by Nicole Wolverton
There is something disconcerting about mimes, but wonderful and interesting, too. Perhaps it is only fitting I’ve always found actress Ellen Albertini Dow startling (yet amazingly awesome)—she studied mime, worked with Marcel Marceau, founded the Albertini Mime Players, and won a Rockefeller grant for Mime Who’s Who Women (West). The woman knows how to grab your attention with even the smallest gesture.
But you probably don’t know her work as a mime. Instead, you might know her better as Disco Dottie from the film 54, Rosie the rapping granny from The Wedding Singer, or a million other bit parts that call for the quintessential batty old lady character. She even voiced the character “old lady” in a recurring bit on the television show Family Guy.
Born in 1913, Dow has been in the entertainment industry in one way or another for a very long time. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in theater, worked with dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, toured with a comedy troupe, and worked as a director and choreographer. She married when she was 38 and moved to Los Angeles with her husband, where she taught drama and continued to direct and choreograph musicals and operas in the area.
Retirement from teaching in 1985—when she was 72—is what prompted Dow to try her hand at acting in television and film. At a time when most people are settling down to enjoy their golden years, Dow opted to begin a new career entirely. IMDB credits her with 102 total roles, the first of which was in the film American Drive-In. At age 100, she continues to act and inspire—most recently she made an appearance on the TV show The New Girl. Business Insider recently named her one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Whether it’s bringing miming back or trying something completely new, there’s no telling what Dow may tackle next—and that’s the most startling and wonderful thing of all.
Homepage photo courtesy of Broadway World