MARY ALICE SMITH
Mary Alice Smith (December 3, 1936[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.
Early life and education
Born Mary Alice Smith in Indianola, Mississippi, Alice was the daughter of Ozelar (née Jurnakin) and Sam Smith. Alice showed an early and natural ability for acting, and began her stage career in her hometown. 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.
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. 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. She reprised her role as Sister Rat in the October 1969 production, and again in the January 1971 production. All three productions were directed by Seth Allen. In 1970, Mary Alice performed in Ed Bullins‘ Street Sounds, directed by Hugh Gittens. She later performed in Lamar Alford’s Thoughts in December 1972 and January 1973. 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. Mary Alice won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1993 for I’ll Fly Away. Her other film credits include Malcolm X (1992), The Inkwell (1994), and Down in the Delta (1998). In 2000, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. Mary Alice replaced Gloria Foster as the Oracle in the film The Matrix Revolutions and the video game Enter the Matrix after Foster, who originated the role, died in 2001. Alice retired from acting in 2005.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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 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|
|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|
|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”|
|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”|
|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
|2003||Enter the Matrix||The Oracle|||
- or December 3, 1941(sources differ)
- – 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
- 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
- BET – Mary Alice, ‘Different World’, ‘Sparkle’ Actress Dies – July 28, 2022
- NYPOST – Mary Alice, ‘A Different World’ and ‘I’ll Fly Away’ star, dead at 85 – 28 July 2022
- “Mary Alice”. The Broadway League. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
- Company, Johnson Publishing (22 June 1987). “Jet”. Johnson Publishing Company – via Google Books.
- “Mary Alice- Biography”. Yahoo!. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
- “Alice, Mary 1941– – Encyclopedia.com”. www.encyclopedia.com.
- McCann, Bob (2007). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland. ISBN 9780786458042. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: A Rat’s Mass (1969a)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: A Rat’s Mass (1969b)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: A Rat’s Mass (1971)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: Street Sounds (1970)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: Thoughts (1972)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. “Production: Thoughts (1973)”. Accessed May 14, 2018.
- “Theater family comes together to celebrate Hall of Fame honorees”. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
- Scott, A. O. (November 5, 2003). “The Matrix Revolutions (2003) FILM REVIEW; The Game Concludes With Light And Noise”. The New York Times.
- “Why the Matrix Recast the Oracle for Revolutions”. Screen Rant. 6 February 2020.
- Variety – Mary Alice Dead, “A Different World”, July 27, 2022
- Shiny Entertainment. Enter the Matrix. Infogrames. Scene: Ending credits, 3:30:16 in, CAST.
- “Mary Alice – Playbill”. Playbill.