Screen Starlet Martha Hyer Dies, Aged 89
The Oscar-nominated 'Sabrina' actress passed away at home.
Martha Hyer, one of the last glamour girls of the Golden Age of Hollywood, died on the 31st May at her home in Santa Fe, aged 89. A representative from Rivera Funeral Home confirmed the death to the Santa Fe New Mexican but said there was no funeral service or memorial planned.
Martha Hyer at the Hilton Hotel in 1960 [Photo: Getty images, credit: Hulton Archive]
Born on the 10th August 1924 in Texas, Hyer kickstarted her movie career after attending college with a modest role in 1946's The Locket. She then earned roles in So Big (1953), Sabrina (1954), The Delicate Delinquent (1956) and Houseboat (1958). Famed for her striking beauty, Hyer appeared in dozens of Old Hollywood movies throughout her career and earned an Oscar nomination for playing Frank Sinatra's love interest in 1958's Some Came Running.
During Grace Kelly's retirement period after marrying into Monacan royalty, Hyer was considered by many to be the best replacement for the The Country Girl star. Hyer earned acclaim for her role alongside Audrey Hepburn in 1954 romance Sabrina for her role as the glamorous fiancée of William Holden's playboy.
Unfortunately, she didn't manage to translate her Oscar nod into more prestigious movie roles and instead appeared in a number of unsuccessful pictures, including Bikini Beach, House of 1,000 Dolls and Picture Mommy Dead. The films are "all ones I'd rather forget," she confessed in her 1990 autobiography Finding My Way: A Hollywood Memoir.
Nevertheless, during her career Hyer worked with many of the Hollywood greats including Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Humphrey Bogart and Rock Hudson. She even reportedly rejected the young Senator John F. Kennedy when he once asked her out.
Martha Hyer [right, centre] in 1959 [Getty images: Credit: Hulton Archive]
Martha married The Scarlet Spear director C. Ray Stahl in 1951 but the couple ended up divorcing three years later. Over 30 years later, Martha tied the knot with her The Sons of Katie Elder director Hal B. Wallis in 1966 and the pair stayed together until his death in 1986.
Reclusive and religious in her later years, Hyer lead a decadent life and had a particular penchant for French impressionist paintings, once even joking that she had run out of wall space in her Hollywood Hills mansion. "It's very embarrassing when you are forced to hang an original Renoir in the bathroom," she said at the time.
The paintings became the subject of a legal dispute when Hyer needed a loan and sold the paintings to con men. The works belonged to her husband, who knew nothing about the loan and engaged in a legal battle with the gallery that acquired the art.
Hyer was often typecast as a sophisticated woman of the world but the actress grew tired of the glamorous roles that were offered to her "I would like very much to convince people that I can be something more than a well-dressed sophisticate," she said, via LA Times.
"I go from one picture to the next getting wealthier and wealthier, but I'd like to do it with the hair down - either as a nymphomaniac or an alcoholic. I want to be a problem."
The cause of Martha Hyer's death is unknown.