RIP Archives

Marcia Wallace (1942 - 2013)

Marcia Wallace, the voice of Mrs. Krabappel, died of pneumonia complications Friday night at the age of 70.

Once a student teacher in Iowa, Wallace moved to New York in 1964 and got her start in show business typing scripts. She eventually worked her way up to regular appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, which caught the attention of CBS founder Bill Paley, who personally demanded she be given a role on The Bob Newhart Show in 1972. For six seasons (and a 1994 episode of Murphy Brown), Wallace played the smart-mouthed and lovelorn secretary Carol Kester, a role that made her a star. Afterwards, she became a regular on various game shows, including Hollywood Squares. In the late 1980s she became a voice actress for cartoons including Darkwing Duck, Captain Planet, and The Simpsons. She was also a stage actress in a number of regional productions, including a starring role in An Almost Perfect Person.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985, Wallace became an activist for breast cancer awareness and a motivational speaker. She lost her husband of six years, Dennis Hawley, to pancreatic cancer in 1992, leaving her to raise their adopted son alone. She wrote about her ordeals in her 2004 memoir, Don't Look Back, We're Not Going That Way:

Ten years ago, I was a devastated widow with a little kid, a house that was ready to be foreclosed, and a hundred thousand dollars' worth of debts. Now all that's paid off and my house is secure. And I'm opening up to new possibilities. Who knows what's around the corner? I feel ready to find out. You know me, hon, I'm a scrappy gal. And I'm not looking back... 'cause I'm not going that way.

For 25 seasons, Marcia Wallace played Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpson's acerbic chain-smoking fourth grade teacher. Openly disdainful of her students, Krabappel was a exquisite personification of an uncaring public school system, and her caustic "ha!" became a trademark. She dated Principal Skinner a while, and in recent seasons married Ned Flanders. Wallace won an Emmy in 1992 for her performance in the episode "Bart the Lover."

Technically a recurring guest star, Wallace is the third cast member of the The Simpsons to pass away, following Doris Grau (Lunchlady Doris) in 1995 and Phil Hartman (Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure) in 1998. As with Hartman's characters, Mrs. Krabappel's "irreplaceable character" will be retired, according to showrunner Al Jean:

Before her death Wallace "recorded several lines which will appear in upcoming shows," Jean said. "But I don't intend to have anyone else play Mrs. Krabappel. I think Bart will get a new teacher and Ned Flanders will be a widower again."
Simpsons staffers have been expressing their sympathies. Jean told the Los Angeles Times that she was "sweet, funny, not at all pretentious [...] and just a wonderful person to be around." Co-star Yeardley Smith tweeted "Heaven is now a much funnier place b/c of you, Marcia." Director David Silverman drew a tribute sketch.

Wallace has a small role in the upcoming film Muffin Top: A Love Story, scheduled for release next year.

[Deadline, TMZ, MarciaWallace.com, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times]

Don Payne (1964 - 2013)

Simpsons writer Don Payne died yesterday at the young age of 48. The cause is unknown at this time, but former writing partner John Frink told the Wilmington Star-News he'd been suffering from bone cancer.

Fellow Simpsons writer Mike Scully broke the news yesterday afternoon on Twitter. Executive producer Al Jean issued a statement saying Payne was "beloved in the 'Simpsons' community and his untimely passing is terrible news to us all."

Back in the 90s, Payne and Frink wrote for sitcoms like Veronica's Closet, Men Behaving Badly and a bunch of unproduced pilots before they were both brought in to The Simpsons in 2000. Together they wrote the Simpsons episodes "Insane Clown Poppy," "Bye Bye Nerdie," "Simpsons Tall Tales," and "The Bart Wants What It Wants." They ended their writing partnership a few years later on amicable terms. Payne's solo Simpsons credits include "Thank God It's Doomsday" and "Fraudcast News," the latter of which earned him a special Paul Selvin Award from the Writers Guild of America. In 2007, he gave the Star-News ten reasons why he loved working on The Simpsons, including "We can do jokes about socialism and Homer's butt catching on fire."

Rather than be constrained to writing television, Payne managed to achieve his childhood dreams of conquering Hollywood and writing boffo blockbusters. A lifelong comics fanboy, his first credited movie was the superhero spoof My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which later led to him co-writing the Marvel films Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Thor, and its upcoming sequel Thor: The Dark World. According to a 2011 interview, he had an idea for his own comic that he was keen to do if he could ever find the time between his Simpsons and film duties.

He is survived by his wife and three young children. [Wilmington Star-News]

Polly Platt (1939 - 2011)

Polly Platt was an Oscar-nominated production designer, producer, and screenwriter whose career spanned four decades, the first woman in the Art Director's Guild, and a frequent collaborator of James L. Brooks. Her credits include The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, and Bottle Rocket. But since this is a Simpsons website, I'll just skip to a trivial footnote of her career.

By now, every Simpsons nerd knows the show's origin: Brooks discovered struggling cartoonist Matt Groening, asked him to do some cartoons for the The Tracey Ullman Show; Groening feared the loss of his Life in Hell characters, so instead he designed a cartoon family, named after his own family; three years later The Simpsons was spun-off into its own show. Well, GET THIS: Polly Platt was the person who introduced Brooks to Matt Groening's work. Here's her remembering the story from John Ortved's The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History:

I was nominated for an Academy Award for Terms of Endearment and I wanted to give Jim a thank-you gift. Matt did a cartoon called "Success and Failure in Hollywood." So I called Matt and I bought the original.


[Jim] was thrilled! First of all, he loves to get presents. He really does. He just laughed and laughed and hung it on his wall in his office. It was a brilliant cartoon. Success and failure come out to exactly the same thing in the cartoon [i.e., death].

My suggestion to Jim: I thought it would be great to do a TV special on the characters that he [Matt] had already drawn. I never envisioned anything like The Simpsons.

So, had it not been for Polly Platt and her gift-giving skills, The Simpsons would've never existed. Kinda makes you think. [Los Angeles Times]