Joan Hotchkis, ‘The Odd Couple’ and ‘Legacy’ Star, Dead at 95

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Beloved stage, screen, and television actress Joan Hotchkis has died at the age of 95, as confirmed by her daughter, Paula Chambers. She passed away from congestive heart failure on September 27 in Los Angeles.

Joan Hotchkis appeared in dozens of productions throughout her impressive career. The actress is best known, however, for her roles in the classic TV sitcom The Odd Couple and Legacy, a 1975 crime drama both starring and written by Joan Hotchkis.

But believe it or not, Hotchkis’ first job wasn’t in acting at all but in teaching. After earning a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, Joan Hotchkis taught nursery school in New York while she pursued her dream of becoming an actor.

“I really wanted to be respectable and approved of and altruistic and unselfish and noble,” Joan Hotchkis said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But ever since I was a very little girl, I knew acting was my medium.”

Hotchkis landed her first role in 1954 at the age of 27, appearing in an episode of The Secret Storm, a drama series following the “family secrets and hidden passions” of the fictional community of Woodbridge.

From there, she built a career spanning decades. Throughout her time on both screen and stage, she was featured in everything from soap operas to major movies.

Joan Hotchkis Found Success as a Writer

The release of Legacy was a landmark moment in the career of Joan Hotchkis. Beginning as a one-woman play, Legacy was eventually adapted for the screen. The resulting movie went on to win Best Newcomer at the Tehran Film Festival.

Unfortunately, however, the immense success was immediately followed by one of the most difficult trials of her life. Hotchkis was diagnosed with meningioma, a type of brain tumor. Though non-cancerous, the tumor had to be removed, resulting in what was no doubt a terrifying brain surgery.

Following the ordeal, Joan Hotchkis found that her priorities had changed. Rather than continuing on with a pursuit of TV and movie roles, she shifted focus to the stage.

From there, she performed in regional theaters for several years while continuing to write original material. Eventually, she went back to picking up occasional television roles, including appearances in Charlie’s Angels and The Disappearance of Christina.

A lifelong interest in psychology and politics led to many philanthropic efforts by the Odd Couple star as well. Her biggest passion, however, was women’s rights. In addition to supporting social justice and nonprofits for women, Hotchkis mentored underprivileged girls herself.

Among those who remembered their time with Joan Hotchkis fondly was Bogaletch “Boge” Gebre, an Ethiopian scientist and activist credited as “the woman who began the rebellion of Ethiopian women.”