The Heartbreaking Death Of Estelle Harris

Seinfeld fans are mourning as news of Estelle Harris, known for her outspoken role on the hit sitcom as George Costanza mom, died Saturday, April 3, 2022. In a statement provided by her agent to CNN her son announced, "It is with the greatest remorse and sadness to announce that Estelle Harris has passed on today, leaving a hole in my heart too deep to describe."

Estelle Harris was born April 4, 1928, in New York City, New York as Estelle Nussbaum. She was the youngest of two daughters of Issac and Anna Nussbaum. The family moved from the city to Tarentum, Pennsylvania when she was seven years old to live closer to family. She would later graduate from Tarentum High School and move to Brooklyn, New York when she was a young woman where she met and married Sy Harris.

In 1977 at the age of 49, Harris fulfilled her dream of becoming an actress. Having raised her children, she chose to reinvent herself and shortly after, scored a role as Irma in the film "Looking Up." The film detailed the story of three generations of a middle-class New York Jewish family. 

She worked steadily from that point on, logging roles in the films "Summerdog," "Once Upon A Time in America," "Stand and Deliver," "Out to Sea," "Chairman of the Board," "The Odd Couple II," "My Giant", "Lost and Found," "Toy Story 2, 3 and 4," "What's Cooking," "Dancing in September," "Playing Mona Lisa," and "The Grande" to name a few (via IMDb). She also starred in a hugely successful commercial for Handi-Wrap where she turned a plastic-wrapped bowl upside down and sang, "Oh you ain't got a thing if you ain't got that cling, do-wrap, do-wrap."

Estelle Harris spent much of career as a TV actress

Estelle Harris steadily booked work in television field beginning in 1985. She soon became a recognizable face on the small screen in the series "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," "Star Trek: Voyager," "Married with Children," "iCarly," and "Good Advice" to name a few (via IMDb).

Perhaps Harris' most recognizable role was that of George Costanza's mother Estelle on "Seinfeld." She logged 27 episodes on the series, which ran from 1992 through 1998 alongside series regulars Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Larry David, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, Jerry Stiller, and Wayne Knight. She auditioned with material from the episode titled "The Contest" where George's mom caught him in an awkward private moment in their home. The incident resulted in the "master of my domain" bet between the characters of Jerry, Kramer and Elaine. "I looked at the script and I said to myself, 'Oh, that couldn't be,"' said Harris of the raunchy episode (via CTV News). "I asked them, 'What did he do?' and they all started laughing. I said, 'Oh, no, it's impossible. On TV? It's impossible.' But it was very possible, and it was funny" she admitted.

She became a household name for her role in 'Seinfeld'

Estelle Harris and Jerry Stiller created one of television's most memorable couples as George Costanza's squabbling parents Estelle and Frank. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress spoke about her role and the "Seinfeld" relationship that became one of the cornerstones of the NBC comedy series. "We yell at each other a lot, but we still talk. We have a son who comes and goes, and we accept it. We're not too proud of him yet, but we have hope," Harris once said of her television family and the hope the small-screen couple had that their son George would eventually settle down, have his own family and a life outside of herself and Frank.

"Nobody had a past like that! I mean, that poor woman. She lived in that apartment that they [she and Frank] got married in with the same furniture and the same husband and one son that was a loser. I mean, she had everything bad! I thought it was funny," she explained of the couple's mundane and never-changing existence (via CTV News).

Personal life

In 1953 Estelle Harris wed window treatment salesman Sy Harris at the age of 24. They would go on to have two sons and one daughter named Eric, Glen and Taryn (via The Los Angeles Times). The couple first lived in Brooklyn, New York, and eventually moved to Bellmore, Long Island when their children were young. Harris revealed that during her marriage, her young family had trouble making ends meet on her husband's earnings as a salesman. Harris explained, "Things were kind of rough, with three kids and a home on Long Island." She would later take a part-time job as a bookkeeper by day, pursuing acting at night. "A hard life stretches you," she explained (via The New York Times).

Harris always loved to work and cited that aspect of her life and being with her family as the things she enjoyed the most. "Work was very exciting. I always was artistically fulfilled, which I never was as a stay-home parent with other stay-home parents. I always felt misplaced."

In a true tribute to her life and career, her son Glen shared, "Her kindness, passion, sensitivity, humor, empathy and love were practically unrivaled, and she will be terribly missed by all those who knew her."