July 20, 2005

Actress Geraldine Fitzgerald Dies at 91

NEW YORK - Geraldine Fitzgerald, who appeared in such classic 1930s films as "Dark Victory" and "Wuthering Heights" and later had a career on the New York stage, has died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 91.

Fitzgerald died Sunday at her Manhattan home, Tom Goodman, a spokesman for Fitzgerald's family, said Monday.

The Irish-born actress received an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Isabella Linton in "Wuthering Heights" (1939), appearing with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in director William Wyler's memorable screen version of the Emily Bronte novel.

That same year she also starred with Bette Davis, George Brent and Humphrey Bogart in the popular Hollywood tearjerker "Dark Victory."

Fitzgerald had a tumultuous career at Warner Bros. in the 1940s, refusing roles and being placed on suspension by the studio. Yet during that decade she managed to appear in such films as "Shining Victory" (1942), "The Gay Sisters" (1943), "Watch on the Rhine" (1944) and "Nobody Lives Forever" (1946), a film noir gem which starred John Garfield.

In later years, she appeared as a character actress in such movies as "Ten North Frederick" (1958), "The Pawnbroker" (1965), "Rachel, Rachel" (1968), "Harry and Tonto" (1974), "Arthur" (1981) and "Easy Money" (1983).

"I was a great fan. She was a consummate actress, and I just loved everything she did," said Shirley Jones, who co-starred with Fitzgerald in the 1970s made-for-TV movie "Yesterday's Child." "It was a great joy for me to work with her."

Fitzgerald received a Tony nomination in 1982, for directing "Mass Appeal," Bill C. Davis' play about the conflicts between an older and younger priest.

Among her New York stage appearances were roles in several Eugene O'Neill revivals, most notably as Mary Tyrone in a 1971 off-Broadway production of "Long Day's Journey into Night," which starred Robert Ryan. In 1977, she starred with Jason Robards in a revival of O'Neill's "A Touch of the Poet."

Fitzgerald also developed a nightclub act, called "Geraldine Fitzgerald Singing Songs of the Street" — later shortened to "Streetsongs" — in which she would talk and sing about her life, including reminiscences from her childhood.

Born in Dublin, Fitzgerald made her stage debut in 1932 at the Gate Theater and later appeared in several British films. She came to New York to act with Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater, but was quickly signed by Hollywood.

Fitzgerald's first marriage to Edward Lindsay-Hogg ended in divorce. She later married businessman Stuart Scheftel, who died in 1994.

Fitzgerald is survived by a son, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg of Los Angeles, and a daughter Susan Scheftel of New York.

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