Sylvia Miles, who earned two Oscar nominations – one for her memorable role as a poodle-owning Upper East Side matron type who hooks up with Jon Voight’s hustler in Midnight Cowboy and one for a five and a-half minute scene with Robert Mitchum in Farewell My Lovely – has died.
Her friend, publicist Mauricio Padilha, confirmed to The New York Times that Miles died Wednesday in Manhattan. Padilha said she died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital. She was 94.
Miles was nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars for her roles in Midnight Cowboy and in 1975’s Farewell My Love She also appeared in Wall Street and its sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, among numerous other movies, plays and TV series.
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Miles was also a long-time fixture on the New York party scene, often carousing with Andy Warhol and his Factory crowd. She was notable for her continuing appearances at entertainment events and openings well into her 80s.
Miles began her career on stage in 1947 and segued to TV and film in 1954. In the early ’60s, she was the first to play the role of Sally Rogers in the pilot episode of what would become The Dick Van Dyke Show, a role later taken over by Rose Marie for the series.
Despite her being on-screen for only six minutes, Miles snagged her first Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 1969’s Midnight Cowboy. In the unforgettable scene, her character Cass picked up hustler Joe Buck (Voight) – unaware he was a prostitute – and, when he asked to be paid up, broke into angry tears. “You were going to ask me for money? Who the hell do you think you’re dealing with? In case you didn’t happen to notice it, you big Texas longhorn bull, I’m one hell of a gorgeous chick!” The nervous Buck ends up offering Cass money instead.
She received her second Oscar nomination for her role as Jessie in Farewell, My Lovely in 1975. She co-starred with Factory regular Joe Dallesandro in director Paul Morrissey’s 1972 film Andy Warhol’s Heat. Her other film credits include 92 in the Shade, Critical Condition, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday, Crossing Delancey, and the 1989 comedy She-Devil, in which she played the mother of Meryl Streep’s character.
On television, Miles guest-starred in numerous series including Sex & The City, The Equalizer, NYPD, and also appeared in daytime soaps One Life to Live and All My Children.
Over the years, Miles became a cult figure and beloved New York social figure, both for her ties to avant garde personalities, including Warhol and Morrissey, and her enthusiasm for attending nightlife events.
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