R.I.P. Paula Kelly, dancer and Night Court star

She earned Night Court its first Emmy nomination.

The Everett Collection

Christine Sullivan, as played by Markie Post, is perhaps the first public defender that comes to mind from Night Court. But she was not the first. When the legal sitcom kicked off in 1984, its central characters were Judge Harry T. Stone (Harry Anderson), prosecutor Dan Fielding (John Larroquette) and public defender Liz Williams, as played by Paula Kelly.

The first Emmy nomination ever given to Night Court was for Kelly's work, as she earned a nod in 1984 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. After leaving the show, Kelly earned another Emmy nomination for performance in the miniseries The Women of Brewster Place.

Kelly began her career as a dancer, notably alongside the legendary Bob Fosse. In the late 1960s, Kelly, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, headed to London to perform in a West End production of Fosse's Sweet Charity. Her acclaimed work led to a key role in the 1969 film adaptation Sweet Charity.

Dancing gave Kelly her break on television, too. She made her screen debut in 1968, playing a dance instructor in a very early episode of The Carol Burnett Show.

That led to major roles in two cult-classic sci-fi films, The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Soylent Green (1973). Meanwhile, on the small screen, she landed guest spots on cop shows such as The Streets of San FranciscoPolice Woman and Kojak.

Following Night Court, Kelly appeared in a recurring role on the soap opera Santa Barbara

Kelly passed away on February 9, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 76.

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aspearman703 44 months ago
I remember her in Uptown Saturday Night as Leggy Peggy. She was so funny. Paula you will be missed.
jacko3 49 months ago
Paula Kelly - may GOD Bless you ...
Tresix 50 months ago
I first saw her in the blaxploitation movie “Trouble Man” with Robert Hooks. She barely had any lines. Fortunately, she went on to bigger things.
MarkSpeck 52 months ago
She was also the first woman in Playboy to show her pubic hair.
Tresix MarkSpeck 50 months ago
Anita Ekberg did it before Kelly.
MarkSpeck 49 months ago
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GSDmusic 52 months ago
She will be missed, a great actress. However, for the record:

Actually the pilot had a different public defender. There were four total.

The lady from the pilot.

Paula Kelly - First season

Ellen Foley replaced her in season 2 (better known as the female singer on Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell and the inspiration for the Clash song Should I Stay or Should I Go).

THEN Markie Post
RobCertSDSCascap 52 months ago
Always liked her. Both funny and versatile.
cperrynaples 52 months ago
Paula's performance on Santa Barbara was classic! She played Ginger Jones, a "madam" who blackmailed a major male character who worked for her! It was over the top even by soap standards, but it was a hoot!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 52 months ago
PS Sweet Charity with Shirley McClaine was released in 1969, not 1960!
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