In Memoriam: Inga Swenson

Inga Swenson
(December 29, 1932 – July 23, 2023)

Inga Swenson, renowned for her acclaimed portrayal of Gretchen Kraus, the governor’s chef, on the sitcom Benson, passed away from natural causes on July 23, 2023 in Los Angeles.

ABC, via Getty Images

One year prior to her initial television appearance, which occurred in an episode of 1957’s Goodyear Playhouse, Swenson marked her Broadway debut in New Faces of 1956. Noteworthy co-stars in the production included Maggie Smith, Billie Hayes, and Jane Connell. Throughout her career, she participated in six Broadway productions, serving as a standby for Julie Andrews in Camelot (1960) and securing a leading role in 110 in the Shade (1963). Her last Broadway performance was in 1965’s Baker Street, a musical adaptation centered around Sherlock Holmes.

Swenson’s journey into television commenced with a recurring stint on Soap in 1978, portraying the cunning and vengeance-driven Ingrid Svenson, who was revealed to be the Swedish birth mother of Corinne Tate (Diana Canova). This paved the way for her subsequent role on the show’s spinoff, Benson, where she portrayed Gretchen Kraus, a domineering and confrontational German cook. Swenson received three Emmy nominations for her portrayal, in 1980, 1982, and 1985. In addition to her television work, Swenson also made notable appearances in films such as Columbia’s Advise and Consent (1962), UA’s The Miracle Worker (1962), Paramount’s Lipstick (1976), and Columbia’s The Mountain Men (1980).

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Inga retired from acting in 1998, and settled in Los Angeles County in 2000 From 1953, until her passing on July 23 2023 at the age of 90, she was married to Emmy Award-winning sound engineer Lowell Harris, who survives along with her son and granddaughter.

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