Clarice Taylor, September 20, 1917 – May 30, 2011, was an American stage, film and television actress. Born in Buckingham County, Virginia but raised in Harlem, New York, Taylor was best known for her recurring role on television on The Cosby Show as Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable’s (Bill Cosby) mother, Anna Huxtable. Taylor started working in the theatre—with the American Negro Theatre—at a time when there were few opportunities for African-American actors and comedians. To support herself she followed in the footsteps of her father, Leon B. Taylor, Sr., and went to work for the U.S. Post Office.
In the 1960s she got her big break to star in “The New Girl in the Office” (1960), that enabled her to act full-time.
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Here 30 minutes from “The New Girl in the Office” (1960):
Taylor was one of the founding members of the Negro Ensemble Company, headquartered in New York’s East Village on St. Mark’s Place.
While working with the NEC she got her first offer of a movie role in Change of Mind (1969). Her next film role was as Minnie in Otto Preminger’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970). In 1971 she played Birdie in Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty For Me, and appeared as Mrs McKay in Such Good Friends the same year. In 1973, she brought a role she had pioneered off-Broadway to film, playing Gladys Brooks in Five on the Blackhand Side. Her later films included Nothing Lasts Forever (1984).
She was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1986 for the role. She was also a regular on Nurse, played Harriet on Sesame Street, and appeared as Grady’s cousin Emma on Sanford and Son.
Taylor appeared in The Wiz as Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, Purlie the Broadway play as Idella Landy. Her most recent performance was in a touring production of her one-woman show, Moms, for which she won an Obie Award in 1987 for best performance by an actress. Her most recent film appearance was a small role in Wayne Wang’s film Smoke.
In the 1990’s she starred in Sommersby (1993), and Smoke(1995).
Clarice Taylor died in Englewood, New Jersey from congestive heart failure, aged 93. She is survived by her two adopted sons, William and James Thomas, and extended family.
Photo credit: Critically Acclaimed Actress, Clarice Taylor, of “The Cosby Show” Fame via source.