Piper Laurie, a three-time Oscar nominee who starred in such films as The Hustler, Carrie and Children of a Lesser God, died on Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 91 years old. Her manager, Marion Rosenberg, confirmed her death and said she died of old age.
Laurie was a versatile and acclaimed actress who could play both fragile and fierce characters. She received her first Oscar nomination for her role as Sarah Packard, the crippled and tormented girlfriend of pool shark Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) in The Hustler (1961). She earned her second nomination for playing Margaret White, the religious fanatic mother of telekinetic teenager Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) in Carrie (1976), based on Stephen King’s horror novel. Her third nomination came for her portrayal of Mrs. Norman, the supportive mother of a deaf woman (Marlee Matlin) who falls in love with a hearing teacher (William Hurt) in Children of a Lesser God (1986).
She also had a successful career on television and stage. Piper Laurie won an Emmy Award for her role as the Australian matriarch in the miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983), and was nominated eight more times for her performances in various shows, including Twin Peaks, Frasier and ER. She also appeared in several Broadway and off-Broadway productions, such as Mornings at Seven, The Glass Menagerie and Long Day’s Journey into Night.
Piper Laurie – A rebellious and adventurous spirit
Laurie was born Rosetta Jacobs on January 22, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan, to Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. She moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was six years old, and began taking acting lessons to overcome her shyness. She signed a contract with Universal Studios when she was 17, and changed her name to Piper Laurie, which she disliked but had to accept. She starred in several movies with actors such as Ronald Reagan, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis, but felt dissatisfied with the quality of the scripts and the roles she was offered. She once said that she was told to bathe in milk and eat flower petals to protect her luminous skin.
In 1955, she rebelled against her contract and moved to New York City, where she pursued more challenging and meaningful roles in theater and live television. She impressed critics and audiences with her performances in plays such as Twelfth Night, Days of Wine and Roses and Winterset. She returned to Hollywood with The Hustler, which marked a turning point in her career and established her as a serious actress.
A versatile and acclaimed actress
Piper Laurie married film critic Joseph Morgenstern in 1962, and gave birth to their daughter, Anne Grace, in 1966. She moved to a farmhouse in Woodstock, New York, where she devoted herself to raising her child and supporting social causes such as the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. She took a hiatus from acting for 15 years, until she was persuaded by director Brian De Palma to play the role of Margaret White in Carrie, which revived her career and earned her rave reviews. She divorced Morgenstern in 1982.
Laurie continued to work in film, television and theater until 2018, when she appeared in the movie White Boy Rick. She also wrote an autobiography titled Learning to Live Out Loud, which was published in 2011. In the book, Piper Laurie revealed some of her personal experiences and secrets, such as losing her virginity to Ronald Reagan, having an affair with Mel Gibson when he was half her age, and playing a Japanese businessman disguised as Catherine Martell on Twin Peaks. She said that she wrote the book because “my life had many secrets, and it was wearing.”
Piper Laurie is survived by her daughter Anne Grace Morgenstern; son-in-law Michael Ciesla; grandchildren Margot Ciesla Morgenstern and Joseph Ciesla Morgenstern; sister Sherrye Dee Jacobs; niece Jan Jacobs; nephew Larry Jacobs; grandniece Hannah Jacobs; grandnephew Daniel Jacobs; great-grandniece Sadie Jacobs; great-grandnephew Eli Jacobs; great-great-grandniece Charlotte Jacobs; great-great-grandnephew Leo Jacobs; cousin Barbara Alperin; cousin-in-law David Alperin; second cousin Mark Alperin; second cousin-in-law Susan Alperin; and second cousins once removed Rachel Alperin and Sarah Alperin.
A legacy of talent and courage
Piper Laurie was a remarkable actress who left a lasting impression on generations of viewers and fans. She was admired for her talent, courage, honesty and generosity. She received numerous awards and honors for her work, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, a National Board of Review Award, a New York Film Critics Circle Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, a Saturn Award, a National Society of Film Critics Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
She was also nominated for three Academy Awards, nine Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTA Awards, two Saturn Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
She will be remembered as one of the most versatile and acclaimed actresses of her time, who brought depth, emotion and nuance to every role she played. She will be missed by her family, friends, colleagues and fans. Rest in peace, Piper Laurie.
A Pioneer in Hollywood
Piper Laurie was not only a talented and acclaimed actress, but also a pioneer and rebel who challenged the norms and expectations of Hollywood. She started her career as a teenage contract player at Universal Studios, where she was given a new name that she hated and cast in mostly trivial roles that she despised. She once said that she was told to bathe in milk and eat flower petals to preserve her beauty.
She refused to conform to the studio system and walked out on her contract in 1955, seeking more meaningful and challenging roles in theater and live television in New York. She impressed critics and audiences with her performances in plays such as Twelfth Night, Winterset and The Glass Menagerie. She returned to Hollywood with The Hustler, which marked a turning point in her career and established her as a serious actress.