Shirl Conway, Broadway and Television Actress, Dies at 90

By Robert Simonson
04 Jun 2007

Shirl Conway, who appeared on Broadway in Plain and Fancy, died May 7 in Shelton, WA. She was 90.



Ms. Conway played Ruth Winters in the 1955 Joseph Stein-Will Glickman-Albert Hague-Arnold B. Horwitt show, which starred Barbara Cook and ran for 461 performances. The show was set in Amish country in Pennsylvania. Her character had a solo number in the first act titled "It's a Helluva Way to Run a Love Affair." She won a Theatre World Award for her performance.

An austere beauty of regal appearance and high cheekbones, Ms. Conway was best known for her role as head nurse Liz Thorpe in the CBS prime time drama "The Nurses," which ran from 1962 to 1965. She received an Emmy nomination for her part. Other television work included "Route 66," "The Defenders," "The Naked City," "Joe & Mabel" and Sid Caesar's "Caesar's Hour."

Shirl Conway was born June 13, 1916, in Franklinville, NY. She was a descendent of Henrietta Crosman, an actress who frequently performed on Broadway during the first decades of the 20th century. She attended the University of Michigan and started out as a John Robert Powers model, appearing on the cover of Redbook Magazine, according to Variety. She later married fellow actor Bill Johnson.

According to Variety, she also appeared on Broadway in Eddie Cantor's Banjo Eyes; with Carol Channing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; and toured as Auntie Mame in the U.S. and Australia in the late 1950s.

Ms. Conway moved to western Washington in 1972. She founded the Harstine Island Theater Club where she wrote, directed, produced and starred in productions into her 80s.