Inga Swenson, Gretchen the Cook on ‘Benson,’ Dies at 90

Actor and singer Inga Swenson, who played Gretchen the cook on the popular ’80s sitcom “Benson,” on Sunday in Los Angeles. Swenson died of natural causes, according to TMZ. She was 90.

She was known for starring as Gretchen Kraus in the ABC series “Benson,” which aired for seven years from 1979 to 1986. The show follows Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume) who is hired as head of household for a governor; Gretchen was the German cook with whom Benson had a workplace rivalry and friendship. For her role as Gretchen, Swenson was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress. “Benson” was a spin-off of the show “Soap,” in which Swenson also appeared for multiple episodes as the character Ingrid Svenson.

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A trained lyric soprano, Swenson also had a successful career on Broadway, performing in lauded starring roles in the 1960s. She starred as Lizzy Curry in “110 in the Shade” and Irene Adler in “Baker Street,” and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for both performances. The former follows a woman living on a ranch in the Southwest and the latter is based on the stories of Sherlock Holmes. Other shows she performed in include “Camelot,” “Peer Gynt” and “The First Gentleman.”

Swenson also acted on the big screen, with film credits including “Advise and Consent” (1962), “The Miracle Worker” (1962), “Lipstick” (1976) and “The Betsy” (1978).

Swenson was born on December 29, 1932 in Omaha, Neb. She later studied drama at Northwestern University. She married sound engineer Lowell Harris in 1953 and the couple had two sons.

Swenson is survived by her husband and her son Mark Harris, a film editor.

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