Just recently, it announced that beloved television icon Estelle Harris had passed away of natural causes at the age of 93. Of course, Estelle best known for portraying the character of George Costanza’s mother on the hit 1990s sitcom Seinfeld, a role which she reprised over two dozen times after first debuting in the show’s classic fourth season episode “The Contest”. Estelle’s shrill voice never failed to bring audiences into hysterics, whether on small-screen sitcoms like Seinfeld or in big-screen films like Toy Story 2 and it’s two sequels, in which she voiced the character of Mrs. Potato Head. Join Facts Verse as we pay our respects to Estelle Harris, who passed days before her birthday.
A Kid in a Candy Store
Estelle Harris was born in Manhattan on April 22, 1928. At the time of her birth, Estelle’s last name was Nussbaum, which was a name that came from her parents. Estelle’s parents were Polish Jewish immigrants that ran a candy store in the district. When Estelle grew older, her father received an offer from her aunt and uncle to come work with them in Pennsylvania at their candy store. At the age of 7, Estelle moved with her parents to the town of Tarentum, and her father went to work at the new candy store.
After moving to the Pennsylvanian town at the age of only 7, Estelle ended up coming of age in Tarentum. The young woman ended up graduating form Tarentum High School on track and ready to take on the world. However, she would end up marrying and starting a family before becoming the big television star that the world would come to know her as.
Estelle Meets Her First and Only Husband
It was in 1952 that Estelle Harris first met the man that would go on to become her first and only husband. That man named Sy Harris, and he was working as a salesman for a window treatment company at the time. Before the year over, Estelle and Sy were married. From that point forward, Estelle Nussbaum would become known as Estelle Harris. However, it would still be several years before she would make her way into the entertainment industry.
Several years into Estelle and Sy’s marriage, the two had their first child. That first child was son Eric, who was born in 1957. Several years after that, Estelle gave birth to second son Glen in 1961. Finally, in 1964, Estelle gave birth to her and Sy’s first and only daughter. After that, the couple decided to call it quits on having any more kids. However, they remained happily married until Sy’s death in 2021.
Estelle Pursues Her Acting Dreams
It wasn’t until all three of her and Sy’s children were attending school that Estelle finally felt free enough to begin pursuing her dream of becoming a professional actress. Although she got a late start, she would come to make a name for herself over the ensuing decades. The aspiring actress’s first roles came thanks to amateur productions. She then worked her way up to performing in dinner theatre productions before branching out into television commercials, which is where she found the majority of her early success. At one point, Estelle was performing in around two dozen commercials a year, with one of the actress’s most popular commercials being for Handi-Wrap II.
After several years of slowly building up her acting resume, Estelle Harris finally got her chance to test out her skills on the big screen in 1977. That year, the actress received a role in a film by the name of Looking Up, which chronicled several generations of a working class Jewish family living in New York City. It wouldn’t be until nearly two decades later that Estelle would finally receive the recognition that she truly deserved. Of course, that recognition came thanks to Estelle receiving the role of George Costanza’s mother on Seinfeld.
Estelle Harris Becomes Estelle Costanza
When Estelle Harris first portrayed the character of George Costanza’s mother, appropriately named Estelle Costanza, the role brought her to more attention that ever before. The role took great advantage of Estelle’s iconic shrill voice, with Estelle proving a decidedly antagonist mother figure to the neurotic character of George. Estelle was such a hit upon her first Seinfeld appearance that she ended up being brought back to appear in nearly 30 episodes of the show before it came to it’s conclusion in 1998.
As a result of the attention that Estelle Harris garnered from portraying the character of Estelle Costanza on Seinfeld, the actress was able to receive some other notable roles over the course of the 1990s and beyond. Estelle was still working in the years leading up to her death, with her last role being in 2019. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Seinfeld Leads to More Work
Besides the role of Estelle Costanza on Seinfeld, some of the other notable roles that Estelle Harris received over the course of the 1990s included an appearance on the series Star Trek: Voyager in 1996 and an appearance in the film Out to Sea in 1997. Neither role was huge, but they both further increased the hard-working actress’s profile. In 1999, she would receive the role that would end up going down in history as her second-most iconic, with that being the role of Mrs. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise. Estelle’s first time voicing the character came in Toy Story 2, and she reprised the role in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4. In fact, it was Estelle’s role in 2019’s Toy Story 4 that ended up being her very last bit of work in the entertainment industry.
Further Success and a Minor Scare in the New Millennium
After receiving her iconic role as Mrs. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise at the turn of the century, Estelle Harris’ good fortune continued into the 2000s when it came to her career. However, Estelle and her husband suffered a car accident in 2001 that nearly killed them! The two lost control of their vehicle and the car was said to have flipped over twice, but neither them were said to have been seriously injured. Estelle and Sy would have another two decades of marriage left together following the car accident and leading up to Sy’s death in 2021. Now, Estelle Harris has followed suit.
The Toy Story Franchise Leads to Further Voice Acting
Seinfeld had come to an end in 1998, and Estelle’s role in the Toy Story franchise came at the perfect time to ensure that the actress wasn’t going to have too big of a gap in her resume. Estelle also did voice-acting work with Disney in other capacities, including lending her voice to such features as Brother Bear, Home on the Range, and Tarzan II. Estelle found even more voice-acting work on television, with audiences being able to hear the actress’s iconic shrill voice on such cartoon programs as Kim Possible and Futurama.
While Estelle Harris’ work as Mrs. Potato Head in 2019’s Toy Story 4 would end up being the actress’s very last bit of film work ever, the voice actor who had lent the voice of her on-screen husband in the Toy Story franchise since the very first film had sadly passed away himself in 2017. That actor was, of course, the legendary Don Rickles. Thankfully, the people working on Toy Story 4 had enough archive footage of Don Rickles that they were able to include him in the film.
The Death of Sy Harris
In January of 2021, Sy Harris passed away of natural causes. A little over a year later, in early April of 2022, Estelle Harris also passed away of natural causes. At the time of the beloved television actress’s death, she was 93 years old. She died at her home in Palm Desert, California, and her death was announced by one of her sons.
The Death of Estelle and the Fate of Her Children
The son that ended up announcing the death of mother Estelle Harris was Glen Harris, who had long-since grown up and started a career as a music promoter. In addition to working as a music promoter, Glen also happened to serve as the quasi-manager of his mother. Besides Glen, Estelle and Sy’s other two kids have also led pretty happy and healthy lives. Eric Harris works as a social worker, while Taryn Harris worked for a time as a Nassau Country police officer before retiring. Estelle and Sy’s children also granted the two several grandchildren, and even one great grandchild, before the pair’s recent deaths.
Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander Pays His Respects
Estelle Harris will certainly be sorely missed by all of those that survived her. Another figure that wanted to make sure to pay his respects to the beloved television actress was Jason Alexander. Of course, Jason Alexander is best known to the public for portraying the character of George Costanza on the series Seinfeld. While George and his mother never got along on the show and were always causing problems for one another, the stars who portrayed the character seem to have had a very positive working relationship in real life.
Jason’s tributary Tweet paid reference to his and Estelle’s work together on Seinfeld over two decades previously. Estelle Harris had been brought onto Seinfeld four seasons in, with her making her debut as George’s mom in the classic episode “The Contest”. Later on in the season, the character of George’s father, Frank Costanza, would be brought onto the series in the episode “The Handicap Spot”. In this episode, an actor by the name of John Randolph portrayed the character of Frank Costanza. During the show’s fifth season, John would be replaced by Jerry Stiller, who would remain in the role of Frank for the rest of Seinfeld’s run.
In the wake of her passing, the television audience will sorely miss actress Estelle Harris. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Seinfeld actress Estelle Harris waited until her three children were in school before pursuing her dream of becoming an actress, and that her and the character she played on the sitcom shared the same first name? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!