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The Hollywood Reporter

Noreen Nash, Actress in ‘Giant’ and ‘The Southerner,’ Dies at 99

By Mike Barnes,


Noreen Nash, a starlet of the 1940s and ’50s who appeared in such notable films as The Southerner , Giant and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold , has died. She was 99.

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Nash died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Beverly Hills, her oldest son, Lee Siegel Jr., told The Hollywood Reporter .

Nash worked on about two dozen features during her two-decade career, including several “B” pictures like Phantom From Space (1953), where she portrayed an abducted scientist in a movie shot at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

The blue-eyed, dark-haired Nash also starred as the wife of an owner of a Palm Springs tennis club on the CBS summer replacement series The Charles Farrell Show — it stood in for I Love Lucy in 1956 — and appeared on episodes of Hopalong Cassidy , The Abbott and Costello Show , My Little Margie , Dragnet and 77 Sunset Strip .

Nash played the daughter of J. Carrol Naish’s character in Jean Renoir’s The Southerner (1945), starring Zachary Scott in a story about a struggling family of cotton farmers in 1940s Texas, and in Giant (1956), she was Lona Lane, the glamorous Hollywood star who is on hand for the opening of the Emperador Hotel.

“What I remember most is, by the time I got on that picture, director George Stevens and James Dean were at each other,” Nash recalled in an interview for the Western Clippings website. “Dean did his usual mumbling and Stevens kept saying, ‘This script cost a lot of money. I want to hear those words!’ George didn’t like James’ style of acting!”
Noreen Nash in a promotional shot for 1956’s Giant

Norabelle Jean Roth was born on April 4, 1924, in Wenatchee, Washington. Her mother, Gayle, was a teacher and her father, Albert, owned a Coca-Cola bottling plant. She was crowned an Apple Blossom Queen when she was 18, then signed with MGM after being noticed by Bob Hope’s agent at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.

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She took the stage name Noreen Roth and appeared in films including Girl Crazy (1943) with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland; Bathing Beauty (1944) with Esther Williams and Basil Rathbone; Mervyn LeRoy’s Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) with Spencer Tracy; and Mrs. Parkington (1944) with Greer Garson.

Her first big role came in The Southerners after she had left MGM, and working with Naish inspired her to change her stage name one more time, she said.

Nash then starred for such “Poverty Row” outfits as Producers Releasing Corp. and Eagle Lion in films including The Devil on Wheels (1947) alongside Darryl Hickman and Terry Moore, The Big Fix (1947), Assigned to Danger (1948), The Checkered Coat (1948) and Adventures of Casanova (1948).

She collaborated with director Lesley Selander on four Westerns: The Red Stallion (1947), Storm Over Wyoming (1950), Road Agent (1952) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958), where her Frances Henderson kills a man with an ax.

She played the wife of Dick Shawn’s character in LeRoy’s Wake Me When It’s Over (1960) before leaving acting in 1962. She went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA in 1971 — the same year her youngest son, Robert, graduated from the school.

Nash published her first novel, the 16th century-set By Love Fulfilled , in 1980 and co-wrote 2015’s Titans of the Muses: When Henry Miller Met Jean Renoir .

She was married to Lee E. Siegel, the studio medical director at Fox from 1955-71 who was known as “Doctor to the Stars,” from 1942 until his 1990 death, and to Oscar-nominated actor James Whitmore from 2001 until his 2009 death.

In addition to her sons, survivors include her grandchildren, Sebastian, Dmitri, John and Cara, and four great-grandchildren.

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