Actress Jill Haworth, Original Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Dies at 65

Obituaries   Actress Jill Haworth, Original Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Dies at 65
Jill Haworth, who created the role of chanteuse Sally Bowles in the landmark musical Cabaret, died on Jan. 3. She was 65.

Jill Haworth in Cabaret
Jill Haworth in Cabaret

Cabaret was Ms. Haworth's sole Broadway credit and the major achievement of her brief acting career. She played a hapless English expatriate in Weimar Germany in composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb and librettist Joe Masteroff's musical adaptation of John Van Druten's "I Am a Camera" and Christopher Isherwood's "Goodbye to Berlin." As such, she originated the now classic title song, as well as "Don't Tell Mama." Her performance, however, was not positively reviewed and, when the time for Tony Award nominations came around, she was overlooked.

Though she is now arguably the least-remembered member of Cabaret's original cast, Ms. Haworth arrived at the show as an established film star. A beautiful, petite native of Sussex, England, she was discovered and signed to a contract by the director Otto Preminger when she was still a teenager. (Her name was pronounced HAH-worth, but became HAY-worth over years of repeated media error.) Preminger used her in the films "Exodus" (1960) "The Cardinal" (1963) and "In Harm's Way" (1965). In the first, she played Sal Mineo's ill-fated Jewish girlfriend. The New York Times wrote, "Jill Haworth is fresh and deeply poignant as a brave 15-year-old refugee."

The part that would have been her most notable film achievement—Bowles in the movie version of Cabaret—went to Liza Minnelli.

Ms. Haworth made a few horror films and did guest spots on television shows during the 1970s, as well as two Off-Broadway plays in 1979—Tunnel Fever and Seduced—but by the end of the decade her career was effectively over.

"They underestimated her," Cabaret's director, Hal Prince, told the New York Times. "Sally Bowles was not supposed to be a professional singer. She wasn’t supposed to be so slick that you forgot she was an English girl somewhat off the rails in the Weimar era. When Jill came in and auditioned, she nailed it right away, walked that line. That’s what we wanted, and that’s what she delivered."

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