A veteran 1950s breakout who went on to a lengthy career in film and television, Rita Gam has died. Her publicist, Nancy Willen, told press the actress passed away in Los Angeles of respiratory failure on Tuesday. She was 88.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1927, Gam made her Broadway debut in 1946 and returned several times throughout her career as actress and producer, notably in the cast of the 1967 British comedy hit There’s a Girl in My Soup. In 1963, she was a leading member of Sir Tyrone Guthrie’s company in the debut season of the resident theater named for him in Minneapolis, MN. A member of the Actors Studio, she also worked in television before landing her first feature role with 1952’s The Thief starring Ray Milland. She received a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer for the film. Gam later starred in Douglas Sirk’s 1954 Sign Of The Pagan with Jack Palance, and in Nunnally Johnson’s Night People, also in 1954. That film starred Gregory Peck, with whom Gam would re-team for 1971’s Shoot Out.
In 1962, she shared the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for Tad Danielewski’s No Exit. Her other feature credits include Nicholas Ray’s 1961 King Of Kings and a role in 1971’s Jane Fonda-starrer Klute. Gam last appeared on Broadway in a 2000 revival of Uncle Vanya with Derek Jacobi in the title role.
Gam was married to director Sidney Lumet and, later, Viking Press founder Thomas Ginzburg. A close friend of Grace Kelly — they’d been apartment mates and Gam was a bridesmaid at Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco — also made guest appearances on such seminal TV series as The Rockford Files, Mannix, McMillan & Wife and Family Affair.