Mrs. Ramsey's television credits included roles in The Young and the Restless, guest appearances on Hill Street Blues, Night Court and Knight Rider, and movies-of-the-week roles in White Mama, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, Blind Ambition and Marilyn.
However, it was last year's role opposite actor-director Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal in the dark comedy about matricide, Throw Momma From the Train, that brought her notoriety.
"Some people say I'm not a very pretty woman, but I'm a very beautiful woman inside," she said when asked about her appearance.
As the greasy-haired, mean-spirited mother, the actress played her most tormented and tormenting role. DeVito, as her brow-beaten son Owen Lift, offers to kill Crystal's ex-wife if he kills Mrs. Ramsey.
She once told an interviewer that she found in her own mother some inspiration for the unseemly character.
"My own mother was ill late in her life and became irritable and impatient. She was very demanding and I found some elements in her for Momma," she said. "But I've never known anyone as rude and awful as Momma Lift. So I made her a composite of some of the traits I saw in women when I was younger and used to people-watch in Grand Central and Pennsylvania stations in New York.
"Of course it was an unflattering role, but audiences love her. And I got all my hostilities out playing the character."
Said DeVito, "I loved that woman. I loved everything about her. I was so delighted over the success she achieved over the past year. She was a woman of courage and should be admired by all."
Mrs. Ramsey was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for Throw Momma but lost to Olympia Dukakis for her performance in Moonstruck. She will be seen in four still-to-be-released films: Dr. Hackenstein, Scrooge, Good Ole Boy and Homer and Eddie.
It was the removal of part of her tongue during throat cancer surgery three years ago that gave her the speech impediment evident in Throw Momma From the Train. She began chemotherapy treatments when the cancer recurred in April.
During filming, Mrs. Ramsey was undergoing oral surgery and was enduring intense pain, said DeVito. He said the actress never asked to be excused from work.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Ramsey is survived by a brother and sister. Private funeral services will be held in Omaha, Neb. A public memorial service will be held next Saturday at St. Michael & All Angels' Episcopal Church in Studio City, Calif.