Helen Gallagher

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Helen Gallagher
Gallagher in 1971
Born (1926-07-19) July 19, 1926 (age 97)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Actress, dancer, singer
Years active1944–present
AwardsTony Award, Featured Actress in a Musical, 1952, as Gladys Bumps in Pal Joey;
Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, 1971, as Lucille Early in No, No, Nanette;
Tony Award, Lead Actress in a Musical, 1971, also for the role of Lucille Early in No, No, Nanette;
Daytime Emmy Award, Lead Actress, 1976, 1977, 1988, as Maeve Ryan in Ryan’s Hope

Helen Gallagher (born July 19, 1926) is an American actress, dancer, and singer. She is the recipient of three Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, and a Drama Desk Award.

Gallagher's work on the New York stages spanned seven decades, with her big break coming in the role of Nancy in the 1947 musical High Button Shoes. Gallagher won her first Tony Award for her role as Gladys Bumps in the 1952 revival of Pal Joey, and earned her first leading role on the Broadway stage in 1953, starring in Hazel Flagg. Two more noteworthy stage roles for Gallagher included her run as Nickie in Sweet Charity, which began in January 1966, and earned Gallagher a Tony Award nomination; and then, a year and a half later, Gallagher replaced Gwen Verdon in the lead role of Charity.

Gallagher won her second Tony Award as well as a Drama Desk Award for her role as Lucille Early in the 1971 revival of the 1920s musical classic No, No, Nanette. To audiences unfamiliar with her theater work, Gallagher is perhaps more recognizable as the Irish matriarch Maeve Ryan on the ABC soap opera Ryan's Hope. She played Maeve for the show's duration, from July 1975 to January 1989, and was recognized with three Daytime Emmy Awards. Gallagher last acted on the New York stages in 2000 and is still actively involved in the industry, working as an acting instructor at Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City.

Early years[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, New York on July 19, 1926,[1] Gallagher was raised in Scarsdale, New York, and the Bronx. Her parents separated and she was raised by an aunt. She suffered from asthma.[2]



Gallagher was known for decades as a Broadway performer. She appeared in Make a Wish, Hazel Flagg, Portofino, High Button Shoes, and Sweet Charity (for which she received a 1967 Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress in a Musical), eventually assuming the title role, and closing the original Broadway run.[3] She also appeared in Cry for Us All.

In 1952, she won a Tony Award for her work in the revival of Pal Joey. In 1971, she won her second Tony for her role in the revival of the musical No, No, Nanette.[3] Her song-and-dance number with Bobby Van from that show, "You Can Dance with Any Girl", was a popular number from the 1971 revival, and was performed by both Gallagher and Van on the 1971 and 1972 Tony Awards telecasts. She later took on the role of Sue Smith in the Paper Mill Playhouse revival of the show, playing the role Keeler played a quarter century earlier.

Her first starring role on Broadway came in 1953 as title character in Hazel Flagg, based on the 1937 Carole Lombard movie Nothing Sacred.[4] The role earned her a feature-photo shoot for Life. Gallagher appeared in the 1977 movie Roseland opposite Christopher Walken. An aficionada of Rodgers and Hammerstein, she appeared on a special tribute to Richard Rodgers on The Bell Telephone Hour.

Gallagher in Ryan's Hope (1977)


In 1949 Gallagher was co-host of Manhattan Showcase, a 15-minute talent-discovery program on CBS television.[5]

Despite extensive work on Broadway, Gallagher is perhaps best known to many Americans unfamiliar with her theater repertoire as the Irish matriarch Maeve Ryan on the ABC soap opera Ryan's Hope, a role she played for the show's entire duration, from 1975 to 1989. She was nominated for five Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the serial, winning in 1976, 1977, and 1988.[citation needed]

At the time she was cast in Ryan's Hope, Gallagher taught singing in her home three times a week. Michael Hawkins, who played the first Frank Ryan, was one of her students.[6]

As the show progressed into the 1980s, the show's ratings - never at blockbuster levels - took a steep slide.[citation needed] ABC executives cancelled Ryan's Hope in 1989. Creator and head writer Claire Labine scripted the end of the final episode with Maeve at the family bar, singing "Danny Boy". Almost immediately after the cancellation of Ryan's Hope, Gallagher had a two-day guest stint on Another World, and has appeared in All My Children as a strict nurse and on One Life to Live as a sex therapist (whose son married Dr. Dorian Lord). She has continued to act in various off-Broadway and professional theater productions.

Later years[edit]

In 1984, Gallagher starred in the title role of Tallulah, a musical stage biography of actress Tallulah Bankhead.[7] In 1990s, she guest-starred on Law & Order and The Cosby Mysteries. In 1997, she starred in the independent LGBT-themed drama film Neptune’s Rocking Horse.[8]

She is currently a faculty member at Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City.[9]

Theater credits[edit]

Opening date Closing date Title Role Theatre
December 7, 1944 May 12, 1945 Seven Lively Arts Understudy
Corps de Ballet
September 6, 1945 September 15, 1945 Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston Corps de Ballet New Century
December 21, 1945 June 29, 1946 Billion Dollar Baby Chorine
March 13, 1947 July 31, 1948 Brigadoon Dancer Ziegfeld
October 9, 1947 July 2, 1949 High Button Shoes Nancy New Century
October 13, 1949 March 18, 1950 Touch and Go Daughter
The Girl
April 18, 1951 July 14, 1951 Make a Wish Poupette Winter Garden
January 3, 1952 April 18, 1953 Pal Joey Gladys Bumps Broadhurst
February 11, 1953 September 19, 1953 Hazel Flagg Hazel Flagg Mark Hellinger
May 13, 1954 November 24, 1956 The Pajama Game Gladys (replacement) St. James
Shubert Theatre
April 20, 1955 May 31, 1955 Guys and Dolls Miss Adelaide City Center
May 18, 1955 May 29, 1955 Finian's Rainbow Sharon McLonergan City Center
April 9, 1957 May 5, 1957 Brigadoon Meg Brockie Adelphi
February 21, 1958 February 22, 1958 Portofino Kitty Adelphi
Mar 19, 1958 March 30, 1958 Oklahoma! Ado Annie Carnes City Center
December 31, 1964 January 23, 1965 Royal Flush Understudy Shubert
January 29, 1966 July 15, 1967 Sweet Charity Nickie
understudy Charity
replacement Charity
May 24, 1966 January 3, 1970 Mame replacement Agnes Gooch
Winter Garden
April 8, 1970 April 15, 1970 Cry for Us All Bessie Legg Broadhurst
January 19, 1971 February 3, 1973 No, No, Nanette Lucille Early 46th Street
November 11, 1972 February 11, 1973 Much Ado About Nothing Choreography assistant to Donald Saddler Winter Garden
April 26, 1976 May 9, 1976 Tickles by Tucholsky Theatre Four
October 5, 1977 November 27, 1977 The Misanthrope Arsinoe Joseph Papp Public Theater
New York Shakespeare Festival
June 14, 1978 December 3, 1978 The American Dance Machine Choreographic reconstruction Century
October 10, 1978 November 12, 1978 A Broadway Musical Maggie Simpson Theatre of the Riverside Church
October 8, 1979 August 28, 1982 Sugar Babies Replacement Mark Hellinger
May 14, 1981 October 25, 1981 I Can't Keep Running in Place Beth Westside
June 13, 1983 Unknown Tallulah Tallulah Bankhead Westside Arts
August 23, 1983 September 5, 1983 Same Time, Next Year Doris Ivoryton Playhouse
March 9, 1987 March 9, 1987 Star Dust Performer Sardi's
May 17, 1990 July 8, 1990 Annie 2 Fran Riley Norma Terris
September 6, 1990 September 9, 1990 Money Talks Promenade
June 1996 June 1996 Home Mother Ensemble Studio Theatre
April 9, 1997 May 27, 1997 No, No, Nanette Paper Mill Playhouse
January 28, 2000 January 30, 2000 70, Girls, 70 Gert York Theatre Company

Film and television[edit]

Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
1949 Manhattan Showcase Host
1951 Don Ameche's Musical Playhouse Self Jan 25, 1951
1951 Don Ameche's Musical Playhouse Self Feb 4, 1951
1951 Paul Whitman's Goodyear Revue Self May 20, 1951
1951 General Electric Guest House Self August 12, 1951
1951 The Mel Torme Show Self November 5, 1951
1951 Colgate Comedy Hour Self Episodes 1.35 and 1.40
1952 The Ezio Pinza Show February 1, 1952
1953 The Ed Sullivan Show Self Episodes 6.25 and 6.45
1954 Kraft Television Theatre TV series, episode: Pardon My Prisoner
1955 Colgate Comedy Hour Self Episode 5.33
1955 A.N.T.A. Album of 1955 Self
1958 The Ed Sullivan Show Self Episodes 11.17, 11.19 and 11.32
1960 Strangers When We Meet Betty Anders
1960 Hallmark Hall of Fame Lise TV series, episode: Shangri-La
1961 The Bell Telephone Hour Self TV series, episode: The Music of Richard Rodgers
1961 Yves Montand on Broadway Self
1971 The David Frost Show Self Episode 3.109
1971 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Self Feb 4, 1971
1972 26th Tony Awards Self
1973 27th Tony Awards Self
1976 The American Woman: Portraits of Courage Mary Harris Jones
1977 Roseland Cleo
1975–1989 Ryan's Hope Maeve Ryan TV series, 789 episodes
1982 Family Feud Self Feb 8, 1982
1989 Live with Regis Self Jan 13, 1989
1989 Entertainment Tonight Self Jan 13, 1989
1989 Another World Hannah Tuttle TV series, 2 episodes
1993 Law & Order Flo Bishop TV series, episode: Born Bad
1995 The Cosby Mysteries TV series, episode: Last Tango
1995 All My Children Nurse Harris TV series, 2 episodes
1997 Neptune's Rocking Horse Sadie
1997–1998 One Life to Live Dr. Maud Boylan TV series, 6 episodes
2009 American Masters Self TV series, episode: Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About


  1. ^ Who Sang what on Broadway, 1866–1996: Volume 1. McFarland & Company. 2006. p. 280. ISBN 9780786421893. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  2. ^ Klein, Alvin (August 21, 1983). "Soap Opera Star at Ivoryton". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b "("Helen Gallagher" search results)". Tony Awards. Tony Award Productions. Archived from the original on 26 January 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  4. ^ Inc, Time (1953-03-09). "The Little Girl They Had to Star". Life. No. March 9, 1953. pp. 102–106.
  5. ^ "Manhattan Showcase". Variety. March 9, 1949. p. 33. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  6. ^ Wilson, Earl (July 16, 1975). "Helen Gallagher Slips Into Soaps". The Milwaukee Sentinel.
  7. ^ Frank, Leah D. (August 12, 1984). "Tallulah: Glitter and Self Pity". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Woods, Mark (April 13, 1997). "Neptune's Rocking Horse".
  9. ^ "Helen Gallagher". HB Studio. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2019.

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