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Image from: Life of Pi (2012)
Old 01-03-2012, 10:07 PM   #1
rkolinski rkolinski is offline
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May 2008
Default Actress Doe Avedon R.I.P.

As a Stewardess in 1954's "The High and the Mighty"

"Doe Avedon, a bookish beauty reluctantly transformed into a high-fashion model at the hands of a visionary photographer, Richard Avedon — a story that inspired the 1957 musical “Funny Face,” about a bookish beauty (Audrey Hepburn) reluctantly transformed into a high-fashion model at the hands of a visionary photographer (Fred Astaire) — died on Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 86.

The cause was pneumonia, her daughter Anney Siegel-Wamsat said.

Ms. Avedon’s career has a “Pygmalion” aspect that befits midcentury Hollywood, the milieu into which her dark good looks eventually propelled her. For after meeting her by chance in the 1940s, Mr. Avedon set about transforming her, changing not only her profession (she had worked in uninspiring office jobs that gave her time to read) but also her name.

He changed her first name to Doe because of her soft wide eyes — and because it made up in glamour what her given name, Dorcas, seemed to lack. He changed her last name by marrying her.

Although the marriage lasted just five years, her work as his muse and frequent subject led Ms. Avedon into a career, equally unanticipated, as a stage, film and television actress.

Ms. Avedon, who later married the director Don Siegel and was known in private life as Doe Avedon Siegel, had roles in a handful of pictures, including “The High and the Mighty” (1954), starring John Wayne, and “Deep in My Heart” (1954), starring José Ferrer. She returned to the screen in 1984 in “Love Streams,” directed by John Cassavetes.

On television, she had a recurring role in “Big Town,” a noirish newspaper drama broadcast from 1950 to 1956.

On Broadway, she won a Theater World Award in 1949 for “The Young and Fair,” a drama by N. Richard Nash, in which she played the mean girl at a college for young ladies. She also appeared that year in the short-lived comedy “My Name Is Aquilon.”

If Ms. Avedon’s career was modest, that by all accounts was fine with her. An orphan at 12, she wanted nothing more, her daughter said, than to be a wife and mother.

Dorcas Marie Nowell was born on April 7, 1925, in Old Westbury, N.Y., on Long Island, where her father was butler to a wealthy lawyer. Her mother died when she was 3, her father when she was 12, and she was reared by his employer’s family.

As a young woman in New York, she held various jobs, including working in a bank. The precise circumstances of her meeting Mr. Avedon varied in the telling, her daughter said: in one version, he walked into the bank, took one look at her and the plot flowed cinematically from there.

They married in 1944, and Ms. Avedon was soon posing for other major photographers, including Karl Bissinger, and rubbing elbows with Noël Coward and his glittering ilk. Through her friendship with Leonard Gershe, who would write the screenplay for “Funny Face,” the film was conceived.

In 1949 she divorced Mr. Avedon to marry an actor, Dan Mathews. “I would have crawled to the Bronx on my knees to bring Doe back,” Mr. Avedon told ABC News in 1993.

Mr. Mathews died in an automobile accident in the early 1950s; in 1957, Ms. Avedon married Mr. Siegel. They divorced in the mid-1970s; Mr. Siegel, the director of “Dirty Harry” and other films, died in 1991.

Ms. Avedon, who lived in Los Angeles, is survived by four children from her marriage to Mr. Siegel: two daughters, Ms. Siegel-Wamsat and Kit Saldiveri, and two sons, Nowell and Jack Siegel, as well as by a stepson, Kristoffer Tabori; her longtime companion, Michael Liscio; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Richard Avedon died in 2004.

Though she chose to pass her later life in domestic pursuits, for a moment Ms. Avedon’s flame burned so brightly that it illuminated a path to her door thousands of miles long.

As Ms. Siegel-Wamsat recounted on Wednesday, her mother once received a letter from an overseas admirer. The envelope was addressed with a single word: “Doe.”
The Alamo, Black Rain (Jp), Far from the Madding Crowd, Gray Lady Down, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Interrupted Melody, Lust for Life, Mississippi Burning, Moby Dick (Gregory Peck), The Other Sister, Ryan's Daughter, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Sink the Bismarck, Swing Kids, Testament, Them, They Died With Their Boots On, The Thing from Another World, War of the Worlds (Orig.) & When Worlds Collide
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