Sarah Marshall, Tony-Nominated English Actress, Dies at 80

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21 Jan 2014

Sarah Marshall, a British actress who racked up a collection of comedic Broadway credits in the 1950s in works by Neil Simon and Gore Vidal, culminating in a Tony nomination for her supporting work in the 1959 play Goodbye, Charlie, died Jan. 19 in Los Angeles. The cause was cancer. She was 80. 



Goodbye, Charlie was Ms. Marshall's ninth New York credit during the 1950s, a decade that saw the actress on the Broadway stage nearly constantly. A dark-haired woman with bright, expressive eyes and a wide, toothy smile, she made her Broadway debut in a short-lived 1951 revival of the Elmer Rice comedy Dream Girl. Revivals of Robert E. Sherwood's Idiot's Delight, Charley's Aunt and Mr. Pickwick, and a new S.N. Behrman play called Jane, followed, all enjoying similarly poor luck with audiences.

In The Ponder Heart, a 1956 "comedy of rural manners" inspired by a Eudora Welty novel and starring David Wayne and Una Merkel, fared better, running for a half a year. It also won Ms. Marshall, who played a backwoods Southern bride, a Theatre World Award. "As the timid, colorless, backward bride," wrote Brooks Atkinson in the New York Times, "Sarah Marshall's shiftlessness and innocence compose a full-length portrait."

From then on, the actress was on a roll. Her next role was as a droll college girl in Gore Vidal's A Visit to a Small Planet, a hit farce in 1957. Paul Osborn's The World of Suzie Wong, which bowed in 1958, did even better, running for more than a year. Goodbye, Charlie, a George Axelrod play starring Lauren Bacall and Sydney Chaplin, came next.

Her next, and final, Broadway play, Neil Simon's breakout work Come Blow Your Horn, was another success, running nearly two years with her playing the love interest of the playboy protagonist. Off-Broadway, she appeared in a Phoenix Theatre staging of The Seagull.

In 1972 Ms. Marshall and her husband, Karl Held—whom she met while in The World of Suzie Wong—moved to London. There, she acted in A.R. Gurney's Children with Constance Cummings, Applause with Lauren Bacall, and Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady with Elaine Stritch.

Sarah Lynne Marshall was born May 25, 1933, in London to the British actors Edna Best and Herbert Marshall, the character actor who had a long career in Hollywood from the early 1930s on ("The Letter," "The Little Foxes"). She moved with her parents to the U.S. in the late '30s, and began appearing on television in the mid-'50s. Her film credits include "The Long, Hot Summer" in 1958, "Dave" and "Dangerous Minds." Her many televisions guest shots included appearances on the anthology series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Twilight Zone" and "Thriller."

A marriage to film art director Mel Bourne ended in divorce in 1957. She is survived by her son, Timothy Bourne, a movie production designer.