Actress. She won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award, and received an Oscar nomination, for the 1955 film “Marty”. Born Elizabeth Winifred Boger, she was raised in northern New Jersey and had decided on a show business career by age eight. At 12, she was a professional model; graduating from high school at 15, she won a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College, but chose instead to take a job at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe in New York. There she met a then-unknown Gene Kelly, and married him in 1940. Blair made her Broadway debut in the Cole Porter musical “Panama Hattie” (1940), and appeared the next year in William Saroyan’s “The Beautiful People”. She was Julie Haydon’s understudy for the 1945 world premiere of “The Glass Menagerie”, and, on the silver-screen, had roles in “A Double Life” (1947), “Another Part of the Forest” (1948), “The Snake Pit” (1948), and “Kind Lady” (1951). Long involved with left-wing causes, she worked with the NAACP and attempted to join the Communist Party; after World War II this led to her being investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and she was blacklisted by Hollywood for several years. She got her part in “Marty” after writing a letter in which she only “named names” that were already public, and explaining that, while she was, indeed, left-wing, her only national loyalty was to America. She moved to Paris in 1956, and divorced Kelly in 1957. Continuing her film and stage work in Europe, she appeared in “Calle Major” (1956), “Il Grido” (1957), and “All Night Long” (1962). In 1963, she married Czech director Karel Reisz (deceased 2002), and, in the 1970s, earned a degree in speech therapy from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. After working as a therapist, Miss Blair returned to the United States to star in “Betrayed” in 1988, and on the television series “Thirtysomething” in 1989. Her performing career continued until the mid-1990s. In 2003, her autobiography (composed without a ghost-writer), “The Memory of All That: Love and Politics in New York, Hollywood, and Paris”, was published. She died after being ill with cancer for a number of years.
- December, 11, 1923
- New Jersey
- March, 13, 2009
- Cremated. Ashes given to family or friend.