Her husband, actor Charles Kimbrough, confirmed her death to the Associated Press, revealing that the actress died from lung cancer on Dec. 31. He said Howland did not want a service, funeral or memorial.
Howland began her career at 16 when she landed a role on Dick Van Dyke’s “Bye Bye Birdie.” The Boston native caught the eye of CBS when she starred in a stage production of “Company” in the ’70s. CBS then flew her to Hollywood for a small role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
She later booked small roles on “The Love Boat” and “Little House on the Prairie” before she landed on “Alice,” based on the Martin Scorsese film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” as ditzy waitress Vera Louise Gorman. Her role on the sitcom earned her four Golden Globe nominations. Howland told the Associated Press in 1979 that she saw a lot of Vera in herself.
“I’m a little naive sometimes, but not as much as Vera. I guess I’m really a cynic,” she said.
After “Alice,” she appeared in only a few other TV shows: “Murder, She Wrote” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” In 1988, Tiger Rose Productions, her production company with actress Jennifer Warren, produced the Academy Award-winning short documentary “You Don’t Have to Die” about a boy’s battle with cancer.
Howland is survived by her husband and daughter.