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Sylvia Miles, Oscar-Nominated for ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and ‘Farewell My Lovely,’ Dies at 94

Actress Sylvia Miles, who was Oscar-nominated for “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely,” died Wednesday at her home in New York. Her friends, journalist Michael Musto and actress Geraldine Smith, confirmed her death. She was reportedly 94, although she gave various accounts of her age.

Celebrity journalist Musto, who was about to appear with Smith and Miles in an indie film, said, “She was one of my first celebrity interviews (in the 1970s) and was charismatic and career driven. She’d run up to directors at Studio 54 and say ‘Hire me!’ She was very proud of her two Oscar nominations.”

Smith said “Her family was her New York friends,” and related how she had been excited to get back to acting.

Miles’ first major role came in the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy” alongside Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. Despite only appearing on screen for about six minutes, her role as Cass earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. The award later went to Goldie Hawn for “Cactus Flower.” Her second nomination for the same award came in 1975 for Robert Mitchum and Charlotte Rampling’s noir remake “Farewell, My Lovely.” She played Jessie Halstead Florian in another brief appearance, but Lee Grant took home the award for “Shampoo.”

A fixture on the New York scene for many years, she often appeared on the red carpet in exuberant hats and outfits. The saying “She would attend the opening of an envelope” was said to have been originated by puppeteer Wayland Flowers to describe both her and Andy Warhol, and she famously dumped a plate of food onto critic John Simon’s head after a negative review.

She appeared in landmark counterculture films like the Warhol-Paul Morrissey film “Sunset Boulevard” parody “Heat” and Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie.”

After beginning her career on stage and in films in the ’40s and ’50s, the New York actress appeared on the pilot episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as Sally Rogers, the role that later went to Rose Marie for the series.

Miles’ more mainstream roles came in the 1982 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel “Evil Under the Sun” and Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” in 1987. She played a real estate agent named Dolores in the drama starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, and reprised the role in 2010’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” one of her final film appearances. She also played Meryl Streep’s mother in the 1989 comedy “She-Devil.”

Among her other notable roles were as a carnival fortune teller in Tobe Hooper’s “The Funhouse,” as matchmaker Hannah Mandelbaum in “Crossing Delancey” and as a lunch counter lady in “Sex and the City.”

She is survived by a sister.

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