In the horrors of the last several days, TV viewers may not have noticed that two of their neighbors moved on, both on June 14: Corabeth Walton Godsey and Mildred Helper, known in real life as Ronnie Claire Edwards and Ann Morgan Guilbert.
Along with William Schallert, who passed on earlier this year, Edwards and Guilbert held honorable places among Hollywood character actors--those who are not stars, but whose contributions are always skillful and distinctive. Occasionally a Kathy Bates or J.K. Simmons will break out of the pack to genuine stardom. Edwards and Guilbert were never that fortunate, but anyone who ever watched "The Waltons" or "The Dick Van Dyke Show" will remember them with pleasure.
Edwards and Guilbert were two of the most memorable performers in television's "Crazy Neighbor" genre. Corabeth was a cousin to John Walton and the wife of general store proprietor Ike Godsey; she was a pretentious fussbudget who stood somewhere on the TV character line between Mrs. Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie": and Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) on "Keeping Up Appearances." Millie, more amiable but also more madcap than Corabeth, was the wife of dentist Jerry Helper and next-door neighbor to Rob and Laura Petrie. A variant of Ethel Mertz, Millie had show-business ambitions that outstripped her actual talent, as she amply demonstrated when she sang her masterpiece, "A Sentimental Love Song a/k/a My Heart Got a Smash in the Face." (The song also contained the matchless line, "But first I'll kill myself/I'm funny that way.")
Edwards and Guilbert had other roles--Edwards in the Clint Eastwood movie "The Dead Pool," Guilbert in "The Nanny" and Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give"--but it is as Corabeth and Millie that they will be remembered. May they both have a happy eternity borrowing cups of sugar from their neighbors in Elysium.