Paula Kelly, a celebrity who made Emmy Award nominations for roles on NBC’s 1980s sitcom Night Court along with also the 1989 ABC miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, died on Saturday, February 8 at Whittier, California from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She had been 77.

Her death was announced by her loved ones and Los Angeles’ Ebony Repertory Theatre.

Kelly, that was also a dancer, choreographer and singer, had her breakthrough role of Helene in Bob Fosse’s 1969 movie Sweet Charity, sharing the display with celebrity Shirley MacLaine and Chita Rivera in such musical figures as”There’s GotId Be Something Better Than This” and the showstopper”Hey, Big Spender.” She had already played the part at a West End stage production.

Other movie credits include The Andromeda Strain (1971), Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored (1995).

Kelly appeared in several TV series in the 1970s via the’90therefore, such as Sanford & Son, Medical Center, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman and The Richard Pryor Show. In one unforgettable performance, she performed with an arrogant doctor called on to see to the young Janet Jackson’s personality in a 1979 episode of CBS’ Great Times.

Paula Kelly, Shirley Maclaine, Chita Rivera ‘Sweet Charity’

In 1984, she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance since Night Court‘s public defender Liz Williams.

Her next supporting actress Emmy nomination arrived 1989, when she played with the lesbian Theresa at the two-night miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

Other television credits include a mid-’80s operate on daytime’s Santa Barbara, along with co-choreographing, together with Michael Kidd, BBC’s 1976 demonstration of Peter Pan.

On point, Kelly appeared in Do not Bother Me, I Can Not Cope in the Mark Taper Forum (where she won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle best supporting actress award), the West Coast premiere of Sophisticated Ladies reverse Gregory Hines in The Shubert Theatre; also Stevie Wants to Play the Blues led by Simon Callow in L.A.T.C.

Kelly came out of retirement 2009 to join the cast of Ebony Repertory Theatre’s production of Crowns by Regina Taylor in L.A.’s Nate Holden Performing Arts Center; the creation afterwards moved to Pasadena Playhouse.

“Her unassuming leadership has been marked by empathy, elegance and grace,” said Ebony Repertory Theatre producing artistic director Wren T. Brown. “She had been a rare and talented artist, whom we’ll cherish forever.” 

Kelly’s dancing credits include solos for Martha Graham, Donald MacKayle and Alvin Ailey. Founded in New York City’s Harlem area, Kelly attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art before graduating from Julliard School of Music, where she studied under Graham.

Kelly is  survived by her aunt Pearl Mackey of Jacksonville, Florida; longtime companion George Parkington; niece Dina McCarthy and nephew Lehman Brockett.

A party of Kelly’s life will be held in Los Angeles in the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Details will soon be announced at a later date.