Oscar Actors: Kahn, Madeline (Cumulative Advantage)

Funny, offbeat comedienne of the American stage, TV, and films. Trained as an opera singer, she sang and acted on and off Broadway and in nightclubs before her screen debut in the early 1970s.

Kahn was nominated for best supporting actress Oscars for her performances in “Paper Moon” (1973) and “Blazing Saddles”(1974) and brightened many other films with her animated comic presence, often in feverishly lusty roles, most effectively in the zany farces of Mel Brooks.

Jewish Background

Madeline Gail Kahn (nee Madeline Gail Wolfson) was born on September 29, 1942.

As actress, comedian, voice actress, and singer, she is best known for comedic roles in films directed by Peter Bogdanovich and Mel Brooks, including What’s Up, Doc? (1972), Young Frankenstein (1974), High Anxiety (1977), History of the World, Part I (1981).

Oscar Nominations: 2

Her Academy Award–nominated roles were in Paper Moon (1973) and in Blazing Saddles (1974).

Oscar Alert:

In 1973, the Supporting Actress winner was Tatum O’Neal, also for “Paper Moon,” and in 1974, Ingrid Bergman for “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Tony Nominations and Awards

Kahn made her Broadway debut in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1968, and received Tony Award nominations for the play In the Boom Boom Room in 1974, and for the original production of the musical On the Twentieth Century in 1978.

She received a third Tony Award nomination for the revival of the play “Born Yesterday” in 1989, and won the 1993 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the comedy “The Sisters Rosensweig.” 

Emmy Award

She starred as Madeline Wayne on the short-lived ABC sitcom Oh Madeline (1983–84), and won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1987 for an ABC Afterschool Special.

Her other film appearances in the 1980s included The Cheap Detective (1978), City Heat (1984), and Clue (1985).

Later in her career, she played Dr. Gorgeous in Wendy Wasserstein’s 1993 play (on Broadway), The Sisters Rosensweig, a role which earned her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.

Kahn played Molly Ringwald’s mother in the 1990 film Betsy’s Wedding.

Kahn received good reviews for her turn in the 1999 indie movie, “Judy Berlin,” her final film.

Kahn developed ovarian cancer in 1998, but continued to work on Cosby.  She married John Hansbury in October 1999.

She also worked on the first two episodes of Little Bill, voicing Mrs. Shapiro. However, the disease spread rapidly, and she died on December 3, 1999, at age 57.

The second episode (“Just a Baby” / “The Camp Out”) was the final episode for which she voiced Mrs. Shapiro and was dedicated to her memory.

A bench dedicated to her memory was placed in Central Park by her husband, John Hansbury, and her brother, Jeffrey Kahn, near the reservoir on W 87th St.