taking Of Pelham 123" and the TV detective series "Remington Steele." She won her first Emmy in 1983 for a guest role as a homeless woman in the TV show "St. Elsewhere."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What do you eat?

ROBERTS: (As Cora) Well, donuts, a piece of sandwich. You could make a stew out of the things we find.

BLAIR: Doris Roberts won five Emmys in all, four of them for "Everybody Loves Raymond." Here she is accepting the award in 2001.


ROBERTS: I'm having the best time of my life. I'm 71 tonight, and I'm kicking, honey.


BLAIR: Doris Roberts often spoke out against age discrimination. In 2002, at a Senate hearing, she said the entertainment industry, quote, "are the worst perpetrators of this bigotry." She said even though most actors improve with age, many of her peers were forced to live on unemployment or welfare because of the scarcity of roles. She urged a change in attitudes, saying the later years can be life's most productive and creative.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.