Seinfeld’s Estelle Harris Dies at 93
One of Seinfeld’s most beloved supporting actors has died. Estelle Harris, best known as George’s mother Estelle on the sitcom passed away from natural causes on Saturday. She was 93 years old.
Her son Glen released this statement to Deadline:
It is with the greatest remorse and sadness to announce that Estelle Harris has passed on this evening at 6:25pm. Her kindness, passion, sensitivity, humor, empathy and love were practically unrivaled, and she will be terribly missed by all those who knew her.
Harris was born Estelle Nussbaum in New York in 1928. She got her start in Hollywood relatively late in life; after her children had grown up and left the house. She began appearing regularly in commercials and by the mid-1980s she was booking roles in films and television. She had guest spots on Married... With Children and Night Court, and appeared in the movies like Once Upon a Time in America and Stand and Deliver.
But her signature role was as Estelle Costanza on Seinfeld. She first appeared in Season 4’s “The Contest,” widely regarded as the best Seinfeld episode. She walks in on Jason Alexander’s George at a key moment during said contest, and winds up in the hospital, where she berated her son in hilarious fashion.
Harris initially appeared on Seinfeld solo, but once she was paired with Jerry Stiller as George’s dad Frank, the Costanzas became a cornerstone of the series. Together, Frank and Estelle would appear on 29 episodes of Seinfeld, more than any other characters outside the central four stars except Newman.
After news broke of Harris death, Jason Alexander wrote on Twitter, “one of my favorite people have passed ... the joy of playing with her and relishing her glorious laughter was a treat.”
After Seinfeld ended in 1998, Harris continued working steadily in film and television, often in roles that took advantage of her signature shrill voice. She appeared in Toy Story 2, 3, and 4 as a hysterically funny Mrs. Potato Head.
Seinfeld remains a fixture in syndication and on streaming almost 25 years after the show went off the air. There’s no doubt Harris’ work will stand for decades as one of the defining TV moms in history.