Home Movies Jill Clayburgh, Twice Nominated for Best Actress, Dies at Age 66

Jill Clayburgh, who really transcended the culture and made an everlasting impression in the 1978 movie “An Unmarried Woman,” died today at age 66.

Clayburgh was married to playwright David Rabe. Among her children is actress Lily Rabe, currently on Broadway with Al Pacino in “The Merchant of Venice.” Earlier this week, Lily Rabe took a break from the play, right before its opening, saying she had a family emergency. This was it.

What a terrible shame. Clayburgh was a lovely person and a tremendously talented actress. Ironically, she’d once played another actress who died too soon of cancer, and another Jill, Jill Ireland, wife of Charles Bronson, in a TV movie.

Most audiences now know Clayburgh from TV appearances, like the short lived series “Dirty Sexy Money.”

But Clayburgh had a hot run in movies from around 1976 to 1982 that included Paul Mazursky‘s great film, “An Unmarried Woman,” as well as starring with Burt Reynolds and Candice Bergen in “Starting Over,” in “Silver Streak,” with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, and “It’s My Turn” with Michael Douglas and Charles Grodin. Clayburgh played the ultimate emerging woman of the 70s: brainy and sexy. She was both in every part she played. Long before Sandra Day O’Connor made it to the Supreme Court, Clayburgh played the first female Supreme Court justice in “First Monday in October.” And she was valium addicted Barbara Gordon in the memoir, “I’m Dancing as Fast As I Can.”

She had back to back Oscar nominations in 1979 and 1980, respectively for “An Unmarried Woman” and “Starting Over.”

PS Clayburgh, Rabe and Pacino were lifelong friends. Clayburgh and Pacino appeared together in an episode of a 60s TV show, “NYPD.” Pacino starred in Rabe’s plays, including  “Streamers” and “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel.”

This is a big loss for her family, friends, and the movie and theater world. Jill Clayburgh will be missed.

9 replies to this post
  1. Almost 20 years ago me, my parents & fellow travelers were “stuck” for 10+ hours at O’Hare Airport in Chicago thanks to a snow storm. Ms. Clayburgh and Mr. Rabe were among the group of travelers. My mother had always admired Ms. Clayburgh and approached her to say hello. I cannot tell you how lovely & gracious Ms. Clayburgh was. She was just terrific to my mother (& all of us) and spent the next 3 hours chatting with Mom about everything under the sun from having children to hair care. It really was something to see. I will never forget her kindness in those hours all those years ago. My heart goes out to her family, Ms. Clayburgh was a class act.

  2. […] Clayburgh was married to playwright David Rabe. Among her children is actress Lily Rabe, currently on Broadway with Al Pacino in “The Merchant of Venice.” Earlier this week, Lily Rabe took a break from the play, right before its opening More… […]

  3. This is truly sad news. I just just thinking she battled this bs, horrible cancer for 21 years? What a strong woman to get up each and every day and think I’m going kick this things ass. Just shows her strength and grace and resolve. Yes, she was a hell of an actress, no doubt, but what a hell of a person. God Bless

  4. I will never forget her memorable work in “Starting Over” and “Silver Streak” ( one of my all -time favorites & still watchable) . I never saw ” An Unmarried Woman”, but I can still remember my mother raving about that film and her glorious performance . Jill Clayburgh is a joy to watch. She repeatedly brought : fierceness, intelligence, strength, quiriness,and soulfulness to her beautiful acting. This woman never played it straight or safe- her goal was to challenge the viewer. As a television viewer, you could tell Jill was having the time of her life portraying that unpredictable matriarch in “Dirty Sexy Money.” Because Clayburgh added so many different spices to her t.v. character, she made her role delicious to watch. Yes, Jill will be missed !

    P.S. I pray to God, her former co-star Michael Douglas doesn’t follow her. This year alone , we have lost too many phenomenal and legendary talents.

  5. She was a great actress. To many have died this week and this week. Another has left the building. Rest in peace and may god be with you and your faily. Amen

Leave a Reply

Print This Post Print This Post