THEY’RE ALL HAVING THE LAST LAUGH ON YOU!
Actress Piper Laurie has died aged 91. She began her Hollywood career as a studio product of Universal Studios who was marketed as eating flower petals to keep her skin smooth. She acted as the innocent co-star to Ronald Reagan, the innocent co-star to Tony Curtis, and the innocent co-star to Rock Hudson before splitting from her contract in pursuit of better roles. After several years of mostly doing TV, she got exactly that with pool drama The Hustler. Her troubled alcoholic love interest to Paul Newman’s pool shark gave her a depth she hadn’t previously explored on the silver screen. Overwhelmed by the cutthroat pooling world and Newman’s refusal to leave it, she ultimately commits suicide and in turn built Newman the character he needed to prevail over Minnesota Fats: Pool Legend.
Although she was Oscar-nominated for the role, Laurie herself was knee-deep in her own drug addiction and semi-retired. She focused primarily on civil rights and anti-Vietnam activism during a fifteen-year hiatus before roaring back as the batshit fundamentalist mother to Sissy Spacek’s tormented telekinetic girl in Steven King horror Carrie. Laurie initially thought the script was a satire and only accepted due to the pay and Brian De Palma’s charisma, but she ultimately struck terror very effectively, and few could begrudge her knife-y fate. It earned her a second Oscar nomination, and a third came as the estranged mother of Marilee Martin’s deaf woman in romdram Children of a Lesser God.
Laurie was similarly well-regarded on the small screen, with perhaps her best known TV role the scheming mill owner Catherine Martell in Twin Peaks, who fakes her death in a fire and comes back disguised as a Japanese businessman to wreak havoc. She also appeared in The Thorn Birds, played a stroke victim in St. Elsewhere, and hilariously went nuclear against her nutty right-wing pundit daughter in Frasier. Four teams, including Made In Detroit and Old As Dirt, took a stab at her this year.
22 January 1932 – 14 October 2023, aged 91
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