I’m not sure anyone pictures her first. Oh, someone must, I suppose, but you hear her. What you see is not her. Granted, there’s a certain facial similarity, true. However, there’s as much Divine to Ursula as there is her. I can’t help wondering how much she knew about that, given that apparently her Catholic faith informed what roles she was willing to accept. Then again, she doesn’t seem to have thought twice about taking a role in a Disney movie; I’m not sure I’d stop to ask what role they wanted me for and what the inspiration for the character was, either.
I am fascinated by the information that she was a “civilian actress technician” for the US Army in the ‘40s. It says she enrolled in Catholic University of America after enlisting; I don’t fully understand the timeline there, but it does once again emphasize Carroll’s faith. Her family had moved to Los Angeles when she was a child, and she returned there in the late ‘40s, after all of that. Her first movie was in 1947, which doesn’t give a lot of time for university given that was the year she turned twenty. She did a few movies—she was third-billed in With Six You Get Eggroll, with Doris Day and Brian Keith. (It was also George Carlin’s first credited role!)
However, Carroll switched to television early and stayed there for many years. To my amusement, she did a show called Hobby Lobby with Cliff Arquette. She did forty episodes of Make Room For Daddy. No Lux Video Theatre, alas, but she did any number of the early “playhouse”-style TV shows of the ‘50s. She did an episode of Studio 57, on the Dumont Network, the show that gave us Leave It To Beaver. She did all kinds of similar shows—and she was Mary’s cranky roommate on the episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show where Mary had her tonsils taken out.
Most notable of her TV performances, though, was as Prunella in the 1965 Leslie Ann Warren version of Cinderella. She’s the one whose knee creaks. I sympathize. Actually, it’s a little surprising how many Disney connections Carroll had before being cast as Ursula, and I can’t help assuming she knew that and was frustrated by it. No, that production wasn’t Disney, but Disney did do a version of the story, and Leslie Ann Warren would do several movies for the studio in her career. A lot of things she did eventually connected back to Disney.
And, finally, so did she. In 1989, the movie was released wherein she joined the pantheon of Disney villains, and one of the ones with a truly great villain song at that. It wasn’t her only voicework, but a truly astonishing amount of it in the later years of her life would be working as Ursula. That’s her, in the Kingdom Hearts games, for example. And, yes, she was on the TV show. Not everyone came back to Disney, but presumably she felt less mistreated by the studio than Robin Williams had. She will definitely live on through the role.