Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hungarian-American beauty queen and actress whose varied acting career was often overshadowed by her colorful personal life – a personal life that included a string of ex-husbands like hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and actor George Sanders – has died after suffering a heart attack in her home. She was 99.
Born during the first world war in Budapest, then co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Gabor grew up the child of a wealthy Jewish family in the newly-established state of Hungary alongside her siblings, elder sister Magda Gabor, and equally famous younger sister Eva Gabor. Educated at a Swiss boarding school, Zsa Zsa was discovered in 1934 by Austrian opera tenor Richard Tauber, beginning her acting career on the stage.
An early shot at fame came in 1936 when she was crowned Miss Hungary and from there kicked off what would become a varied career that included a 1944 novel, and dozens of film and television roles. Among her film roles, she appeared in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, The Road to Hong Kong, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and even A Very Brady Sequel. In one of her few leading roles, Gabor memorably played Jane Avril in 1952’s Moulin Rouge alongside José Ferrer.
Meanwhile, on television her numerous guest roles include appearances on The Milton Berle Show, Batman, Gilligan’s Island, Bonanza, The Love Boat, The Facts of Life, the Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
But of course, it was her personal life, not her entertainment career, for which Zsa Zsa became world famous. Married eight times (with one annulment), her husbands included the likes of left wing Turkish activist and politician Burhan Asaf Belge (married from 1937–1941), Hotel tycoon Conrad “Connie” Hilton (1942 – 1947), and All About Eve actor George Sanders (1949 – 1954). Gabor cultivated a mystique about her marriages and numerous love affairs and was known in particular for her sharp wit applied to her personal life. “I am a marvelous housekeeper: Every time I leave a man I keep his house,” she once said about her divorces. Another time, when asked how many husbands she had had, “You mean other than my own?” was her reply.
Gabor would later reveal a more tragic side of her colorful life, admitting in her 1991 autobiography that her daughter, Constance Francesca Hilton, was conceived when she was raped by then-husband Hilton. Later in life she experienced a serious personal setback, becoming partially paralyzed in a 2002 automobile crash and requiring a wheelchair.
Gabor married German businessman and adult-adoptee of Princess Marie Auguste of Anhalt, Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, in 1986. The couple remained married until her death.