For individuals who remembered Piper Laurie from her days as a contract participant in a collection of formulaic escapist photos made by Common Studios within the Fifties, it was arduous to imagine that the lonely younger lady in Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (1961), who takes her personal life when she is rejected by the pool shark Paul Newman, was one and the identical. This Oscar-nominated efficiency was a shock, and nothing Laurie did earlier than or after touched it.
Having proved that she might act, Laurie, who has died aged 91, instantly retired from the cinema. She returned 15 years later, in one other guise, this time specialising in taking part in harridans, principally in horror films. Essentially the most celebrated was Brian De Palma’s repulsive and compulsive Carrie (1976), for which she was additionally Oscar-nominated, this time because the spiritual mom of the pubescent Sissy Spacek, intoning “the primary sin was intercourse”.
A 3rd nomination got here for an additional of her severe portrayals, because the estranged mom of the younger deaf lady (Marlee Matlin) in Randa Haines’s Youngsters of a Lesser God (1986).
Born Rosetta Jacobs in Detroit, Michigan, she was the daughter of Charlotte (nee Alperin) and Alfred Jacobs, a furnishings vendor. Her mom’s dad and mom had come from Russia and her father’s from Poland.
In 1938 the household moved to Los Angeles, and Rosetta spent three years taking care of a sister with well being issues in a sanatorium, an expertise that made her each imaginative and self-sufficient. After attending Hebrew faculty and weekly elocution and drama classes, on the age of 18 she signed a contract with Common Studios and altered her identify.
Laurie made her display screen debut as Ronald Reagan’s teenage daughter within the charming Louisa (1950), a few grandmother’s romances.
In her 2011 memoir Studying to Reside Out Loud, Laurie stated that her first affair was with Reagan, then between wives. After showing as Donald O’Connor’s healthful girlfriend in each The Milkman (1950) and Francis Goes to the Races (1951), Laurie made her identify taking part in Baghdad princesses within the moderately vapid Technicolor Arabian Nights adventures The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951) and Son of Ali Baba (1952), each with Tony Curtis, and The Golden Blade (1953), with Rock Hudson.
With a purpose to improve Laurie’s picture, Common introduced that she bathed in milk and ate flower petals to guard her pores and skin. It didn’t do her box-office attraction any hurt, and he or she and Curtis made a likable staff as soon as extra, in No Room for the Groom (1952), the place they’re thwarted from consummating their marriage, and Johnny Darkish (1954), involving racing automobiles.
Laurie was reunited with Hudson in Douglas Sirk’s Has Anyone Seen My Gal (1955), set within the 20s, wherein she as a flapper and he as a soda jerk – allotting drinks in a drug retailer – acquired to bop the Charleston collectively. Laurie continued portraying gutsy gals in two pleasant-enough westerns: as a saloon singer in Daybreak at Socorro (1954), with Rory Calhoun; and because the solely feminine in Smoke Sign (1955), starring Dana Andrews, however most of her roles gave her little satisfaction.
The final straw got here when Laurie performed second fiddle to a performing canine in Kelly and Me (1956). Although she was incomes $2,000 every week, she demanded that the studio bosses give her higher elements. “However they didn’t know what I used to be speaking about,” she recalled. “I informed my agent, ‘They’ll throw me in jail, sue me, I don’t care what it’s. I’m by no means working once more till I can do one thing that I’ve some respect for.’”
On quitting Common, she made one movie for MGM – Till They Sail (1957), a second world struggle melodrama that gave Laurie her first meaty position as a New Zealand lady (no accent tried) who has an affair whereas her oafish husband is away at struggle, and suffers the implications.
In 1958, Laurie moved to New York, the place she appeared in numerous difficult tv roles together with The Days of Wine and Roses, a powerfully acted present recorded reside, wherein she and Cliff Robertson performed an alcoholic couple. In line with one critic, “Miss Laurie turned in a efficiency that had depth, honesty and one thing else, one thing that I suppose may very well be known as glow.”
Her return to the large display screen after 4 years got here with The Hustler, wherein she brilliantly captured her character’s poignant self-destructiveness, scrawling “Perverted, Twisted, Crippled” on the mirror as her last message. Regardless of the film pointing to new prospects for her, she married the movie critic Joseph Morgenstern, retreated to Woodstock, New York state, after which accepted solely occasional TV and theatre work, however taking no movie roles.
“I steadily gave up appearing,” she stated. “I began to lose curiosity. Numerous issues had been taking place on the planet, such because the Vietnam struggle. I simply thought it was a extremely foolish method for a grown-up to spend her time.”
One in all her uncommon elements throughout her semi-retirement was as Laura Wingfield in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie on Broadway for 5 months in 1965. Finally she returned to Hollywood because the monstrous mom in Carrie, which launched the third section in her profession, persevering with the shock remedy in Ruby (1977), as a former gangster’s moll haunted by her useless lover.
Laurie discovered these roles “a hoot. I’d do these grotesque, horrible issues, and in between takes I’d chuckle. It was fantastic to get all that stuff out, like childhood play-acting.”
She was saved busy on tv all through the 80s and 90s, notably within the mini-series The Thorn Birds (1983), set in Australia and filmed in California, and because the kinky, conniving mill proprietor Catherine Martell in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990-91). “There’s a mystique about her,” defined Lynch. “She has type of a wild streak that’s fascinating as a result of it might turn out to be harmful.”
Laurie confirmed her virtuosity by additionally taking part in a Japanese businessman within the collection, which was saved a secret from the remainder of the forged, who didn’t recognise her beneath the heavy make-up.
In between movie and TV tasks, she toured in a one-woman stage present as Zelda Fitzgerald in The Final Flapper (1987).
She later reunited with Spacek for The Grass Harp (1995), primarily based on Truman Capote’s novel, and appeared in two extra horror films, The College (1998) and Dangerous Blood (2012). The TV visitor work continued and in her last movies she performed grandmothers – one with secrets and techniques in Snapshots, and one other to an FBI informant in White Boy Rick (each 2018).
Her marriage resulted in divorce in 1982. She is survived by her daughter, Anne Grace.
Piper Laurie (Rosetta Jacobs), actor, born 22 January 1932; died 14 October 2023