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Dixie Carter: 1939 – 2010

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Actress Dixie Carter died yesterday morning at the of 70. After a lengthy career that spanned stage and numerous television roles, she rose to fame playing interior designer Julia Sugarbaker in the sitcom Designing Women, which ran from 1986-1993 on CBS. During a 2006 reunion of the cast, series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason said of Carter:

Dixie has such powerful control of her words. I think Dixie, what she does with words is what we all wish that we could do.

Her character; a Southern belle with a sharp tongue was not unlike her off screen personality and was also developed through her cabaret act, which she continued to perform during her stint on Designing Women. In a review of her stage show, by Stephen Holden, which appeared in the New York Times on April 10, 1990, he wrote:

When Dixie Carter made her New York cabaret debut five years ago at Freddy’s Supper Club, which has closed, she immediately established herself as one of the most vivid and endearing performers in a field already crowded with idiosyncratic personalities. The character she brought to the stage was an original for New York: a proper Southern woman with a streak of hellfire who almost kicks over the traces but never quite loses her dignity.

Her husband and fellow actor, Hal Halbrook, said in a statement:

This has been a terrible blow to our family. We would appreciate everyone understanding that this is a private family tragedy.

Posted below are clips from Designing Women that illustrate Carter’s gifted comic timing and delivery. In the first clip, from season one, Carter’s character, Julia Sugarbaker, visits the dressing room of a beauty pageant contestant to defend her sister (played by Delta Burke). In the second clip, from the show’s final season, Julia loses her cool while serving jury duty.

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