Broadway and film actress Julie Haydon, who played the fragile Laura Wingfield in the original production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” died Dec. 24 of abdominal cancer in La Crosse, Wis. She was 84.
Haydon starred in the Broadway production of “The Glass Menagerie” in 1945 that established Williams’ reputation.
The Oak Park, III., native toured when she was 19 with Minnie Maddern Fiske in “Mrs. Bumpstead Leigh.” Two years later she played Ophelia in “Hamlet” at the Hollywood Playhouse.
Haydon’s movie debut came in 1931 with “The Great Meadow.” She was in several Westerns and is credited with supplying Fay Wray’s scream in “King Kong.”
Her movie credits also included “The Scoundrel,” in which she played Cora Moore and starred with Noel Coward. She played Mickey Rooney’s older sister in “A Family Affair,” the first in the Andy Hardy series.
She also appeared with Irene Dunne in 1934’s “Age of Innocence.”
In 1935 she made her Broadway debut in Phillip Barry’s “Bright Star,” a flop that closed after seven performances.
Haydon went on to appear in Paul Vincent Carroll’s “Shadow and Substance,” and in 1939 she originated the role of Kitty Duval in William Saroyan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The Time of Your Life,” which also starred Gene Kelly and Eddie Dowling.
She also appeared in Saroyan’s “Sweeney in the Trees” and “Hello, Out There” with Dowling, who also directed and appeared in “Menagerie.”
After her triumph in “Menagerie,” she appeared in several other plays, including Ferenc Molnar’s “Miracle in the Mountains.”
She married Broadway critic George Jean Nathan in 1955. After his death in 1958 she retired from the stage but continued to work as a drama coach and appeared in college and community theater productions.
Haydon published two books based on Nathan’s writings, “George Jean Nathan, Realm of a Critic” and “Profiles of a Critic.” She also wrote a book, “Every Dog Has Its Day,” and wrote magazine articles on actors she had worked with, including Laurette Taylor, who played her mother in the original “Menagerie.”
She left New York in 1962 and worked for about 10 years as an actress in residence at the College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minn., before moving to La Crosse.
She played the mother in a 1980 Off Broadway version of “Menagerie.”
Survived by her sister, retired dancer Miriam Ziegler, and two nieces, namesake Julie Peterson and Lonnee Eileen, who works in post-production.