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SYFY WIRE Back to the Future

Elsa Raven, Back to the Future's 'Save the Clock Tower' lady, dies at 91

By Nivea Serrao
Elsa Raven

Elsa Raven, a character actor perhaps best known for her memorable role as the "Save the Clock Tower" lady in Back to The Future, has died. She was 91.

According to Deadline, Raven's agent, David Shaul, confirmed the news of her passing on Tuesday (though Variety reports that it was Monday).

Raven, whose real name was Elsa Rabinowitz, was born Sept. 21, 1929 in Charleston, South Carolina, to Louis and Rosalie Rabinowitz. She chose "Raven" as her stage name when she moved to New York City, where she began her career acting on stage and even assisted theatrical director and producer Joseph Papp in bringing the Free Shakespeare Festival to Central Park.

A character actress, Raven went on to find success both in film and television, most notably starring as the "Save The Clock Tower" lady in Back to the Future, which you can see in the clip below starting from 1:36. Because of her convenient intrusion and flyer, when Marty (Michael J. Fox) is stuck back in 1955, he is able to pinpoint the tower as the exact whereabouts of a 1.21-gigawatt bolt of lightning. 

Raven also played Mrs. Townsend, the realtor who sold the house in the hit 1985 horror classic, The Amityville Horrorand a nurse in the "Kick the Can" segment of the Twilight Zone: the Movie. She also acted as Ida Strauss, the co-owner of Macy's department store, in James Cameron's Titanic. But while most of her scenes from the film were cut, she was still featured in the music video for Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," as one half of the older couple in the stateroom as it was flooding with water. 

Raven's television credits include regular roles on the church-themed sitcom Amen, the soap opera-esque undercover FBI drama Wiseguy, and soaps Days of Our Lives and General Hospital. She also made one-off appearances on various other shows over the course of her career, including sitcoms The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirSeinfeldMurphy Brown, 3rd Rock From the SunEverybody Loves Raymond, and the horror anthology series Freddy's Nightmares.

Raven was a proud member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), actively watching movies and diligently casting her vote each year. She is survived by her sister-in-law Lynne Rabinowitz and 15 nieces and nephews.