Dixie Carter passed away this morning, according to her publicist, Steve Rohr. She was 70. She was a tremendous actress, who got stellar reviews for her leading roles in several dramatic made-for-television movies, and she had a show-stopping dramatic soprano voice, which she took to Broadway. Among her notable stage performances, she took over for Zoe Caldwell, playing the legendary Maria Callas in "Master Class" in the late 70s.
But for most of us, Dixie Carter will always be the incomparable Georgia belle, Julia Sugarbaker, oh, she of the iron fist in the white, formal, full-length velvet glove. Part debutante, part pit-bull, Julia was charming, efficient, and fiercely loyal and protective. She had style and cool, and the ability to know when to shed both. Julia was, for me and many of my peers, the epitome of everything we wanted to be as women. We wanted to be feminine, but wanted also to be taken seriously. Nothing encapsulated Julia's truest self than when she was standing up for one of her loved ones.
Here is a clip from an episode from 1986, entitled "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia." It is Julia at her most elegant and indignant, standing up for her sister, former beauty queen, Suzanne (played by Delta Burke).
Not that Julia and Dixie Carter were the same in every respect. Carter, a vocal Libertarian, was often forced by the show's writers to do long rants, espousing Julia's politically liberal slant. As an inducement, the producers would promise to let her sing in an upcoming episode. Those episodes where she got to sing, she said often, were among her favorites. Here, in an episode in which the normally devout Charlene (played by Jean Smart) has a crisis in faith around the holidays, Julia sings a solo of "How Great Thou Art".
I love this clip, because Carter's real-life husband, actor Hal Holbrook, who played recurring love interest Reese Watson on the show, is in the audience, and Holbrook's love for Carter shines through his eyes.
Just knowing that Dixie Carter isn't in the world anymore makes it a little less colorful and stylish.
She is survived, among others, by her husband, Hal Holbrook, her daughters, Mary and Ginna, and her stepson, David Holbrook.