You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Diane Varsi

Actress Diane Varsi, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her first screen appearance as Lana Turner’s troubled daughter in “Peyton Place,” died Nov. 19 at age 54.

Varsi died in Los Angeles of respiratory problems, said her daughter Willo Hausman. She also suffered from Lyme disease, an inflammation of the joints that can affect the heart and nervous system.

Hausman said her mother had moved to L.A. from Northern California just a few months before.

After her debut in “Peyton Place” in 1957, Varsi made three movies in quick succession and then abandoned Hollywood, saying acting was destructive for her. “I don’t see any reason to be made miserable just because other people say I should go on with my career.”

Born in 1937 in San Mateo, Varsi described herself in interviews as a “difficult and temperamental child” who was raised in a series of schools and convents.

By age 21 she had been divorced twice, had a son, Shawn, and had worked at various jobs, including picking apples.

She began her entertainment career as a folk singer and drummer with a Los Angeles band.

Her acting teacher Jeff Corey recommended the tall, leggy actress to Mark Robson, a director who was casting “Peyton Place.”

Robson cast her as Turner’s daughter, Allison MacKenzie, in the melodrama based on the novel by Grace Metalious. It won no Oscars, but gathered nine nominations, including Varsi’s for best supporting actress.

After that, she made “From Hell to Texas,” a chase Western starring Don Murray, and “Ten North Frederick,” where she played Gary Cooper’s daughter.

After “Compulsion” in 1959, she moved to Bennington, Vt., walking out on a contract with 20th Century Fox. About that time, she got married for the third time — to artist Michael Hausman.

By the time the contract expired in 1965, her interest in films had rekindled and she went on to make a series of mostly low-budget pictures, including “Sweet Love Bitter,””Wild in the Streets” and “Killers Three.”

In 1971, she played a sympathetic nurse in the anti-war film “Johnny Got His Gun,” saying it was “the kind of role I’ve always wanted … but it’s been a long wait.”

Her last screen appearance was in “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” in 1977.

Despite a reputation as a difficult interview, Varsi managed to cast a spell over Hollywood. Hedda Hopper called her “the most interesting film personality of 1958.” Joe Hyams said she was “the Marlon Brando of actresses.”

In addition to her daughter and son, she is survived by a grandson.

Service is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Mount Tamalpais Cemetery in San Rafael.

More Scene

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Tina KnowlesSoul of Nation: Art in

    Jay-Z, Tina Knowles Celebrate New 'Soul of a Nation' Exhibit at Broad Museum

    “This show is so important. I mean, it’s our history — and it’s a very important part of our journey,” Tina Knowles Lawson said about Friday night’s opening of the exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963 – 1983” at the Broad Museum in DTLA. “I’m just so impressed [...]

  • Jordan Peele'Us' film premiere, Arrivals, New

    Jordan Peele Explains the Meaning Behind the 'Us' Michael Jackson Reference

    Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us” is filled with pop culture references, from “Jaws” to “Goonies.” But the most divisive might be right in his opening sequence. Warning, minor spoilers ahead. The movie about a couple (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children being hunted and brutalized by a mysterious family that looks just [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Nick Offerman Amy Poehler

    'Parks and Recreation' Cast Talks Possibility of a Revival at 10th Anniversary Reunion

    For one night, Hollywood felt a little like Pawnee. The cast of NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation” reunited at PaleyFest on Thursday in honor of the show’s 10th anniversary. The whole Pawnee gang showed up: Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Retta, and Jim [...]

  • Andy CohenThe Shops and Restaurants at

    Andy Cohen to Receive Vito Russo Award at GLAAD Media Awards

    Mazel, Andy Cohen! Bravo’s late-night talk show host is set to receive the Vito Russo Award at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards on May 4 in New York City. Sarah Jessica Parker will present him with the award, which is named in honor of GLAAD founder Vito Russo. The annual award goes to openly [...]

  • Variety TV Summit Europe

    Variety TV Summit Europe Coming to London on June 13

    Variety’s TV Summit Europe will coincide with London Tech Week this year, returning to the city on June 13. The international conference will be held at the Royal Lancaster and is co-produced by global events company Informa’s KNect365 division, the world’s largest business-to-business organizer. The one-day summit will focus on the intersection of content and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content