Lucy Saroyan, a former actress who struggled for years over her estrangement from her famous father, author William Saroyan, died April 11 in Thousand Oaks, Calif. She was 57.
The cause was cirrhosis of the liver complicated by hepatitis C, said her brother, Aram, of Los Angeles. She is also survived by her mother, Carol Matthau, of New York.
Lucy Saroyan was born in San Francisco. She was the second child of her father and the former Carol Marcus.
The marriage took place at the peak of Saroyan’s fame. His novel “The Human Comedy” had been turned into an Oscar-winning pic and his play “The Time of Your Life” had won the 1940 Pulitzer prize for drama.
He became known for stories that celebrated brotherhood and tight-knit families. But his own family life was disastrous.
He married and divorced Marcus twice in eight years, the final break coming in 1952. Her later marriage to thesp Walter Matthau lasted 41 years, but Saroyan never remarried. By his own choosing, he had almost no contact with his children in his last years. In the end, he essentially disinherited them, leaving the bulk of his $1.3-million estate to the William Saroyan Foundation.
Lucy Saroyan attended the exclusive Dalton School in New York before enrolling at Northwestern University in Chicago. She dropped out of college and enrolled at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, did voiceovers and worked as a dresser for her stepfather Matthau in the Broadway production of “The Odd Couple.” She eventually was able to make a living as an actress with small parts on Broadway and off-Broadway and in summer stock.
She later moved to California and worked in TV and film. Her brother said one of her favorite roles was a small part in the 1980 spy caper “Hopscotch,” which starred Matthau. She made minor appearances in 22 movies, including “Greased Lightning” (1977), in which she played Beau Bridges’ wife, and “Blue Collar” (1978), in which she played Harvey Keitel’s wife.
She also worked as a film library archivist and in bookstores. She conducted interviews with personalities such as New York cafe owner Elaine Kaufman and director James Toback, which Andy Warhol published in his Interview magazine.
As she matured, however, she found it increasingly hard to win her father’s favor. He disapproved of his never-married daughter’s lifestyle — particularly an affair she said she had with Marlon Brando — and her lack of career success. Lucy tried to stay in touch with her father, writing him warm, conciliatory letters every New Year’s Eve for several years, even though he never answered.
In 1981, during his last days, the author relayed his desire to spend an hour or two with Lucy. But he began to berate her even before she crossed the threshold of his Fresno house. She rushed from the house in tears.
A few weeks later, he grudgingly granted her a final meeting. “He told me he loved me,” she said. “And he kissed me.”
Her ashes were interred at Ararat Cemetery in Fresno, near those of her father.