Barbara Colby

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Barbara Colby
Barbara Colby.gif
Born (1939-07-02)July 2, 1939
New York City, New York,
United States
Died July 24, 1975(1975-07-24) (aged 36)
Venice, Los Angeles, California,
United States
Cause of death Murder by shooting
Years active 1964−75

Barbara Colby (July 2, 1939 – July 24, 1975) was an American actress.

Early career[edit]

Born in New York City on July 2, 1939, she started her acting career in the theater. Following a solid performance in Six Characters in Search of an Author in 1964, she moved to Broadway with a debut in The Devils the following year. Throughout the rest of the decade, she appeared in such plays as Under Milk Wood, Murder in the Cathedral, Dear Liar, and A Doll's House, and garnered fine reviews for her Portia in Julius Caesar in 1966.

Career[edit]

Colby's first important television role was in the series premiere episode of Columbo, titled "Murder by the Book" in 1971. Colby began a bi-coastal career and played a host of support/guest roles on such established shows as The Odd Couple, McMillan & Wife, The F.B.I., Medical Center, Kung Fu and Gunsmoke.

Colby appeared in 1970s plays such as Aubrey Beardsley the Neophyte, House of Blue Leaves, Afternoon Tea and The Hot l Baltimore. She returned to the classics with an off-Broadway role as Elizabeth in Richard III, and was back on Broadway with the plays Murderous Angels in 1971 and a revival of A Doll's House in the early part of 1975.

In 1974, Colby appeared in two films, California Split and Memory of Us. Early in 1975, she co-starred in Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins.

A role as a streetwise prostitute opposite Mary Tyler Moore in an episode of MTM Productions' The Mary Tyler Moore Show led to an appearance in a subsequent episode. In 1975, MTM cast Colby as the new regular player on the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Phyllis, starring actress Cloris Leachman. Colby, who had appeared with Leachman in the TV movie A Brand New Life in 1973, was cast as Leachman's boss, Julie Erskine, the owner of a commercial photography studio.

Personal life[edit]

Though she was born in New York City, she was predominantly raised in New Orleans, where she had interest in acting while attending High school. After her graduation, she received a scholarship to Bard College on the Hudson back in New York. This was followed by a single semester at the Paris Sorbonne University in France.

She never drank alcohol, she was a strict vegetarian and meditated regularly as a devoted follower of the Indian Hindu guru Swami Muktanana. She was also a firm believer of reincarnation.

Death[edit]

On July 24, 1975, after three episodes of the TV series Phyllis had been filmed, Colby and acting colleague James Kiernan were walking to their car following an acting class in Venice, Los Angeles, California, when they were shot inside a parking area. Colby was killed instantly; however, Kiernan was able to describe the shooting to police before he also succumbed to his wounds. Kiernan said that he did not recognize the two men who shot them, and that the shooting had occurred without warning, reason or provocation. Police noted that there was no attempt to rob the pair and concluded that it was a random drive-by shooting. The killers were never identified.[1]

At the time of her death, Colby was separated from her husband, Bob Levitt, son of Ethel Merman.

Liz Torres took over the role of Julie Erskine on Phyllis. Colby's final acting appearance was in the TV movie The Ashes of Mrs. Reasoner, which aired in 1976.

Colby was cremated and was retained by either her family or a friend.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Other notes
1968 Petulia Patient Uncredited
1969 N.Y.P.D. Lila TV, 1 episode
1971 Columbo: Murder by the Book Lilly La Sanka Television movie
The Odd Couple Monique TV, 1 episode
1972 Look Homeward, Angel Miss Brown Television movie
1973 The F.B.I. Marti TV, 1 episode
McMillan & Wife Linda Comsack TV, 1 episode
ABC Afterschool Special TV, 1 episode
1974 Judgement: The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Television movie
Medical Center Mrs. Polumbo TV, 1 episode
Kung Fu Josie TV, 1 episode
Memory of Us Iris
California Split Receptionist
Gunsmoke Kathy Carter TV, 1 episode
1974–1975 The Mary Tyler Moore Show Sherry Ferris TV, 2 episodes
1975 Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins Alternative title: Rafferty and the Highway Hustlers
Phyllis Julie Erskine #1 TV, 3 episodes
1976 The Ashes of Mrs. Reasoner Television movie

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Liz Torres joined cast of 'Mary Tyler Moore' spin-off Phyllis after tragedy," Winston-Salem Journal (NC), March 13, 2004, TV Journal page 8.

External links[edit]