Inga Swenson, the versatile actress best known for memorable portrayals of combative women on the TV hits Soap and Benson, has died. Her son confirmed the news to TMZ. Swenson was 90.
Swenson’s involvement on the shows began with a multi-episode arc on Soap in 1978 as the conniving revenge-seeking Ingrid Svenson, the Swedish birth mother of Corinne Tate (Diana Canova). That led to a new role on the show’s spinoff, Benson, as Gretchen Kraus, an autocratic and combative German cook.
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Over the course of the latter Swenson’s character was frequently at odds with Benson (Robert Guillaume) himself, often trading insults with him as he sought to run household affairs for Governor Eugene X. Gatling (James Noble). Despite their rivalry, Benson and Kraus later became close friends on the show. Swenson was Emmy nominated three times for the role, in 1980, 1982 and 1985.
A year before her first TV credit – an episode of 1957’s Goodyear Playhouse – Swenson made her Broadway debut in New Faces Of 1956 (among the year’s other new faces were Maggie Smith, Billie Hayes and Jane Connell). In all, she’d appear in six Broadway productions over the years, including as a standby for Julie Andrews in Camelot (1960) and a starring role in 1963’s 110 in the Shade. Her final Broadway credit was 1965’s Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes musical whose book writer, Jerome Coopersmith, died last week. She was Tony-nominated twice for Best Actress in a Musical for 110 in the Shade and Baker Street.
Additional TV credits included Maude Hazard on ABC’s event miniseries North and South in 1985 and its continuation, North and South, Book II based on John Jakes’ Civil War trilogy. Swenson also appeared in two episodes of Bonanza in the early ’60s and on hits such as Playhouse 90, Hotel, The Golden Girls and Newhart.
Her film work consisted of, among other things, roles in Columbia’s Advise and Consent (1962), UA’s The Miracle Worker (1962), Paramount’s Lipstick (1976) and Columbia’s The Mountain Men (1980).
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