Rosemary Murphy, thrice nominated for Tony Awards and a favorite of writers as disparate as Edward Albee, Horton Foote and Woody Allen, died July 5 at home in New York City. She was 89. The Germany-born actress had a distinguished film career that began in 1957 with That Night and included key supporting roles in Foote’s Oscar-winning 1962 adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird and the Broadway (1964) and screen (1966) versions of Any Wednesday. For Allen, she had roles in September, the telefilm of Don’t Drink The Water (1994) and Mighty Aphrodite (1995).
Adept in comedy and drama, she was best known on Broadway for her performance as Claire, the boozy, immovable houseguest of her sister and brother-in-law Agnes and Tobias, in Albee’s 1966 Pulitzer Prize winner, A Delicate Balance. Murphy’s death comes on the eve of a major revival of the play starring John Lithgow, Glenn Close and, as Claire, Lindsay Duncan, which will open this fall on Broadway. Murphy revisited the play in a 1996 Broadway revival, replacing Elizabeth Wilson as Edna.
A student of Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse who also studied at the Actors Studio, Murphy made her Broadway debut in 1950’s The Tower Beyond Tragedy, though it was seven years before important roles came her way: Helen Gant Barton in Look Homeward, Angel (1957) and Dorothea Bates in Period Of Adjustment. She was Tony-nominated for A Delicate Balance, Any Wednesday and Period Of Adjustment. She returned to Broadway and off-Broadway throughout her career, in Albee’s The Death Of Bessie Smith/The American Dream, Butterflies Are Free, Coastal Disturbances and, in 1999, a revival of Noel Coward’s Waiting In The Wings.
A prolific presence on the small screen, Murphy appeared in urban dramas (Naked City), Westerns (The Virginian), medical and legal dramas (Ben Casey, The Defenders) and soap operas (The Young And The Restless). She played Rose Kennedy in the TV miniseries A Woman Named Jackie and a blood-bank executive in the groundbreaking 1993 AIDS drama And The Band Played On. Murphy won an Emmy playing Sara Delano Roosevelt in the 1976 telefilm Eleanor And Franklin and was nominated again the following year for the sequel.
Other noteworthy film appearances included Forty Carats (1973) and Julia (1977). Among Murphy’s most recent movies were two starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman: Savages (2007) and Synecdoche, New York (2009).