Barbara Rush, Actor Who Co-starred With Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman Among Others, Dies at 97

Barbara Rush, Actor Who Co-starred With Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman Among Others, Dies at 97

Barbara Rush appears at the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival—Opening Night Gala of "When Harry Met Sally" in Los Angeles on April 11, 2019. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

4/1/2024

Updated: 4/2/2024

LOS ANGELES—Barbara Rush, a popular leading actor in the 1950 and 1960s who co-starred with Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, and other top film performers and later had a thriving TV career, has died. She was 97.
Mrs. Rush’s death was announced by her daughter, Fox News reporter Claudia Cowan, who posted on Instagram that her mother died on Easter Sunday. Additional details were not immediately available.
Ms. Cowan praised her mother as “among the last of ”Old Hollywood Royalty” and called herself her mother’s “biggest fan.”
Spotted in a play at the Pasadena Playhouse, Mrs. Rush was given a contract at Paramount Studios in 1950 and made her film debut that same year with a small role in “The Goldbergs,” based on the radio and TV series of the same name.
She would leave Paramount soon after, however, going to work for Universal International and later 20th Century Fox.
“Paramount wasn’t geared for developing new talent,” she recalled in 1954. “Every time a good role came along, they tried to borrow Elizabeth Taylor.”
Mrs. Rush went on to appear in a wide range of films. She starred opposite Rock Hudson in “Captain Lightfoot” and in Douglas Sirk’s acclaimed remake of “Magnificent Obsession,” Audie Murphy in “World in My Corner” and Richard Carlson in the 3-D science-fiction classic “It Came From Outer Space,” for which she received a Golden Globe for most promising newcomer.
Other film credits included the Nicholas Ray classic “Bigger Than Life”; “The Young Lions,” with Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and Montgomery Clift and “The Young Philadelphians” with Mr. Newman. She made two films with Mr. Sinatra, “Come Blow Your Horn” and the Rat Pack spoof “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” which also featured Mr. Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
Mrs. Rush, who had made TV guest appearances for years, recalled fully making the transition as she approached middle age.
“There used to be this terrible Sahara Desert between 40 and 60 when you went from ingenue to old lady,” she remarked in 1962. “You either didn’t work or you pretended you were 20.”
Instead, Mrs. Rush took on roles in such series as “Peyton Place,” “All My Children,” “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” and “7th Heaven.”
“I’m one of those kinds of people who will perform the minute you open the refrigerator door and the light goes on,” she cracked in a 1997 interview.
Her first play was the road company version of “Forty Carats,” a comedy that had been a hit in New York. The director, Abe Burrows, helped her with comedic acting.
“It was very, very difficult for me to learn timing at first, especially the business of waiting for a laugh,” she remarked in 1970. But she learned, and the show lasted a year in Chicago and months more on the road.
She went on to appear in such tours as “Same Time, Next Year,” “Father’s Day,” “Steel Magnolias,” and her solo show, “A Woman of Independent Means.”
Born in Denver, Mrs. Rush spent her first 10 years on the move while her father, a mining company lawyer, was assigned from town to town. The family finally settled in Santa Barbara, California, where young Barbara played a mythical dryad in a school play and fell in love with acting.
Mrs. Rush was married and divorced three times—to screen star Jeffrey Hunter, Hollywood publicity executive Warren Cowan, and sculptor James Gruzalski.
By Bob Thomas
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