Olympia Dukakis, ‘Steel Magnolias’ Star and ‘Moonstruck’ Oscar Winner, Dead at 89

by Evan Reier
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A legend of the silver screen has sadly left us. Olympia Dukakis, who portrayed memorable roles in Steel Magnolias, Moonstruck and countless other films, has died at the age of 89.

The news first came out through her brother, fellow actor Apollo Dukakis. He posted on Facebook on Saturday morning, May 1, to announce the heartbreaking news.

My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City. After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her Louis.

Posted by Apollo Dukakis on Saturday, May 1, 2021

“My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City,” Apollo Dukakis wrote. “After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her Louis.”

He is referencing Louis Zorich, who was Olympia’s longtime husband. The pair married in 1962 and never split before his death in 2018. She leaves behind three children, Stefan, Peter and Christina.

The Incredible Lifetime of Steel Magnolias and Moonstruck Star Olympia Dukakis

Olympia Dukakis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on June 20, 1931. Before her captivating acting career began, her childhood was equally as interesting.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Dukakis was a renowned athlete who was a fencing champion growing up. She then attended Boston University, where she got a degree in physical therapy, and eventually a Masters of Fine Arts degree.

Her acting career began around the same time she was in school, first appearing in the TV shows The Doctors and The Nurses and Dr. Kildare. She was acting much more often in plays and on stages rather than on screen, though. While she was able to find work, her acting career was relatively sparse in terms of publicity or established roles until the 1980s.

She landed a major role in the series Search for Tomorrow, portraying Dr. Barbara Moreno for a total of 39 episodes.

It was in 1987 that Olympia Dukakis made her name known the world. In Moonstruck, she played the iconic Rose Castorini, mother of Cher’s Loretta. To put it simply, Dukakis as a nagging and dubious Jewish mother was one of the best parts of the film.

The Academy agreed. Dukakis won Best Supporting Actress for the role, delivering her a plaudit most can only dream of.

She starred in several other films, including Steel Magnolias as another memorable role. Clairee Beecher, good friend and example of class to Ouiser Boudreaux. Her work for Steel Magnolias, as well as Dad and the Look Who’s Talking series solidified her place in cinema lore.

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