Madeline Kahn was born Madeline Gail Wolfson on September 29, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Freda (Goldberg) (later known as Paula Kahn) and Bernard B. Wolfson, a garment manufacturer. She was of Russian Jewish descent. Madeline began her acting career in high school and went on to university where she trained as an opera singer and starred in several campus productions, ultimately earning a doctorate in her chosen field.
Her best-known work came in Paper Moon (1973) with Ryan O’Neal, which was followed the next year by Mel Brooks’s outrageous Blazing Saddles (1974) as Lili Von Shtupp, a cabaret singer who was obviously based on Marlene Dietrich’s performance in Destry Rides Again (1939). Kahn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in both movies. In 1998, she lent her voice to Gypsy in the wildly popular animated film A Bug’s Life (1998). On December 3, 1999, Madeline Kahn died of ovarian cancer in New York City, a disease from which she suffered for about a year while she was a cast member of Cosby (1996). The accomplished actress and singer was only 57 years old.
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