Madeline Kahn, an Oscar-nominated actress and comedian best known for her work in Blazing Saddles, What's Up Doc? and Paper Moon, died Friday after a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 57.
Kahn first acknowledged her illness publicly just last month, saying she was undergoing "aggressive treatment." She had been fighting the disease for the past year, said Jeff Schneider, a spokesman for the William Morris agency.
Kahn was born in Boston, and graduated from Hofstra University on Long Island on a drama scholarship.
Known for her groundbreaking roles in the 1973 film Paper Moon which won her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, the actress debuted on the big screen in the 1965 movie Kiss Me Kate.
She won a Tony Award for best actress in 1993 with her role as a ditsy Jewish matron in The Sisters Rosensweig.
She was well known for her roles in the Mel Brooks movies Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and High Anxiety. She also acted opposite Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal in Peter Bogdanivch's 1972 slapstick comedy What's Up Doc?. Her most recent role was the part of Pauline, a neighbor on the TV show Cosby.
"Madeline was a performer of brilliance and a loyal and trusted friend to everyone she encountered," said her husband, John Hansbury.
In 1974's "Blazing Saddles, Kahn used her classically trained voice in an amusing portrayal of a saloon singer who helps Gene Wilder foil Brooks' evil plan to do in the new sheriff in town.
"She is one of the most talented people that ever lived," Brooks once said. "I mean, either in stand-up comedy, or acting, or whatever you want, you can't beat Madeline Kahn."
When announcing her battle with ovarian cancer, Kahn said she wanted her personal struggle to inform others about the illness. "It is my hope that I might raise awareness of this awful disease and hasten the day that an effective test can be discovered to give women a fighting chance to catch this cancer in its earliest stage," she said.
In lieu of flowers, her family requested donations be sent to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund headquartered in New York.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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