Friday, February 06, 2015

Obituary: Lizabeth Scott

Famed film noir actress Lizabeth Scott, 92, one of the last stars from the 1940s, has died of congestive heart failure according to a friend of hers.

Indeed she did look and act a bit like Lauren Bacall with the smoky voice and sultry looks, and she enlivened many a picture.

Scott was an ardent Republican all her life. I had heard whispers and read hints about her private life, but I have to say that if she really did swing the other way, she was the straightest lesbian in the history of the world. The "lesbian" rumors I believe started in 1954 with an article from that reliable source, Confidential magazine, and would still be circulated from time to time. In reality, she had plenty of male admirers. She was married and divorced at least once (though many sources say she never married at all), and in 1969 she got engaged to an oil executive named William Duggar, who unfortunately died before they could get married. His will was contested by his sister, and Scott received nothing.

Earlier, Scott had a fourteen-year affair with producer Hal Wallis. Between those rendezvous or redezvouses or whatever the hell they're called and her career, it didn't leave a whole lot of time for much else.

Onscreen, she specialized in femme fatale roles. She starred with the likes of Bogart and Lancaster. She quit movies in 1972 and devoted much of the following decades in volunteer activities.

Scott died on January 31.

From the Guardian:

She was born Emma Matzo, the daughter of John Matzo and his wife Mary (nee Pennock) in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Despite her parents’ opposition to an acting career, she went to the Alvienne School of Drama in New York. She got her first professional engagement with the touring company of Hellzapoppin, where she had little to do but appear in stunning gowns in a series of comedy blackouts.

Back in New York, unable to get an acting job, she landed work as a fashion model with Harper’s Bazaar at $25 an hour. In 1942 she was taken on as understudy for Tallulah Bankhead in Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth on Broadway. Bankhead proved to be unusually healthy, and Scott sat backstage for almost a year before leaving the company. However, she did get to play the lead on tour, taking over from Miriam Hopkins.


In September 1954, a front-page story in the magazine Confidential claimed that Scott was a lesbian and was linked to “the little black books kept by Hollywood prostitutes”. It was also said that on a trip to Paris she had taken up with Frede, that city’s most notorious lesbian entertainer. Some months later, her lawyer instituted a $ 2.5m suit against Confidential, accusing the magazine of “holding the plaintiff up to contempt and ridicule and implying in the eyes of every reader indecent, unnatural and illegal conduct in her private and public life”. Scott lost her suit on a technicality, however, and, given the witch-hunting atmosphere of the times, the case certainly harmed her. Compounding her plight was her rebellious nature, having never paid conventional homage to the film establishment and to gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. Luckily, she had invested her money wisely.

She did make many television appearances over the years.

She was a memorable star who will not be forgotten. Unlike most, she has enjoyed a cult following over the years.

One by one, the greats from Hollywood are leaving the scene.

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