Lucille Ball Protégé And ‘Sixteen Candles’ Actress Was 98

Carole Cook, a protege of Lucille Ball who would become a familiar face through appearances on Ball’s TV shows, movies like The Incredible Mr. Limpet and Sixteen Candles and stage musicals 42nd Street and Romantic Comedy, died today of heart failure in Beverly Hills, California, just three days before her 99th birthday.

Her death was announced by husband Tom Troupe.

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Born Mildred Frances Cook in Abilene, Texas, Cook made her Broadway debut as a replacement in 1954’s Threepenny Opera. After moving to Los Angeles, she became a favorite of Ball’s, who suggested the name spelling of Carole in honor of movie star Carole Lombard. “Like her, you have the same healthy disrespect for all things in general,” Ball told Cook.

Cook would subsequently make guest appearances on Ball’s sitcoms The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. The two remained life-long friends, with Ball serving as matron-of-honor at Cook’s 1964 wedding to Troupe.

On stage, Cook created the role of “Maggie Jones” in the New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo companies of the Tony Award winning musical 42nd Street, and originated the role of “Blanche Daly” in the Broadway musical Romantic Comedy. She guest starred in the New York City Center production of 70 Girls 70, and co-starred in the national tour of Steel Magnolias.

On the big screen, Cook made memorable appearances in movies from The Incredible Mr. Limpet to American Gigilo. She played the sympathetic grandmother to Molly Ringwald’s character in Sixteen Candles, and provided the voice of “Pearl” in the animated Disney film Home on the Range.

Other feature film credits include Palm Springs Weekend, The Gauntlet, Grandview, U.S.A., Summer Lovers and, most recently, A Very Sordid Wedding.

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In addition to her trio of Broadway credits, Cook made stage appearances in productions of Call Me Madam, Pal Joey, Follies, Annie Get Your Gun, A Little Night Music and The Lion in Winter, the latter among the shows co-starring husband Troupe. The couple received the 2002 Theatre Ovation Award for Career Achievement, the first husband and wife so honored.

In 2018, Cook appeared in a sold-out engagement at the New York City cabaret Feinsteins/54 Below.

Cook guest starred on numerous television series, most recently Grey’s Anatomy.

Offstage, Cook was a longtime advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by stepson Christopher Troupe and his wife Becky; sister Regina Cocanougher; and other extended family.

Services have not been announced, but the family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to The Entertainment Community Fund (formerly The Actors Fund).

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