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Carol Cooke, Broadway Star and ‘Sixteen Candles’ Actress, Dies at 98

Although many remember Cooke as Grandma Helen in Sixteen Candles, she was also one of the first actresses to play Dolly Levy in the classic musical Hello, Dolly!

WASHINGTON — Carol Cooke, theater and film actress turned protégé of Lucille Ball, has died at the age of 98.

Her husband, actor Tom Throop, said Cook died of heart failure on Wednesday in Beverly Hills, California, just three days before her birthday, according to The Hollywood Reporter and others.

Cooke’s career has included several theater roles, including the role of Maggie Jones in the Tony Award-winning musical 42nd Street. She also followed Carol Channing as the second actor to play Dolly Levy in the classic musical Hello Dolly!

In Sixteen Candles, she played Helen’s grandmother Molly Ringwald and played Don Knotts’ wife Bessie Limpet in The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

According to PEOPLE, born Mildred Frances Cook, a native of Abilene, Texas, first moved to Los Angeles at Ball’s behest. In an interview with BroadwayWorld.com in 2015, Cook explained that it was Ball who convinced her to change her name.

They worked together on 18 episodes of The Lucy Show and five episodes of the CBS spin-off Here Comes Lucy.

“We’ve been friends for a few years now,” Ball revealed during an appearance together on an episode of “Password.”

Her television career also spanned decades and included guest roles on Laverne & Shirley, Murder, She Wrote, Grey’s Anatomy, and more.

In 2018, Cook was criticized for speaking out to TMZ suggesting the assassination of then-President Donald Trump. Although she said it was “obviously a joke”, she later recounted how she subsequently met with the Secret Service who “couldn’t have been better”.

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