Janice Rule, of Broadway's Picnic, Dead at 72

By Kenneth Jones
22 Oct 2003

Janice Rule with Ralph Meeker in Picnic.
Janice Rule with Ralph Meeker in Picnic.

Janice Rule, the actress who played pretty sister Madge in Broadway's Picnic, opposite a young Paul Newman 50 years ago, died Oct. 17 at her home in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.

Ms. Rule was 72 and had a mixed career of acting and (in the last twenty years) practicing as a psychoanalyst. In William Inge's Picnic, she was tempted by sexy drifter Hal, played by Ralph Meeker. Paul Newman, who was making his Broadway debut in 1953, played Alan.

Ms. Rule's Broadway credits include playing Diana in The Happiest Girl in the World, a musical version of Lysistrata; The Night Circus (1958); Clifford Odets' The Flowering Peach (1954); the musical Great to Be Alive! (1950) and the Irving Berlin musical, Miss Liberty (1950).

Her film credits include "Goodbye, My Fancy" (her film debut in 1951), "Bell, Book and Candle," "Starlift," "Holiday for Sinners," "A Woman's Devotion" and later "The Swimmer" with Burt Lancaster and Robert Altman's "3 Women."

Ms. Rule was born Mary Janice Rule in Norwood, Ohio. Her father was a dealer in industrial diamonds. She was attracted to dance and acting at an early age and studied acting at the Chicago Professional School. She first appeared as a solo dancer at the Chez Paree in Chicago in 1946 and later danced in the nightclub choruses at the Copacabana and the Riviera in New York City.



She made her Broadway debut as a replacement dancer in Miss Liberty and understudied Bambi Lynn in Great to Be Alive! She also appeared in stock productions and in the Phoenix Theatre production, The Carefree Tree, Off-Broadway, in 1955.

Ms. Rule also appeared in many TV productions over the years.

Her marriages to Ben Gazzara, N. Richard Nash and Robert Thom ended in divorce. She is survived by daughters Kate Thom Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gazzara, and three sisters and brother.