by Susan MacDonald
“It would be the last unicorn that came to Molly Grue.”
Tammy Grimes, the voice of Molly Grue in The Last Unicorn, died Sunday, October 30, 2016, in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 82. Her theatrical career spanned over a half century, from her off-Broadway debut in Jonah and the Whale in 1955 to a one-woman cabaret show in 2007.
While theater fans are mourning the woman who won two Tony Awards, an Obie, and a Theatre World Award, fandom weeps for the voice of Molly Grue in The Last Unicorn (1982), the narrator of the radio version of Lord of the Rings (1981), Homily Clock in The Borrowers (1973), the voice of Albert, the mouse who didn’t believe in Santa Claus, in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974), and the voice of the sorceress Catrina in My Little Pony: Escape from Catrina (1985).
Tammy Grimes was a skilled actress, equally comfortable on stage, in films, on TV, or doing voice work. Her first major role was as the title character in The Unspeakable Molly Brown on Broadway, a role for which she won her first Tony in 1960. She starred in several Noël Coward plays, including Look After Lulu!, Private Lives (for which she won her second Tony), and High Spirits. She was a frequent performer at the Stratford Festival of Canada. She guest starred on many TV shows, from variety shows to westerns to mysteries. She was offered the role of Samantha Stevens in Bewitched, but turned it down to concentrate on stage work. Her own TV show, The Tammy Grimes Show, lasted less than a season. Her movies included The Horror at 37,000 Feet, Three Bites of the Apple, Mr. North, High Art, Slaves of New York, and The Runner Stumbles. The last thing she filmed was the short Breathe in 2005, featuring the characters from Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street.
Tammy Grimes was a singer as well as an actress. She also sang in cabarets and recorded several albums. She was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2003. She excelled on the stage, whether in works by William Shakespeare or Neil Simon, but she will always be remembered as Molly Grue.
Tammy Grimes was the voice of Molly Grue, the pragmatic Maid Marian-equivalent to would-be Robin Hood Captain Cully who still dares to dream and later teams up with Schmendrick the Magician in The Last Unicorn. Peter S. Beagle said, “Tammy Grimes brought such vocal life to the character that she covered things I didn’t do. I’ve always been grateful.”
Although many fans assumed she was British because of her accent, Tammy Grimes was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on January 30, 1934. She attended Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, where she was taught to speak with a Mid-Atlantic Accent, the American version of the British Received Pronunciation that was so popular in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1950s. She graduated from Stephens College, an all-female school in Columbia, Missouri, before going to New York City to pursue an acting career.
Tammy Grimes was married three times. From 1956 to 1960, she was married to Christopher Plummer. The marriage ended in divorce. They had one child, actress Amanda Plummer. She was married very briefly to actor Jeremy Slate, from 1966 to 1967. Her third marriage, to composer Richard Bell, was her happiest, lasting from 1971 to Bell’s death in 2005.