'Simpsons' Actress Marcia Wallace Dead at 70

'Bob Newhart' veteran voiced schoolteacher Edna Krabappel

Marcia Wallace
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Marcia Wallace
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Marcia Wallace, who provided the voice for schoolteacher Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons, died on Friday at the age of 70. According to Entertainment Weekly, representatives for the long-running animated series said that Wallace had been gravely ill, but the cause of death has not been revealed.

Wallace, who grew up in Creston, Iowa, first won acclaim on The Bob Newhart show, playing Newhart's secretary Carol Kester from 1972-1978. She later reprised the role in an Emmy-nominated turn on Murphy Brown. In her early career, Wallace also played bit parts on Bewitched, Columbo, The Brady Bunch, and went on to guest star on episodes of Magnum P.I., Gimme a Break and Murder, She Wrote.

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Wallace joined the cast of The Simpsons in 1990, taking on the role of Bart's fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Krabappel. In 1992, she won an Emmy for outstanding voice actress for her portrayal of the hard-bitten but ultimately sympathetic schoolteacher with the distinctive, cynical laugh. 

After a battle with breast cancer in 1985, Wallace became an activist in causes related to the disease and advocated for early detection. Her work for the cause won her the Gilda Radner Courage Award from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 2007. She wrote about her illness and the death of her husband, Dennis Hawley, in her 2004 autobiography, Don't Look Back, We're Not Going That Way.

"I was tremendously saddened to learn this morning of the passing of the brilliant and gracious Marcia Wallace," Simpsons producer Al Jean said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. "She was beloved by all at The Simpsons and we intend to retire her irreplaceable character."

Although the show had recently announced plans to kill off a long-running character, Jean was careful to note that this fate was not intended for Mrs. Krabappel. "Earlier we had discussed a potential storyline in which a character passed away," Jean said. "This was not Marcia’s Edna Krabappel. Marcia’s passing is unrelated and again, a terrible loss for all who had the pleasure of knowing her."