A Tribute to Frances Bay (1919-2011)

The Back Row always loves to pay tribute to character actors, a.k.a. “That Guys”, but today, it’s time to put the spotlight on a “That Girl”. You may not instantly recognize the name Frances Bay, but chances are you probably do recognize her photograph. Frances Bay was a very prominent Winnipeg-born character actress who sadly passed away on September 15, 2011 at the age of 92. Bay did not make her first acting appearance in a film until the age of 60, but quickly became one of Hollywood’s top casting choices for playing quirky elderly ladies and was able to accumulate over 150 film and TV credits in the last three decades of her life. My first memory of her was as the grumpy old lady with the dog at Daniel Larusso’s apartment complex in The Karate Kid, and she was a favourite of David Lynch, who cast her inĀ Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. She also appeared in such notable films as Arachnophobia, Twins and In the Mouth of Madness, but her most famous role may be as Adam Sandler’s grandma in Happy Gilmore.

Looking at her filmography, it seems she made guest appearances on virtually every major television show of the past 30 years, and has the distinction of having appeared in the series finale of three very popular sitcoms: Happy Days, Who’s the Boss? and Seinfeld. It’s usually common for character actors and actresses to never get the accolades they deserve, but Bay wound up getting her moment in the sun in 2008 when she earned a star on the Canada Walk of Fame, thanks to the submission of a petition with over 10,000 names on it! R.I.P. Frances Bay, and thanks for ensuring that none of us can ever look at marble rye the same way again.

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