Gless, who worked primarily in supporting roles for a number of
series and TV movies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, rose to
stardom as Christine Cagney in the female cop show, Cagney &
Two of her more prominent roles before Cagney & Lacey anticipated
aspects of the Cagney character. In a short-lived NBC sitcom, Turnabout
(1979), Gless played Penny Alston, whose mind and spirit are exchanged
with those of her husband. Gless's character thus explored gender
differences through the split between a feminine exterior and masculine
motivations. Three years later, Gless was tapped to take over the
co-starring role in House Calls when Lynn Redgrave was forced
out of the series.
It was the experience of trying to take over in the wake of a popular
actor's departure that made Gless hesitate when she was offered
the role of Christine Cagney. In the TV movie, Cagney had been played
by Loretta Switt, and in the first season of the series, the character
had been portrayed by Meg Foster. A CBS executive touched off a
protest from fans, however, when he made a statement suggesting
Foster was not feminine enough for the role, making the team of
Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey (played by Tyne Daly) look like
"a pair of dykes." Renewal of the series was contingent on replacing
Foster with someone "softer." Though initially seen by fans as a
sellout to the network, Gless soon gained acceptance from the devoted
audience of Cagney & Lacey. Ironically, she developed a substantial
following among lesbian viewers, according to critic Julie D'Acci.
only did Cagney contrast with her married, working class partner,
but, as played by Gless, Christine Cagney embodied a number of contradictions
in class and gender. Her soft blonde beauty played against the tough
shell she maintained both on the job and in many of her personal
encounters. Her working class-Irish-cop identity, inherited from
her father, clashed with the sleek, upper crust veneer she had acquired
from her mother. Her career success contrasted with a string of
unhappy romances in her personal life.
Gless has said she considers herself primarily a comedienne, Cagney
& Lacey provided the opportunity for her to grow as a dramatic
actor. In the first three years of the series, Gless was nominated
for an Emmy, but Daly received the award for best actress in a dramatic
series. The following two years, however, the Emmy went to Gless,
and in the final year of the series, the Emmy went back to Daly.
Gless took pride in her contribution to the substance and quality
of the series: "We're pioneering. . . ," she said in a story for
McCall's. "We're showing women who can do a so-called man's
job without ever forgetting that they are women."
the end of Cagney & Lacey in 1988, Gless has married Barney
Rosenzweig, who created another series for her, The Trials of
Rosie O'Neill (1990-1991). In the role of the title character,
Gless again portrayed a single, upscale character connected with
the law--this time a newly divorced, well-heeled lawyer, working
in the cramped, underfunded offices of Los Angeles public defenders.
Gless won a Golden Globe Award for her work in the series before
it was canceled. She has also joined Daly in several Cagney &
Lacey reunion movies, and has appeared in a number of other
made for television movies.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Gless
GLESS. Born in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., 31 May 1943.
Attended Gonzaga University. Married Barney Rosenzweig, 1991. Actress
in television from 1973. Recipient: Emmy Award, 1986 and 1987; Golden
Globe Award, 1985 and 1990; Coalition for Clean Air Crystal Airwaves
Media Award, 1987; Viewers for Quality TV Best Actress Award; Milestone
Award, 1988; SI Award, 1991; Gideon Media Award, 1992; Distinguished
Artist Award, 1992; Hollywood Women in Radio and TV Genii Award.
Address: William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills,
California, 90212, U.S.A.
Faraday and Company
1974-75 Marcus Welby, M.D.
1981-82 House Calls
1982-88 Cagney and Lacey
1990-92 The Trials of Rosie O'Neill
1979 The Last Convertible
1972 All My Darling Daughters
1973 My Darling Daughters' Anniversary
1976 Richie Brockelman: The Missing 24th Hours 1978 The
1979 Kids Who Knew Too Much
1980 Moviola: The Scarlett O'Hara Wars
1980 Revenge of the Stepford Wives
1980 Hardhat and Legs
1981 The Miracle of Kathy Miller
1983 Hobson's Choice
1984 The Sky's No Limit
1985 Letting Go
1989 The Outside Woman
1992 Honor Thy Mother
1994 Separated By Murder
1994 Cagney and Lacey: The Return
1995 Cagney and Lacey: Together Again
1995 Cagney and Lacey: The View Through the Glass Ceiling
Airport 1975, 1974; The Star Chamber, 1983
Watch On the Rhine, 1989; Misery, 1992-93
D'Acci, Julie. Defining Women: Television and the Case of Cagney
and Lacey. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North
Carolina Press, 1994.
Mary. "Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly." Ms. (New York), January,
and Lacey; Daly,