Carole Cook: former protege of Lucille Ball and Sixteen Candles actress, dies aged 98

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The protege to I Love Lucy actress Lucille Ball and HIV/AIDS charity supporter died of heart failure in Beverly Hills, California

American actress Carole Cook, known to many international fans as the grandmother in John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles, has died aged 98 from heart failure. The renowned US television actress was three days shy of celebrating her 99th birthday, but died peacefully, according to a statement from her agent, Robert Malcolm.

Though perhaps more familiar with US audiences, that didn’t stop Carole Cook from achieving international attention as the very “hands on” grandmother to Molly Ringwald’s character in the enduring 80s teen-romantic comedy Sixteen Candles, which also starred fellow Brat Pack member Anthony Michael Hall.

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But for many in the United States, they’ll recall comedy legend Lucille Ball taking Cook under her wing and giving the actress what she considered her “big break.” The I Love Lucy star brought Cook from Ohio, where she was doing theatre, to Hollywood to be part of Ball’s DESILU theatre’s musical revue.

Speaking to website Queer Voices in 2019, Cook said “I had no place to live in California so I lived in Lucy’s guest house until I got settled. She gave me the name Carole after Carole Lombard. Lucy said to me, ‘You have the same healthy disrespect for everything in general, just like Lombard.’”

Cook had a glittering career on Broadway, which she maintained well into her older years as a performer, where she originated the role of Maggie Jones in the 1980 Broadway musical 42nd Street. An ardent supporter of the stage, Cook also became a big advocate for HIV/AIDS charities which she supported during time in the public spotlight.

Her words in 2015 with BroadwayWorld will no doubt resonate with fans of the actress at this time: “We all want to be beloved, and that would be nice,” she said regarding how she would like to be remembered. “I’d like for them to think ‘I’m glad I knew her.’”

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