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Martha Hyer

Actress

Actress

Born: August 10, 1924; Died May 31, 2014.

Martha Hyer, who has died aged 89, was an actress who is largely forgotten now but was talked about as a likely heir to the sort of classy roles Grace Kelly used to play before she gave up movies to become a princess. She landed an Oscar nomination as the object of Frank Sinatra's desires in Some Came Running (1958) and looked all set to become one of Hollywood's top stars at the end of the decade.

She was already earning and spending a fortune - displaying her wealth in a picture spread that ran to several pages in Life magazine. "I've dreamed a dream and it has come true," she said.

There were pictures of her in her luxury Beverly Hills home, with a Pissarro on the wall. There was one of her drinking champagne and another of her wearing "one of her full-length minks". The article reassured readers that her friends did not regard her as materialistic and were always interested to hear about the latest Hyer purchase.

Then things started to go wrong. She was burgled not long after the pictures appeared, she was in the running for the role of Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho (1960), but lost out to Janet Leigh, and her career dipped fairly dramatically before she married Hal B Wallis, who fortunately happened to be one of the most successful producers in Hollywood.

Hyer was born into an affluent family in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1924. Her father was a senator and judge, later involved in the Nuremberg war crime trials. She studied drama at university and secured a contract with RKO, one of the major Hollywood studios at the time.

In 1951 she married C Ray Stahl, a producer and director with whom she worked on several films. But the marriage lasted only a few years. She was also romantically linked with Gene Kelly.

Her career took off in the mid-1950s and she played William Holden's fiancée in the classic romantic drama Sabrina (1954), with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn.

She also made several films with John Wayne, including The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), which Hal B Wallis produced. But by this point Hyer was in financial difficulties and was forced to sell her beloved Pissarro at auction.

She married Wallis in 1966, but still managed to run up huge debts, which she kept secret from him for a long time. In autobiography Finding My Way, in 1990, she wrote about her financial difficulties and finding God.

Wallis predeceased her. It is not thought that she had any immediate family.

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