Estelle Harris, who hyperventilated her way into the hearts of millions of “Seinfeld” fans as Estelle Costanza, died on Saturday in Palm Desert, Calif. She was 93.
Her son Glen Harris announced the death in a statement sent by Ms. Harris’s agent.
In 27 episodes — starting in 1992 during the fourth season of “Seinfeld,” around the time that the show became a pop culture sensation, and continuing until its final episode in 1998 — Ms. Harris embarrassed and harangued her son, one of the show’s four main characters, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), and his father, Frank (Jerry Stiller).
During her character’s meltdowns, often in response to slights and offenses to propriety, Ms. Harris deployed a screech that had the urgency of a hyena in its death throes. Her comedic style summoned paranoia and outrage in response to transgressions like her son continuing to wear the same button-down shirt five years after he bought it.
Estelle Nussbaum was born on April 22, 1928, in New York City, where her Polish-Jewish parents owned a candy store. She spent much of her childhood in Tarentum, Pa., a small coal-mining town. There, she endured antisemitic taunts but found an outlet in stage performances. Her father, who she said “spoke the King’s English,” insisted that she take elocution lessons from a young age.
She moved back to New York in her late teens and later married Sy Harris, a salesman of window treatments. They had three children, and for a while, Ms. Harris was a homemaker.
She wound her way through community theaters and television commercials before her big break on “Seinfeld.” She went on to other prominent roles as a character actor for the shrill and unhinged, including in the “Toy Story” movie franchise, for which she provided the voice of Mrs. Potato Head.
She is survived by her children, three grandsons and a great-grandson.
A full obituary will appear soon.
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