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Subject: ARCHIVE: July 24, 1975 ~Ill-fated husky-voiced toothy actress Barbara Colby, whose acclaimed beginings on Broadway, led to Hollywood and small screen success, in guest appearances in TV series like "Columbo", Mary Tyler Moore Show", to series casting to MTM spinoff "Phyllis", before her violent killing during a mugging. She was 36. ...

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Date Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 01:12:37pm

Barbara Colby
(July 2, 1939 July 24, 1975)

Early career

Born in New York City on July 2, 1939, she started her acting career in the theater. Following a solid performance in Six Characters in Search of an Author in 1964, she moved to Broadway with a debut in The Devils the following year. Throughout the rest of the decade, she appeared in such plays as Under Milk Wood, Murder in the Cathedral, Dear Liar, and A Doll's House, and garnered fine reviews for her Portia in Julius Caesar in 1966.

Colby's first important television role was in the series premiere episode of Columbo, titled "Murder by the Book" in 1971.

Colby began a bi-coastal career and played a host of support/guest roles on such established shows as The Odd Couple, McMillan & Wife, The F.B.I., Medical Center, Kung Fu and Gunsmoke. Colby appeared in 1970s plays such as Aubrey Beardsley the Neophyte, House of Blue Leaves, Afternoon Tea and The Hot l Baltimore. She returned to the classics with an off-Broadway role as Elizabeth in Richard III, and was back on Broadway with the plays Murderous Angels in 1971 and a revival of A Doll's House in the early part of 1975.

In 1974, Colby appeared in two films, California Split and Memory of Us. Early in 1975, she co-starred in Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins.

A role as a streetwise prostitute opposite Mary Tyler Moore in an episode of MTM Productions' The Mary Tyler Moore Show led to an appearance in a subsequent episode. In 1975, MTM cast Colby as the new regular player on the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Phyllis, starring actress Cloris Leachman. Colby, who had appeared with Leachman in the TV movie A Brand New Life in 1973, was cast as Leachman's boss, Julie Erskine, the owner of a commercial photography studio.

Personal life
Though she was born in New York City, she was predominantly raised in New Orleans, where she had interest
in acting while attending high school. After graduating, she received a scholarship to Bard College on the
Hudson back in New York. This was followed by a single semester at the Paris Sorbonne University in France.
At the time of her death, Colby was separated from her husband, Bob Levitt, son of Ethel Merman.

Colby's final screen appearance was in TV movie
"The Ashes of Mrs. Reasoner" which aired in 1976.

On July 24, 1975, Colby and acting colleague James Kiernan were walking to their car following an acting class in Venice, Los Angeles, California, when they were shot inside a parking area. The murders occurred after three episodes of the TV series Phyllis had been filmed. Colby was killed instantly, but Kiernan was able to describe the shooting to police before he later died of his wounds. Kiernan said that he did not recognize the two men who shot them, and that the shooting had occurred without warning, reason or provocation. Police noted that there was no attempt to rob the pair and concluded that it was a random drive-by shooting or a targeted killing. The killers were never identified and the case remains an open cold case. Barbara Colby was cremated. Her ashes were taken to sea by family and friends and dispersed in a ceremony off Paradise Cove on the Pacific Coast.


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Subject Author Date
FUN FACT: At the time of her death, Colby was daughter-in-law of entertainer Ethel Merman. (NT)Colby was estranged from husband Robert Daniels Levitt Jr, at the time.Wednesday, July 24, 01:20:53pm

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