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Piper Laurie, Three-Time Oscar Nominee and Star of ‘Carrie’ and ‘The Hustler,’ Passes Away at 91

Piper Laurie, Three-Time Oscar Nominee and Star of 'Carrie' and 'The Hustler,' Passes Away at 91

Piper Laurie, the accomplished actress who found her true calling in the entertainment industry after breaking free from the constraints of the studio system, has passed away at the age of 91.

Laurie’s manager, Marion Rosenberg, has confirmed this sad news, describing her as “a beautiful human being and one of the great talents of our time.”

Piper Laurie earned her first Oscar nomination for her role opposite Paul Newman in the iconic 1961 film “The Hustler,” a gripping poolhall drama where she portrayed an alcoholic character who famously tells Newman’s character, “Look, I’ve got troubles and I think maybe you’ve got troubles. Maybe it’d be better if we just leave each other alone.”

Although she took an informal hiatus to focus on raising a family for more than a decade, Laurie made a triumphant return to the world of film and television in the mid-1970s. During this phase, she portrayed a wide range of characters, earning Oscar nominations for her roles in “Carrie” and “Children of a Lesser God,” where she played the stern mother of Marlee Matlin’s character. In “Carrie,” her performance as the mother of the shy telekinetic girl was particularly chilling, as she transformed her own psychological fear of sexuality into a twisted personal belief, as noted by Roger Ebert.

One of her most notable television roles was as the conniving and power-hungry Catherine Martell in David Lynch’s groundbreaking series, “Twin Peaks,” which garnered her two out of her nine Emmy nominations. Laurie received her only Emmy award for her compelling performance in the 1986 “Hallmark Hall of Fame” production, “Promises,” where she played a supporting role alongside James Woods and James Garner, offering assistance to the two brothers.

Laurie’s last Emmy nomination came in 1999 for her guest appearance on the sitcom “Frasier,” in which she portrayed the mother of a radio psychologist character reminiscent of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, played by Christine Baranski.

Early in her career, Piper Laurie successfully negotiated her way out of a contract with Universal Studios in the mid-1950s after a series of ingénue roles in mediocre films. She then moved to New York and made appearances in television productions like “Twelfth Night” and “Caesar and Cleopatra.” Laurie received Emmy nominations for her performances in the original drama “The Deaf Heart” on “Studio One in Hollywood” and “Days of Wine and Roses” alongside Cliff Robertson on “Playhouse 90.”

Her breakthrough role came when director Robert Rossen spotted her working at the Actors Studio and cast her in the film “The Hustler” as the troubled alcoholic Sarah Packard, which led to her first Oscar nomination in 1961.

In the mid-1970s, Piper Laurie decided to return to acting, making her presence known on both Broadway with a revival of “The Glass Menagerie” and on television in a “Nova” science series episode highlighting the pioneer of family planning, Margaret Sanger.

Throughout the years, she continued to make her mark in the industry with appearances in numerous TV movies, such as “In the Matter of Karen Ann Quinlan,” the Judy Garland biography “Rainbow,” “The Bunker,” “The Thorn Birds,” and the 1986 “Promise,” which earned her an Emmy for her supporting role. She also made guest appearances on TV series, earning an Emmy nomination in 1984 for her work on “St. Elsewhere.”

Piper Laurie’s film career in the late 1980s and 1990s included notable roles in films like “Appointment With Death,” “Other People’s Money,” “Wrestling Ernest Hemingway,” “Storyville,” “Rich in Love,” and “The Crossing Guard.” She reunited with her “Carrie” co-star Sissy Spacek in the well-regarded period dramedy “The Grass Harp,” where they played sisters. They also appeared together in the 2001 telepic “Midwives.”

During the 1990s and 2000s, she made guest appearances on popular TV series like “ER,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Will and Grace,” and “Law and Order: SVU.” She continued to work steadily in various television movies.

Piper Laurie’s final film roles included “Eulogy” (2004), where she delivered a standout performance as the matriarch of a dysfunctional family, “The Dead Girl,” in which she portrayed another harsh mother, “Hounddog,” as the stern grandmother of rape victim Dakota Fanning, and “Hesher,” in which she shared a memorable scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who intruded into her household.

Born as Rosetta Jacobs on January 22, 1932, in Detroit, she was discovered while attending Los Angeles High School at the age of 17 and signed to a Universal contract for $250 a week, which later increased to $1,750 a week after seven years.

She made her debut in the 1950 film “Louisa” as Ronald Reagan’s daughter and went on to star in a series of undistinguished comedies and musicals, including her involvement in the “Francis the talking mule” series in a film titled “Francis Goes to the Races.” During her early career as an ingenue, she portrayed love interests to emerging stars like Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson, as well as established actors like Tyrone Power and Victor Mature. Some of her early, less notable films included “Johnny Dark,” “Dangerous Mission,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “No Room for the Groom.”

Laurie once mentioned in an interview that she initially disliked the roles she was given but acknowledged that this consistent work helped her grow as an actress and paved the way for more fulfilling projects.

Piper Laurie’s marriage to writer Joseph Morgenstern, later a film critic, ended in divorce in 1981. She is survived by her daughter, Anne Grace.

Written By

Isabel Hampton is a talented author at Bee Bumble Entertainment Magazine. With a passion for the arts and a keen eye for cultural trends, she brings a unique perspective to her articles. Isabel's engaging writing style and insightful reviews have made her a valued contributor to the magazine's vibrant entertainment coverage.

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