Entertainment

Piper Laurie, three-time Oscar nominee, dies aged 91

Actress Piper Laurie arrives at the premiere of Hounddog in New York, 2008 (AP)
Actress Piper Laurie arrives at the premiere of Hounddog in New York, 2008 (AP) Actress Piper Laurie arrives at the premiere of Hounddog in New York, 2008 (AP)

The Hustler and Carrie actor Piper Laurie, who was thrice nominated for an Oscar, has died aged 91.

She died early on Saturday at her Los Angeles home, with her manager Marion Rosenberg giving the cause as old age.

She was a “superb talent and a wonderful human being”, Ms Rosenberg added.

Laurie arrived in Hollywood in 1949 as Rosetta Jacobs and was quickly given a contract with Universal-International, a new name that she hated and a string of starring roles with Ronald Reagan, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis, among others.

Obit Piper Laurie
Obit Piper Laurie Actress Piper Laurie in 2009 (AP))

She went on to receive Academy Award nominations for three distinct films: the 1961 poolroom drama The Hustler; the film version of Stephen King’s horror classic Carrie in 1976; and the romantic drama Children Of A Lesser God in 1986.

She also had several acclaimed roles on television and the stage, including in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks in the 1990s as the villainous Catherine Martell.

Laurie made her debut at 17 in Louisa, playing Reagan’s daughter, then appeared opposite Francis the talking mule in Francis Goes To The Races.

She made several films with Curtis, whom she once dated, including The Prince Who Was A Thief, No Room For The Groom, Son Of Ali Baba and Johnny Dark.

Fed up, she walked out on her 2,000-dollar-a-week contract in 1955, vowing to never act again unless offered a decent part.

Obit Piper Laurie
Obit Piper Laurie Piper Laurie hugs her husband-to-be, drama reporter and critic Joseph M Morgenstern, at his desk at the Herald-Tribune in New York in 1961 (AP)

She moved to New York, where she found the roles she was seeking in theatre and live television drama.

Performances in Days Of Wine And Roses, The Deaf Heart and The Road That Led After brought her Emmy nominations and paved the way for a return to films, including in an acclaimed role as Paul Newman’s troubled girlfriend in The Hustler.

For years after, Laurie turned her back on acting.

She married film critic Joseph Morgenstern, welcomed a daughter, Ann Grace, and moved to a farmhouse in Woodstock, New York.

She said later that the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war influenced her decision to make the change.

“I was disenchanted and looking for an existence more meaningful for me,” she recalled, adding that she never regretted the move.

“My life was full,” she said in 1990. “I always liked using my hands, and I always painted.”

Obit Piper Laurie
Obit Piper Laurie Piper Laurie watches piper Thomas Gorrian of the Lovat Pipe Band before the gala world premiere of a 3-D film King of the Khyber Rifles at the Rivoli Theatre in New York, 1953 (AP)

Laurie also became noted as a baker, with her recipes appearing in The New York Times.

Her only performing during that time came when she joined a dozen musicians and actors in a tour of college campuses to support George McGovern’s 1972 presidential bid.

Laurie was finally ready to return to acting when director Brian De Palma called her about playing the deranged mother of Sissy Spacek in Carrie.

At first she felt the script was rubbish, and then decided she should play the role for laughs.

Not until De Palma chided her for putting a comedic turn on a scene did she realise he meant the film to be a thriller.

Carrie became a box-office smash, launching a craze for films about teenagers in jeopardy, and Spacek and Laurie were both nominated for Oscars.

Her desire to act rekindled, Laurie resumed a busy career that spanned decades.

On television, she appeared in such series as Matlock, Murder, She Wrote and Frasier and played George Clooney’s mother on ER.