Friday, May 24, 2024

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.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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