Judy Carne, the British actress who crossed the pond to make her name in American television during the 1960s and ’70s, died last Thursday following a bout of pneumonia. She was 76.
Carne made her first appearances on British sitcoms in the early 1960s, but came to the U.S. to take roles on a string of short-lived series. Forgettable roles on the silver screen followed.
Her break came in 1968, when she joined the cast of a new variety series called Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. For six seasons, it broke ground in the genre of sketch comedy, setting the precedent for programs like Saturday Night Live. Though Carne was only a regular cast member for the show’s first two seasons, her performances — marked by her catchphrase “sock it to me!” — made her a household name.
Behind the slapstick veneer, however, the actress wrestled with a host of personal travails. Her two-year marriage to actor Burt Reynolds ended in 1966, with Carne alleging he had abused her. However, Reynolds purportedly came to her aid in the 1970s, when experimental drug use escalated to heroin addiction and financial woes beset her.
She returned home to Northampton, in the East Midlands of the U.K., in 1978, after she suffered a possible drug overdose and a traumatic car accident within a matter of months.
Though the publication of an autobiography, Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside: The Bittersweet Saga of the Sock-It-to-Me Girl, in 1985 briefly returned her to the spotlight — she launched a cabaret show in Greenwich Village and occasionally appeared on Howard Stern’s programs — she quietly lived out her last years in the English village of Pitsford alongside her pet dogs.
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