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‘Webster’s Susan Clark & Alex Karras’ 32-Year Marriage after Susan Made Alex an Ultimatum about His Wife

Gracious Egedegbe
Mar 30, 2022
12:20 A.M.
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Susan Clark and Alex Karras' marriage lasted for 32 years, despite the actress's initial thoughts of refusing to date the late football star. Here's everything to know about the pair's long-term marriage.

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Susan Clark and her late husband, Alex Karras, remain two of the most celebrated people in Hollywood. Not only were they a lovely couple, but they also starred together in various productions, including "Webster." 

Although the pair are remembered for their time together, there are some intriguing details about them before they met. Clark was born to a personal relations executive in Sarnia, Ontario, and grew up in Toronto. 

[Left] Studio portrait of Alex Karras, Emmanuel Lewis and Susan Clark for TV show, WEBSTER; [Right] Picture of Susan Clark and Alex Karras in the made-for-TV movie 'Babe' on April 29, 1975 | Source: Getty Images

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At 17, she went to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and by the time she was 21, the actress had featured in 50 plays. At 23, Clark moved to California after bagging a 10-year contract with Universal Studios. There, the actress had to adjust and follow instructions to be successful. She said:

"They wanted me to diet, change my hair, and take out my back teeth to accentuate my cheekbones. It was easier to retreat into character parts."

In the ten years she was under the contract, Clark appeared in various plays and television shows, earning two Emmy nominations. Eventually, she left Universal Studios in 1977 and continued to succeed on her own in the entertainment industry.

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Susan Clark attends the opening night of KCET & Link TV's EARTH FOCUS Environmental Film Festival screening of "Love & Bananas - An Elephant Story." | Source: Getty Images

On the other hand, Karras was not always interested in acting from the beginning. The fourth out of six children, the actor attended the University of Iowa, where he paid less attention to his studies. "The boy had the tendency to be a little fat-headed," a family friend revealed.

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Instead of academics, Karras was interested in sports. His enthusiasm paid off, and in 1958, he became the first draft choice of the Detroit Lions. The late actor played with so much passion until he was suspended in 1963 for placing bets on his team. Karras revealed:

"The truth is that I was a rotten gambler." 

Studio portrait of actor Alex Karras, on September 10, 1985 | Source: Getty Images

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After his suspension ended, the icon continued to play for his team until he turned 35 and decided to venture into acting. Karras had appeared as himself in "Paper Lion," a 1966 film about the Detroit Lions.

Featuring in the movie stirred up Karras's desire to act, and pursuing the career changed his life. He recalled, "I went through a tremendous change when I left athletics at age 35. I had therapy for two years to get adjusted to California society."

Actor Alex Karras attends ABC TV Affiliates Party on April 30, 1984 at Tavern on the Green in New York City | Source: Getty Images

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One of Karras's old friends, Jimmy Butsicaris, also attested to the significant change in his friend's life. He noted:

"When Alex first got here, in '58, he wasn't too wise. You know, the kind who'll wear a checkered sports coat with striped pants. Now he's aloof from his old friends. Hollywood changed him. Or maybe Susan Clark changed him. All I know is that he hasn't changed for the better."

In his response, Karras said: "If you don't change, you've stopped growing." His decision to join the movie industry paid off. He did sportscasting, commercials and landed a few roles.

SUSAN AND ALEX'S FAILED MARRIAGES 

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Alex Karras and Susan Clark attend 35th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 28, 1977 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

Before Clark and Karras became a couple, they had both been through divorces. The former was previously married to Writer and Producer Robert Joseph, known for "The Third Secret" and "Companions in Nightmare."

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The pair divorced after three years in 1973, with their union yielding no children. On the other hand, Karras married his college sweetheart, Joan Jurgensen, in 1958. They had five children, but the marriage ended after 18 years in 1976.

Actor Alex Karras and actress Susan Clark attend Writer's Guild of America Gala on October 24, 1993 at the Director's Guild Theater in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

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During the divorce, Karras focused on his career, appearing strong, and many of his were stunned. One of them said, "Alex is doing his own thing, and he always has. Joanie can't relate to his new image."

But despite his show of strength, the actor was hurting. "His personal life is traumatic. He's a sensitive guy and won't say anything," Karras's manager revealed. The former football player eventually found a way to deal with the hurt and moved forward.

SUSAN AND ALEX'S LOVE STORY 

Actor Alex Karras and actress Susan Clark attend the birthday party for Stan Sheinbaum on June 12, 1990 at the Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica, California | Source: Getty Images

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Clark and Karras met on the set of the 1975 movie "Babe." The former played Babe Didrikson, the wife of Karras's onscreen character, George Zaharias. 

"We were at our peak, doing what we wanted to do — well. We had a terrific high of confidence," Clark recalled. Before their meeting, the actress revealed she had never heard of Karras. She explained:

"People told me he was a sports superstar and one of the funniest men on TV. Then I met this large, rather shy man. He had a gaggle of big-bosomed stewardesses and very loud, small Greeks and Italians who trailed him like ducklings."

Actor Alex Karras and actress Susan Clark attend ABC TV Affiliates Party on April 30, 1984 at Tavern on the Green in New York City | Source: Getty Images

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Also, the actor was dealing with a divorce, and Clark did not want to get involved. "There was no way I was going to get involved with a man who was in the middle of a divorce and had five children!" Clark added

However, things turned out differently for the duo. Due to their roles in "Babe," they became very close. Clark recounted a touching scene where her onscreen character died from cancer.

Actress Susan Clark and actor Alex Karras attend the opening of Will Rogers Follies on July 14, 1993 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

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"After he played it, every member of the crew wept. He's a terrific actor," the actress recalled. Their connection while filming was second to none, and in no distant time, they went on their first date. Karras invited Clark to taste his homemade soup.

"It wasn't very romantic, but the soup was delicious," the actress remembered. After the first date, Karras asked Clark if they could go on a second, and she gave him an ultimatum. She said:

"When he asked if we could have another date, I said, 'You better take care of your wife and mistresses first.'" 

Actor Alex Karras and actress Susan Clark attends the party for Double Ex-Take Two on October 23, 1989 at the St. James Club in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

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Eventually, Karras did, and their romance blossomed. Speaking about the actress and their relationship, Clark declared:

"Alex didn't come in like a macho Hollywood fantasy. Alex has insight, he's sexy and intelligent, street smart. He is very moral, and his confidence is outstanding to someone like me, who sometimes has lots and then none."

THE COUPLE'S WEDDING AND CHILD

Actor Alex Karras and actress Susan Clark attend the premiere of "City Of Angels" on June 5, 1991 at the Shubert Theater in Century City, California | Source: Getty Images

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Karras and Clark tied the knot in 1980, but before their wedding, the former revealed that he was nervous about marrying again." It makes me nervous to be married again, so we'll do it on the way to the hospital and forget about it," he revealed.

While Karras was nervous, Clark was not enthusiastic about getting married. She explained, "If you've had a wonderful love affair, lived together and survived crises, and still have a sense of humor, you worry that you'll start taking each other for granted after marriage."

Actress Susan Clark attends the opening of Cirque du Soleil with her daughter, Katie, on October 11, 1990 in Santa Monica, California | Source: Getty Images

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Despite their feelings about getting married, the pair eventually tied the knot. Their marriage occurred not long after announcing they were expecting a baby girl. Clark noted:

"I did amniocentesis, so I know it's a girl. If you're an emotional, somewhat neurotic person like me, you have these incredible passions during pregnancy: hysterical joy, then total depression and sobbing. Alex is much more casual about it."

Actress Susan Clark and daughter, Katie, attend Pro-Choice Rally on November 12, 1989 at Rancho Park in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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Being pregnant was a big deal for Clark as she had suffered three miscarriages from 1975 to 1980. In addition, Karras already had five kids from his previous marriage, but the actress had none.

After their big revelation, the couple welcomed their daughter, Katie, that same year. They were great parents, and their roles as parents on the ABC sitcom "Webster" helped them a lot.

LOVE TILL THE LAST BREATH 

Picture of Actor Alex Karras sharing a kiss with Actress Susan Clark, circa 1979 | Source: Getty Images

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After staying married for 32 years, Clark and Karras's marriage ended due to the latter's death. The actor had suffered kidney failure and was rushed to the hospital. In the days leading up to his death, he was in pain.

The actor's friend, Tom McInerney, revealed details of a phone conversation with Clark a few days before Karras died. He said:

"She said if you came out here it wouldn't be worth his while because right now he's talking about he wants to see his (deceased) mother and dad, and he's on morphine, he's on oxygen."

Studio portrait of Actor Alex Karras with Actress Susan Clark for the TV show, WEBSTER on September 10, 1985 | Source: Getty Images

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Days after the conversation, Karras was released from the hospital and remained under hospice care in his California home. Catherine Lincoln, manager of Clark Karras Properties, revealed, "he is, as Susan said to me, in transition."

Unfortunately, the actor succumbed to the illness at 77 at his California home on October 10, 2012, with Clark and his six children by his side.

It has been almost a decade since Karras passed away, and not much has been heard about Clark and Katie. However, the pair are still alive and continue to cherish the memories of the late football icon.

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