Groundhog Day

Angela Paton, a prolific character actress best known for playing kindly innkeeper Mrs. Lancaster in the 1993 Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day, has died. She was 86.

Born in 1930, Paton didn’t break into screen acting until she was already in her late 50s, after an extensive career acting and directing on the stage. A longtime member of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, she and her husband, UC Berkeley theater professor Bob Goldsby, founded and ran their own theater company for nearly a decade in the ’70s and ’80s.

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In 1988, Paton began moving into TV and film, securing small roles in shows like Thirtysomething and films like Flatliners. Working steadily for the next several years (including appearances on Wings, Murphy Brown, and Doogie Howser, M.D.), she eventually received one of her largest speaking roles in 1993, when she was cast in Harold Ramis’ beloved story of a man trapped in a single day in a sleepy Pennsylvania town. As Mrs. Lancaster, she provided a bright, eternally cheerful foil to Phil Connors’ gradually deepening nihilism. (She’d play a similar role opposite Nic Cage, Jon Lovitz, and Dana Carvey in the following year’s Trapped In Paradise.)

After Groundhog Day, Paton continued to work for the next 20 years, making appearances both in films and on TV. (Her credits during this period include Sliders, The X-Files, and the 1997 film version of Lolita.) All told, Paton performed in more than 90 film and television projects over the course of her career, an amazing accomplishment given how late in life her on-camera acting life began.

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[via The Associated Press]