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Cara Williams, Brooklyn-born actress, dies at 96

Father was columnist for Brooklyn Eagle

December 13, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Cara Williams, Brooklyn-born actress of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s who was best known for her roles in the 1958 movie “The Defiant Ones” and her role as Gladys Porter in the 1960-62 TV sitcom “Pete and Gladys,” died on Dec. 9.

Williams, originally Bernice Karniat, was born in Flatbush on June 29, 1925. Her father was a columnist for the original Brooklyn Eagle, while her mother was a manicurist who worked next to the Albee Theater, near what is now the Fulton Mall. After her parents divorced, her mother moved to Los Angeles to help young Bernice’s theatrical aspirations. 

Williams had several supporting roles in movies and TV during the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. In the 1956 movie, “Meet Me in Las Vegas,” she sang a song called “I Refuse to Rock and Roll.” Her breakthrough was her role in “The Defiant Ones,” in which she played Billy’s mother. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the role. 

After appearing in several episodes of the then-popular suspense show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” Williams was cast in the sitcom “Pete and Gladys” along with Harry Morgan. The two played a married couple — the husband was an insurance salesman and the wife was a comedian. For this role, Williams was nominated for an Emmy. 

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In 1964, she had her own series, “The Cara Williams show,” but it only lasted one season. She later became an interior decorator.

Like many Hollywood actors, Williams had a complicated personal life. She had three husbands. Her longest-lived marriage was to her final husband, realtor Asher Dann.

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