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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in New York City, New York, USA
Died in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (natural causes)
Birth NameThelma Goodman

Mini Bio (1)

Her late 1930s film career was brief and unheralded, and she retired early from the business, but as the mother of Albert Brooks she managed to enjoy a mini-comeback of sorts in a couple of his films, during her twilight years. Former singer/actress Thelma Leeds was born Thelma Goodman in New York City. Trained in opera, her career break happened while singing on radio. RKO took an interest in the lovely, pencil-browed brunette after a talent scout discovered her warbling in a New York nightery. Placed under contract, she moved to Hollywood in 1936 and was befitted with a new stage moniker -- Thelma Leeds. She began things off with an uncredited part in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical classic Follow the Fleet (1936). She then moved into minor roles in New Faces of 1937 (1937) and the Edward Arnold/Frances Farmer/Cary Grant drama The Toast of New York (1937).

While working on the "New Faces" film, Thelma met vaudeville/radio comedian and dialectician Harry Parke (born Harry Einstein). Harry had a supporting role that prominently featured his well-known, English-mangling Greek character Parkyakarkas. The Jewish-American couple married in 1937, and Thelma immediately gave up her nascent career. She produced three sons: Bob Einstein became an actor and comedy writer (he was both the head writer and actor who played Officer Judy on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967)); Clifford Einstein, an advertising executive and sometime actor; and, of course, Albert Brooks, who certainly must have grown up with a keen sense of humor to survive the christened name of Albert Einstein. He wisely changed his name, went on the stand-up circuit and evolved into a highly successful actor/director/writer.

Husband Harry died suddenly of a heart attack at age 54 in 1958 while attending a Friar's Roast in honor of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Two years later, Thelma married Irving "Bernie" Bernstein, who died in 1983. Thelma's "comeback" came with small roles in a couple of Albert's films, Real Life (1979) and Modern Romance (1981), the last in which she played Albert's mother. Son Clifford appeared in both movies as well, and other son Bob appeared in the latter film. In 1996, Albert had a critical hit with his black comedy film Mother (1996), which was loosely based on Thelma and starred Debbie Reynolds in the title role.

A longtime Beverly Hills resident, Thelma passed away at age 95 of natural causes on May 27, 2006, survived by her three sons, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Harry Parke (7 February 1937 - 24 November 1958) (his death)

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