Jill Clayburgh, American actress, Died at 66

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Dead, Jill Clayburgh on November 5, 2010 at the age of 66, she was an American actress.

She won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1978 film An Unmarried Woman, and received a second Best Actress Academy Award nomination for the 1979 film Starting Over.

Born in New York City, the daughter of Julia Louise (née Dorr; 1910-1975), an actress and theatrical production secretary for producer David Merrick, and Albert Henry “Bill” Clayburgh, a manufacturing executive, she made her Broadway debut in 1968 in The Sudden and Accidental Re-Education of Horse Johnson, and starred in a 1969 off-Broadway production of the Henry Bloomstein play Calling in Crazy, at the Andy Warhol owned Fortune theatre.

She went on to appear in numerous Broadway productions in the 1970s and 1980s, including the musicals The Rothschilds in 1972 and Pippin in 1975.

Clayburgh made her screen debut in The Wedding Party, filmed in 1963 but not released until six years later, and gained attention with roles such as the love interest of Gene Wilder in the 1976 comedy-mystery Silver Streak, co-starring Richard Pryor.

She also starred in the critically acclaimed romantic drama Griffin and Phoenix, opposite Peter Falk.

Her other films include Portnoy’s Complaint, Gable and Lombard (in which she portrayed screen legend Carole Lombard), as a pro football team owner’s daughter in Semi-Tough, as a mathematician in It’s My Turn (in which she teaches the proof of the snake lemma), as a conservative Supreme Court justice in First Monday in October and in Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial La Luna, a role in which her character masturbates her son in an attempt to ease his withdrawal from heroin.

In 1978, she rose to screen prominence with her performance in An Unmarried Woman (1978), for which she received an Oscar nomination.

She was again nominated for the Academy Award in 1979 for her role in Starting Over (1979).

But after giving a riveting portrayal as a Valium addict in I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982), her career went into a rapid decline, mainly because of her poor choices of scripts. She seemed destined for a comeback after appearing in Where Are the Children? (1986), with multi-talented child actress Elisabeth Harnois, but her excellent performance was largely ignored by critics, who opted to give the credit for the thriller’s success to the performance of the precocious, six year old Harnois.

She was among the first generation of 70s actresses – including Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Diane Keaton, Carrie Snodgress and Marsha Mason – who was known for portraying characters sprung from the New Age feminism era — smart independent, capable, but often times neurotic.

Jill’s film decline coincided with the conservative Reagan administration and a loss of interest in the feminist movement. In her role in “An Unmarried Women,” released at the height of the late-1970s sexual revolution, Clayburgh portrayed a divorcee exploring her sexuality and new identity after her 16-year marriage falls apart.

The following year she portrayed a teacher beginning a relationship with a recently divorced man played by Burt Reynolds in the hit “Starting Over;” a role that won her a second Oscar nod.

She soon headed to Broadway where she found work on musicals “Pippin” and “The Rothschilds.

She worked steadily on the stage, screen and in television for the next 40 years.


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