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Mercedes J. Ruehl (born February 28, 1948) is an American theater, television and film actress.

Personal life

Ruehl was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City. Her father was an FBImarker agent and her mother, also named Mercedes, was a school teacher. She was raised Catholic, and has German, Irish, and Cuban ancestry. Ruehl attended College of New Rochelle and graduated in 1969. She is married to painter David Geiser, with whom she adopted a son, Jake (born 1997). She had another son, Christopher, whom she placed in adoption in 1976; Christopher later became Jake's godfather.


Ruehl began her career in regional theatre with the Denver Center Theatre Companymarker, taking odd jobs between engagements. In the late 1970s, Ruehl began chalking up New York stage successes, notably in I'm Not Rappaport (1985). On the stage, she won the 1985 Obie Award for her performance in The Marriage of Bette and Boo and twenty years later, an Obie for Woman Before a Glass. She also received a 1991 Tony Award as Best Actress (Play) for Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers. Her performances in two other plays earned her two other Tony nominations:

Her most acclaimed film role was in The Fisher King; her performance in the film earned her the 1991 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as an American Comedy Award, a Boston Society of Film Critics Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and a Golden Globe. Earlier she had won the 1989 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Married to the Mob. She played KACL station manager Kate Costas in five episodes of Frasier, and had a major role in the made-for-TV film All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story. She is the first Cuban American female Academy Award winner.

She has also played the mother of Vincent Chase in HBO's Entourage.

In 2008, Ruehl returned to the Broadway stage in Manhattan Theater Clubmarker's production of Richard Greenberg's The American Plan playing the role of Eva Adler. The production opened at the Samuel J.marker Friedman Theatremarker and the limited engagement ran until March 22, 2009. In his rave review in The New York Times, Ben Brantley called Ruehl's performance "masterly". Next up for Ruehl is the drama/horror film What Ever Happened to Barker Daniels?; the film is currently in production and has a release date of 2009.


Though not a singer herself, Ruehl was involved in the production of the album Haunted by Poe; she also reads passages from the book House of Leaves by Poe's brother Mark Z. Danielewski on the CD "Don't be Scared", issued to cross-promote both projects.

She is also name-dropped in the song A Change Would Do You Good by Sheryl Crow.



Year Film Role Other notes
1976 Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands American girl in casino
1979 The Warriors Policewoman in Central Park
1981 Four Friends Woman in Taxi
1986 Twisted Cybelle
Heartburn Eve
1987 Leader of the Band Miss Cooper
Radio Days Ad Men
84 Charing Cross Road Kay
The Secret of My Succe$s Sheila
1988 Big Mrs. Baskin
Married to the Mob Connie Russo
1989 Slaves of New York Samantha
Crimes and Misdemeanors Party Guest uncredited
1990 Crazy People Dr. Liz Baylor
1991 Another You Elaine
The Fisher King Anne Napolitano Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
1993 Lost in Yonkers Bella Kurnitz
Last Action Hero Irene Madigan
1994 On Hope Wendy
1995 Indictment: The McMartin Trial
1997 Roseanna's Grave Roseanna 'Rosa'
1999 The Minus Man Jane Durwin
Out of the Cold Tina
2000 Spooky House Boss
What's Cooking? Elizabeth 'Lizzy' Avila
More Dogs Than Bones Victoria 'Vic' Galletti
The Amati Girls Grace
2004 Zeyda and the Hitman Esther
2007 A Happy Death Aunt Rosa
2009 Loving Leah Janice Lever


Year Title Role Other notes
1984 Mom's on Strike Sandy
1985 Our Family Honor Louise Taylor Episode "Homecoming"
1986 Kate & Allie Herself Episode "Late Bloomer"
1990 The Cosby Show Bernadette Foley Episode "The Moves"
1995 Indictment: The McMartin Trial Lael Rubin
Frasier Kate Costas 5 episodes
1997 SUBWAY Stories: Tales from the Underground Leyla segment "Underground"
North Shore Fish Florence
1998 Gia Kathleen Carangi
2000 All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story Jane Newhall
The Lost Child Rebecca Hallmark Hall of Fame
2001 Mr. Life
2002 Guilt by Association Susan Walker
Widows Dolly Rawlins TV mini-series
2004 1-800-Missing Emanuelle Baker Episode "These Dreams Before Me"
Bad Apple Lorraine Gibbons
Law & Order Zina Rybakov Episode "All in the Family"
2005 Mom at Sixteen Terry Jeffries
2006 Entourage Mrs. Chase HBO episodes "Aquamom" and "Return To Queens Blvd"
A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story Sylvia Guerrero
2007 Psych Detective Goochberg Episode "Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast"
2009 Law & Order Judge Clara Lloyd Episode "By Perjury"


  1. Trescott, Jacqueline. "Mercedes Ruehl, Driven; The Manic Actress On the Road to Oscar", The Washington Post, March 26, 1992. Accessed May 28, 2009.
  2. Mercedes Ruehl biography. Film
  3. Ruehl, Mercedes. Casting a new light on a dark subject - novelist Cynthia Ozick - Interview. Interview. August 1994.
  4. Corliss, Richard. That Old Feeling: The Oscar Race. Time magazine. 6 April 2002.
  5. About CNR. College of New Rochelle. Access date 6 January 2008.
  6. Mercedes Ruehl. Yahoo Movies.
  11. Retrieved on 2009-24-04

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