Linda Carlson, ‘Newhart’ and ‘Murder One’ Actor, Dead at 76

by John Jamison
(Photo by Tony Korody/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

Knoxville, Tennessee-born actor Linda Carlson of Newhart, Murder One, and Clueless fame passed away on October 26 in Connecticut. She was 76 years old. According to her family, she had ALS, and it was ultimately the cause of her death.

Attending high school in Edina, Minnesota, Carlson’s love for the performing arts was evident. She consistently performed in school plays at Edina Morningside High School before moving on to the University of Iowa.

The passionate actor continued to pursue a career in the performing arts, moving to New York for graduate arts school and breaking into Broadway in the early 1970s. She wasn’t met with immediate success, however.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Linda Carlson appeared in multiple off-Broadway productions while teaching at NYU to support herself.

Linda Carlson’s 30 Year Acting Career

In 1973, she got her big break. Carlson starred in Otto Preminger’s interpretation of Full Circle, initially written by novelist Erich Maria Remarque. From there, Linda Carlson broke into the television industry. She first appeared on Westside Medical as Dr. Janet Cotrell in 1977.

Over the next few years, Carlson appeared in several guest-starring roles until the mid-1980s, when she earned the recurring Bev Dutton role on Newhart. In 1985, she appeared on the TV series Brothers, which starred her first husband, Phillip MacKenzie. The early 1990s saw her step across the aisle into movies. She played a nosey neighbor in 1992’s Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and starred in The Beverly Hillbillies movie a year later as Aunt Pearl.

Carlson also did a two-year stint as Judge Beth Bornstein from 1995 to 1997 on Murder One. She was a regular, appearing in 22 episodes of the series. From there, she moved on to her role as Ginger Mariens in the TV adaptation of Clueless. Carlson’s last role was that of a jewelry store clerk on the TV series Passions in 2002.

‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star’s Charitable Works

Linda Carlson’s success as an actor afforded her the ability to help others. She contributed to scholarship funds in Connecticut at the Village for Children and Families and the after-school program Virginia Avenue Project in Los Angeles. The Carlson family asks for any donations in Linda’s name to go to the Village for Children and Families or the ALS Association.

According to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Carlson was passionate about helping youth to become their best selves. She also held an MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Linda Carlson was a writer, too. She has been published in the New York Times. Some of her hobbies included crossword puzzles, painting, and travel.

Surviving Linda Carlson are her siblings James Hale Carlson of Minnesota, Janet Carlson Ouren of Nevada, husband James A.V. Hart, and multiple nieces and nephews.