Mary Alice Smith (December 3, 1936[1][a] – July 27, 2022) known professionally as Mary Alice, was an American film, television, and stage actress. Alice was known for her roles as Leticia “Lettie” Bostic on the NBC sitcom A Different World (1987–1989) and Effie Williams in the 1976 musical drama Sparkle. Alice also performed on the stage, and received a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her appearance in the 1987 production of August Wilson‘s Fences.[5][6]


Early life and education[edit]

Born Mary Alice Smith in Indianola, Mississippi, Alice was the daughter of Ozelar (née Jurnakin) and Sam Smith.[1][citation needed] Alice showed an early and natural ability for acting, and began her stage career in her hometown.[7] Her family moved from Mississippi to Chicago when she was two years old. Mary Alice graduated from Chicago Teacher’s College (now known as Chicago State Univeristy), and taught at an elementary school.[8]


Mary Alice returned to acting in the mid-1960s through community theater and appeared in three Douglass Turner Ward‘s plays, including Days of Absence and Happy Endings. Mary Alice also washed the cast’s laundry for a salary of $200 a week.[9] She did some acting in New York City during the late 1960s and early 1970s, performing in multiple productions at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in Manhattan’s East Village between 1969 and 1973. Her first production at La MaMa was Adrienne Kennedy‘s A Rat’s Mass in September 1969.[10] She reprised her role as Sister Rat in the October 1969 production,[11] and again in the January 1971 production.[12] All three productions were directed by Seth Allen. In 1970, Mary Alice performed in Ed Bullins‘ Street Sounds, directed by Hugh Gittens.[13] She later performed in Lamar Alford’s Thoughts in December 1972[14] and January 1973.[15] Mary Alice made her screen début in the 1974 film The Education of Sonny Carson, and later appeared in the television shows Police Woman and Sanford and Son. She played Ellie Grant Hubbard on the soap opera All My Children during the mid-1980s, and co–starred in A Different World as Leticia ‘Lettie’ Bostic from the series’ start in 1987 until the end of the second season in 1989.[7] Mary Alice won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1993 for I’ll Fly Away.[7] Her other film credits include Malcolm X (1992), The Inkwell (1994), and Down in the Delta (1998).[7] In 2000, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.[16] Mary Alice replaced Gloria Foster as the Oracle in the film The Matrix Revolutions[17] and the video game Enter the Matrix after Foster, who originated the role, died in 2001. Alice retired from acting in 2005.[18]


Alice died on July 27, 2022, at her residence in Manhattan, New York City, New York. Alice was 85.[19][2][3][4]



Year Title Role Notes
1974 The Education of Sonny Carson Moms
1974 The Sty of the Blind Pig Alberta Warren Television movie
1976 Just an Old Sweet Song Helen Mayfield Television movie
1976 Sparkle Effie Williams
1979 Lawman Without a Gun Minnie Hayward Television movie
1981 The Color of Friendship Mrs. Garth
1983 The Brass Ring Mrs. Hauser Television movie
1984 Beat Street Cora Kirkland
1984 Concealed Enemies Edith Murray
1984 Teachers Linda Ganz
1985 Charlotte Forten’s Mission: Experiment in Freedom Blind Lily
1990 To Sleep with Anger Suzie Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead
1990 The Bonfire of the Vanities Annie Lamb
1990 Awakenings Nurse Margaret
1992 Malcolm X School Teacher
1993 A Perfect World Lottie
1993 Laurel Avenue Maggie Arnett Television movie; Nominated — CableACE Award for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
1993 Life with Mikey Mrs. Gordon
1994 The Inkwell Evelyn
1994 The Vernon Johns Story Altona Television movie
1994 Heading Home Mary Jones
1995 Ray Alexander: A Menu for Murder Adele Thompson Television movie
1996 Bed of Roses Alice
1998 Down in the Delta Rosa Lynn Sinclair
1999 Catfish in Black Bean Sauce Dolores Williams
1999 The Wishing Tree Mattie
2000 The Photographer Violet
2001 The Last Brickmaker in America Dorothy Cobb Television movie
2002 Sunshine State Mrs. Eunice Stokes
2002 The Life Emiline Crane Short film
2003 The Matrix Revolutions The Oracle Nominated — Black Reel Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress


Year Title Role Notes
1975 Police Woman Marnie Episode: “Target Black”
1975 Sanford and Son Frances Victor 2 episodes
1975 Good Times Loretta Simpson Episode: “The Baby”
1975 The Family Holvak Samantha Wilson Episode: “The Tribute”
1976 Insight Karen Fuller Episode: “Juvie”
1976 Serpico Angel Episode: “The Traitor in Our Midst”
1976 Visions Evelyn Burrell Episode: “Scenes from the Middle Class”
1980 All My Children Ellie Grant Hubbard unknown episode(s)
1987–1989 A Different World Leticia “Lettie” Bostic 25 episodes
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Fannie Michael 2 episodes
1990 L.A. Law Maxine Manley Episode: “Watts a Matter?”
1992 I’ll Fly Away Marguerite Peck 7 episodes; Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
1993 Law & Order Virginia Bryan Episode: “Mother Love”
1994 Great Performances Episode: “Paddy Chayefsky’s ‘The Mother'”
1997 Orleans Ella Clark Episode: “Baby-Sitting”
1999 Cosby Loretta 4 episodes
2000 Touched by an Angel Georgia Bishop Episode: “God Bless the Child”
2000 Providence Abby Franklin Episode: “The Gift”
2001 Soul Food Mrs. Pettaway Episode: “Sex and Money”
2002 Oz Eugenia Hill Episode: “Visitation”
2004 Line of Fire Jackie Simon Episode: “The Senator”
2004 The Jury Elaine Nebatoff Episode: “Memories”
2005 Kojak Joyce Episode: “All That Glitters”


Year Title Role Notes
1969–1971 No Place to Be Somebody Cora Beasley
1981 A Full-Length Portrait of America Emma
1987–1988 Fences Rose Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play;
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
1994–1995 The Shadow Box Maggie
1995 Having Our Say Dr. Bessie Delaney Nominated — Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play;
Nominated — Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2003 Enter the Matrix The Oracle [20]



  1. Jump up to:a b or December 3, 1941[21](sources differ)


  1. Jump up to:a b c – Mary Alice Smith in household of Sam Smith, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 103-2647, sheet 7B, line 74, family 162, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1005
  2. Jump up to:a b People – Mary Alice, A Different World and Sparkle Actress, Dead at 85: ‘A Shoulder We All Stood On’; Mary Alice, who was best known for her roles in A Different World and Sparkle, died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan – 28 July 2022
  3. Jump up to:a b BET – Mary Alice, ‘Different World’, ‘Sparkle’ Actress Dies – July 28, 2022
  4. Jump up to:a b NYPOST – Mary Alice, ‘A Different World’ and ‘I’ll Fly Away’ star, dead at 85 – 28 July 2022
  5. ^ “Mary Alice”The Broadway League. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
  6. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (22 June 1987). “Jet”. Johnson Publishing Company – via Google Books.
  7. Jump up to:a b c d “Mary Alice- Biography”Yahoo!. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
  8. ^ “Alice, Mary 1941– –”
  9. ^ McCann, Bob (2007). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland. ISBN 9780786458042. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  10. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: A Rat’s Mass (1969a)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
  11. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: A Rat’s Mass (1969b)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
  12. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: A Rat’s Mass (1971)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
  13. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: Street Sounds (1970)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
  14. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: Thoughts (1972)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
  15. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: Thoughts (1973)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
  16. ^ “Theater family comes together to celebrate Hall of Fame honorees”. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  17. ^ Scott, A. O. (November 5, 2003). “The Matrix Revolutions (2003) FILM REVIEW; The Game Concludes With Light And Noise”The New York Times.
  18. ^ “Why the Matrix Recast the Oracle for Revolutions”Screen Rant. 6 February 2020.
  19. ^ Variety – Mary Alice Dead, “A Different World”, July 27, 2022
  20. ^ Shiny EntertainmentEnter the MatrixInfogrames. Scene: Ending credits, 3:30:16 in, CAST.
  21. ^ “Mary Alice – Playbill”Playbill.

External links[edit]