In Memoriam: Piper Laurie

(January 22, 1932 – October 14, 2023)

Piper Laurie arrives at the Women in Film Crystal Lucy Awards, Friday June 12, 2009, in Los Angeles. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)


Born Rosetta Jacobs on Jan. 22, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan, to Charlotte Sadie (Alperin) and Alfred Jacobs, a furniture dealer. She had an older sister. Her family was of Russian Jewish and Polish Jewish descent. When she was 6, the family moved to Los Angeles, and shortly after she made her movie debut in Louisa (1950), playing Ronald Reagan’s daughter.

Landing her initial Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in The Hustler (1961), Piper Laurie portrayed a desolate alcoholic entangled with a dissipated pool player, played by Paul Newman. Appalled by the lack of substantial roles, Laurie ultimately terminated her lucrative Hollywood contract, relocated to New York, adopted a frugal lifestyle, engaged in live television and theater productions, and within two years, orchestrated a transformation in both her life and career.

Following her hiatus of fifteen years post-The Hustler, Laurie redirected her efforts towards the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, deeming acting to be of lesser significance. Upon her return to acting, she garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Carrie alongside Sissy Spacek, followed by another nomination in the same category for Children of a Lesser God alongside Marlee Matlin. She clinched the Golden Globe for her role in the David Lynch cult classic Twin Peaks and earned Emmy nominations for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in the series.


Laurie with Paul Newman in The Hustler (Photo Credit: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)


Also involved in several theater productions, Laurie graced Broadway in the Tony-nominated Lincoln Center production of Mornings at Seven, helmed by Dan Sullivan at the Lyceum Theatre. Additionally, she starred in the 20th Anniversary production of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway, portraying Laura Wingfield alongside Maureen Stapleton, who played her mother Amanda, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

In the Off-Broadway scene, Laurie showcased her talent in Molly Kazan’s Rosemary and the Alligators and Larry Kramer’s The Destiny of Me. She embarked on a tour with a solo play about Zelda Fitzgerald, penned by Bill Luce. Notably, in 2010, she directed Jim Brochu in his one-man show Zero Hour, earning him the Drama Desk Award for best solo performance on or off Broadway, portraying Zero Mostel.

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