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Oscar-nominated actress Martha Hyer dies

2014-06-12 08:50

New Mexico — Martha Hyer, an Oscar-nominated actress who starred alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart, and later gained notoriety for her extravagant lifestyle, has died.

Hyer passed away May 31 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Raymond Lucero of Rivera Funeral Home told The Associated Press. She was 89.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, the easygoing actress began her movie career with a small role in the 1946 movie The Locket, but she got her big break in the 1954 comedy Sabrina, starring Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. In that movie, she played the fiancée of a character played by William Holden. Hyer would later write in her memoir that Bogart was helpful in scenes with her.

She reportedly once turned down a date request from a young Sen. John F. Kennedy and began acquiring more high-profile roles during the 1950s.

In 1951, Hyer married director C. Ray Stahl, who directed The Scarlet Spear, which starred Hyer. The marriage ended in divorce three years later.

She was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role in the 1958 Some Came Running, starring Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. The movie was based on a James Jones novel and brought her critical acclaim for her role as a schoolteacher being wooed by writer and war veteran, played by Sinatra. Hyer lost the Oscar to Wendy Hiller for her role in Separate Tables.

Hyer would later say that loss devastated her.

Extravagant lifestyle

After the Oscar nod, Hyer would star in a number of American and foreign films that garnered little attention. But she gain notice for her expensive taste thanks to a 1959 Life magazine photo feature highlighting her Pissarro painting and showing her getting a massage dressed only in a towel. By the 1980s, Hyer found herself millions of dollars in debt to loan sharks.

In 1966, she married film producer Hal Wallis, who took her to New Mexico for the first time during the filming of Red Sky at Morning. Hyer remained married to him until his death in 1986 and moved to Santa Fe shortly after.

"This country casts a spell, and it never lets go," she would later write about New Mexico.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that in her later years Hyer became reclusive, preferring to paint and hike.

Memorial services for Hyer were private, Lucero said.

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