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Barbara Rush, Award-Winning TV and Film Actress, Dies at 97

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Barbara Rush, the extremely poised actress who rose to fame with supporting roles in 1950s films like “Magnificent Obsession” and “The Young Lions,” died Sunday at her home in Westlake Village, Calif. from Los Angeles. She was 97 years old.

The death, which occurred at an aged care facility, was confirmed by his daughter, Claudia Cowan.

If Ms. Rush’s portrayals had one thing in common, it was a soft, feminine quality, which she put to good use in films of many genres. She was Jane Wyman’s troubled stepdaughter in the 1954 romantic drama “Magnificent Obsession” and Dean Martin’s loyal war girlfriend in “The Young Lions” (1958), set during World War II. In 1950s science fiction films like “It Came from Outer Space” and “When Worlds Collide,” she was the small-town heroine, the scientist’s daughter, the Earthling most likely to succeed.

In “The Young Philadelphians” (1959), starring Paul Newman, and “The World in My Corner,” a 1956 boxing film starring Audie Murphy, Ms. Rush was the most sought-after rich girl. In “Bigger Than Life” (also 1956), starring James Mason, she played a wishy-washy but supportive wife. And in “Come Blow Your Horn” (1963), with Frank Sinatra, she plays the only “nice girl” in a turbulent single life in Manhattan.

But she sometimes transcends types, like the fanatical wife of an Indian agent, for example in the western “Hombre” (1967), with Paul Newman. She also played Kit Sargent, the Hollywood screenwriter attracted and repelled by the ruthless title character in the classic 1959 television production of “What Makes Sammy Run?”

For much of her career, Ms. Rush was treated as a pretty face rather than a serious actress. But she received a Golden Globe in 1954 as most promising newcomer, and she won the Sarah Siddons Award as Chicago’s best actress of the 1969-70 season for her stage role as a mature woman courted by a younger man in Jay Presson Allen’s comedy. “Forty carats.”

Her stage work actually became a second career. Her best-known role was in “A Woman of Independent Means,” a one-woman epistolary saga. But when the show opened on Broadway in 1984, the nicest thing Frank Rich in the New York Times said about it was that Ms. Rush was “a beautiful woman who tries terribly to be insipid.” However, she continued to perform the role to appreciative audiences across North America.

Barbara Rush was born on January 4, 1927 in Denver. Her father, Roy, was a lawyer for a mining company who died when she was a teenager. His mother, Nora (Simonson) Rush, was a housewife but began acting around this time to support the family. She then became a nurse. Barbara attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she played naive alcoholic Birdie in Lillian Hellman’s scathing “Little Foxes.”

In 1950, when she was 23, Ms. Rush received a scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse Theater Arts College and signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. She made her film debut that year in the family comedy “The Goldbergs.”

Television was always a part of her career, with appearances beginning in the 1950s. Although she never had a hit series, she starred in several short-lived series, including playing a wealthy Florida wife in “Flamingo Road” (NBC, 1981-82). She was also a Washington newspaper correspondent on “Saints and Sinners” (NBC, 1962-63), an abused wife on one season (1968-69) of ABC’s “Peyton Place” and a star of a television soap opera. last year (CBS). , 1973-74) from “The New Dick Van Dyke Show”.

His last on-screen appearances were as a recurring character in the family values ​​series “7th Heaven”, between 1997 and 2007.

Ms. Rush was married and divorced three times. Her first husband (1950-55) was the actor Jeffrey Hunter. His second (1959-70) was Warren Cowan, founder of the public relations firm Rogers & Cowan. Her last marriage (1970-75) was to Jim Gruzalski, a sculptor.

In addition to Ms. Cowan, from Ms. Rush’s second marriage, she is survived by a son from her first marriage, Christopher Hunter, and four grandchildren. For about 50 years, she lived in Beverly Hills in a house once occupied by Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

Ms. Rush continued to perform into her early 90s and declared an immense love for her work. In 1997, she told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m one of those kinds of people who happens as soon as you open the refrigerator door and the light comes on.” »

Alex Traub reports contributed.

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