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Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows: Her Best Roles From ‘Sisters’ to ‘Mike and Molly’

All of the films and series the actress has appeared in, plus the story behind her name!

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Over the years, Swoosie Kurtz movies and TV shows have brought the actress an Emmy and two Tony awards, along with critical acclaim for her work. But did you ever wonder where her unique moniker came from? Apparently it’s derived from “Swoose,” a half swan/half goose, which was the name of the B-17D bomber that her father piloted in World War II.  When asked about adopting a different name, she has said, “Change it to what – Tiffany?  It’s been an advantage. It’s unforgettable. I’m the only one.” And so she is!

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Which is how Swoosie came to be. The talented actress was born on September 6, 1944 in Omaha, Nebraska, but moved often during her school years, living in eight different states due to her father’s role in the U.S. Air Force. She majored in drama at the University of Southern California, and later attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  

Swoosie (rhymes with Lucy) made her first television appearance at age 17 on The Donna Reed Show and more recently starred in the sitcom Mike and Molly. She appeared on the game show To Tell The Truth at 18, identifying her dad from two impostors, and made her debut as a series regular on the daytime soap As The World Turns in 1971.   

She collected he triple crown of Broadway — the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards — for her portrayal of Gwen in The Fifth of July, and has grown her resume to include many TV shows, TV movies and feature films. 

Enjoy this guide to Swoosie Kurtz movies and TV shows.

Swoosie Kurtz TV shows:

Love, Sidney as Laurie Morgan (1981-1983)

The sitcom stars Tony Randall as Sidney Shorr, a single and closeted gay man and Kurtz was a single mother with whom he shared his home.  

Considering it was still the early 80s, the premise of the story was quite brave given that it was the first TV program to feature a gay person as the central character.  Kurtz received an Emmy nomination in 1982.  

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Sisters as Alex Reed Barker (1991-1996): Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows

Kurtz was one of four very different sisters living in Winnetka, Illinois.  Their father dies, but had actually been an absentee dad due to his workaholic ways, and their long-suffering mom turned to the bottle to cope with his neglect and various affairs.  

Although the show was a drama with many flashbacks to their younger selves, with soap opera style storylines, the series was also quirky enough to generate good network numbers.  Kurtz’ Alex was the eldest sister who was rich and somewhat shallow, but always protective and close to her sisters.  

As with moms and daughters, Alex often clashed with her daughter, Reed (Ashley Judd).  Kurtz is the only actor to appear in every episode of the series and was nominated for an Emmy and Screen Actors Guild award in 1993.  

Love & Money as Effie Conklin (1999-2000): Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows

Classes collide in this comedy of rich girl falls in love with poor boy.  It’s the penthouse-residing Conklin family of socialites versus the basement dwelling McBride family of maintenance men.  The two families are unhappily linked due to their offspring.   

Huff as Madeleine Sullivan (2004-2006)

The series was a Showtime favorite that won three Emmys from 10 nominations.  Psychiatrist Craig Huffstodt (Hank Azaria) is a good therapist and family man in the middle of his own mid-life crisis.  Kurtz was nominated for an Emmy for her recurring role as Madeleine Sullivan in Season 1. 

Pushing Daisies as Lily Charles (2007-2009)

The title comes from the unique talent of Ned, a pastry chef able to restore the dead to living just by touching them.  The catch is that the person only stays alive for one minute or else someone else dies for them.  With his alive again childhood sweetheart, a private eye and lovesick waitress, the trio solve various murders.   

Mike & Molly as Joyce Flynn (2010-2016)

This was one of Melissa McCarthy’s breakthrough roles as Molly.  Mike and Molly fall in love over their mutual fondness for pie and both are facing challenges in the weight loss department. Joyce is Molly and her sister Victoria’s mother, and is a very modern woman who tries to keep her youthful vim and vigor, but likes a few drinks – everyday! Joyce can fly off the handle at the drop of a hat.  

Swoosie Kurtz attends 'Show Me A Hero' New York screening at The New York Times Center on August 11, 2015 in New York City.
Steve Zak Photography / Getty

Man with a Plan as Beverly Burns (2017-2020): Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows

Kurtz took on the recurring role of Beverly Burns, mom to Adam (Matt LeBlanc), who thinks taking care of his three children is a piece of cake and tells his wife Andi (Liza Snyder) that she can get back to her job and he’ll manage the home and kids. Recipe for fun and disastrous situations.    

Call Me Kat as Sheila (2021-2023): Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows

Sheila is an overbearing mother who can’t understand why her daughter, Kat (Mayim Bialik), chooses to be single and is constantly trying to have her meet new men.  Based on the British sitcom Miranda, Kat decides to use the money her parents had been saving for her wedding to open a cat-themed café.  

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Swoosie Kurtz Movies

A Caribbean Mystery as Ruth Walter (1983)

A Miss Marple mystery set at a luxury Caribbean resort, where a guest whispers to Miss Marple that another guest is a wife murderer.  Before he can reveal the identify of the killer, he dies of an apparent overdose of alcohol and blood pressure meds.  

Wildcats as Verna McGrath (1986)

Robyn Lively, Goldie Hawn and Swoosie Kurtz in 1986's Wildcats
Robyn Lively, Goldie Hawn and Swoosie Kurtz in 1986’s Wildcats©WBDiscovery/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

The sports comedy marked the debut of Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson and starred Goldie Hawn and Kurtz.  Molly (Hawn) is a high school track coach who can rattle off NFL stats better than anyone.  When the football coach’s job becomes vacant, she applies for it despite the whispering and chuckles from fellow staff members and her former husband.  

Dangerous Liaisons as Madame de Volanges (1988): Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows

In the period romantic drama, Kurtz is Cecile’s (Uma Thurman) mother and cousin to Merteuil (Glenn Close).  In pre-Revolution Paris, the Marquise de Merteuil wants revenge against her ex-lover who ended their relationship. Sounds like a 48 Hours episode.  

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Citizen Ruth as Diane Siegler (1996)

A very timely film about abortion rights starring Laura Dern as Ruth Stoops, a poor, homeless drug user who has already lost four of her children and now finds herself pregnant again.  A judge orders her to get an abortion or face a felony charge.  She is befriended by a radical Evangelical couple, Norm and Gail Stoney, who take her into their home and try to convince her to have the baby. 

Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows: The actress attends "Best Of Enemies" New York premiere at Museum Of Arts And Design on July 29, 2015 in New York City.
Andrew Toth / Getty

Liar Liar as Dana Appleton (1997): Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows

Unlike many of her parts in Swoosie Kurtz movies and TV shows, this is a small role in a comedy starring Jim Carrey as a pathological liar/lawyer who finds his career turned topsy turvey when he inexplicably cannot physically lie for 24 whole hours due to his son Max’s wish to make an honest man out of his dad. 

Cruel Intentions as Dr. Regina Greenbaum (1999)

Starring Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Michelle Geller, the film centers around two vicious step-siblings at an elite Manhattan prep school who make a bet to end the virginity of the new headmaster’s daughter before the start of the term.  Enter Ryann Phillippe.  Kurtz’s role is a small one.  

Bubble Boy as Mrs. Livingston (2001): Swoosie Kurtz Movies and TV Shows

Jimmy Livingston has no immune system and lives in a sterilized dome in his bedroom in California, hence the nickname Bubble Boy.  Swoosie plays Jimmy’s overbearing and devout Christian mother.  As a teen, Jimmy has become friends with Chloe, the girl next door, despite his mom’s discouragement.  After learning Chloe is going to marry her boyfriend at Niagara Falls, Jimmy builds himself a mobile bubble suit to stop the I-do’s.

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