Tonawanda News

May 19, 2013

Actress portrays Lillian Bronson in reenactment presentation Monday

Staff reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Linda Covell has been portraying Lillian Bronson for many years.  

Even if she wanted to retire, and spend more time tending her many cats, people keep requesting her performance of the famous Lockport actress who starred with a gamut of famous actors from Clark Gable and Henry Winkler.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Covell will portray Bronson — who died in 1995 at the age of 92 — at a Town of Porter Historical Society presentation. The presentation will be held at the Youngstown Civic Center, 240 Lockport Street, in Youngstown.

An actress playing an actress is not a big stretch for Covell who has been acting since the 1980s including 19 years in her recurring role as Mother Superior in the comedy series “Nunsense.”

Covell got the role as the famous Lockport actress when she was working with a group of reenactors from the Niagara County Historical Society and someone suggested she give Bronson a try. 

“I’ve played dead people a lot,” Covell smiled, recalling her performances as a variety of local characters through Step Back in Time Players. The players would walk through Lockport cemeteries and take on roles as the significant people buried nearby. Bronson, whose father was a prominent Lockport businessman and founder of a carriage company in the 1850s, is not buried in Lockport, but her parents placed a headstone near theirs.

“She broke the mold,” said Covell about the actress, who left Lockport for New York City to pursue her career and then in her forties drove alone to Hollywood to further her career. 

The daring quest paid off and she won her first bit role in “Happy Land,” starring Don Ameche in January 1944. She then played as Clark Gable’s secretary in “The Huckster,” Henry Fonda’s mother in “Spencer’s Mountain,” James Whitmore’s aunt in “The Next Voice You Hear,” and Claudette Colbert’s sister in “Family Honeymoon.” 

Relatives of main characters seemed to be her forte. Years later, she took on the role of Fonzie’s grandmother on the hit series, “Happy Days.” 

Covell takes a lot of pleasure from her performances as the feisty Bronson. 

“I think her life personifies what we would all like to do, only she had the courage to go and do it,” she said.

As for Covell, after retiring as a school teacher and special education counselor, she and her second husband, Roger Covell, kept very busy in local theater as members of the Lake Plains Players, performing in and assisting with a variety of shows including the “Nunsense” series over the last decade. 

Linda’s many roles are now secondary to the care of the couple’s beloved 23 foster cats and an aging chihuahua. But she is still telling stories.

One of the several books she’s written, which was recently published with an accompanying CD and lesson plans for teachers, is called “Beattie’s Tale,” about a handicapped kitten. “The book has a lovely message and a lot of lessons that parents can share with children.”

IF YOU GO WHAT: Lillian Bronson and the Niagara County Historical Society's Step Back in Time Players WHEN 7 p.m. Monday WHERE: Youngstown Civic Center, 240 Lockport Street, Youngstown MORE INFORMATION: Contact the Niagara County Historical Society at 434-7433