Malone died in an assisted living center from natural causes days before her 94th birthday, daughter says
Dorothy Malone, who won hearts of 1960s TV viewers as the long-suffering mother in Peyton Place TV show, has died. Photograph: AP
Actress Dorothy Malone, who won hearts of 1960s television viewers as the long-suffering mother in the nighttime soap Peyton Place, died on Friday in her hometown of Dallas at age 93.
Malone died in an assisted living center from natural causes days before her 94th birthday, said her daughter, Mimi Vanderstraaten.
I’ve been unfaithful or drunk or oversexed almost ever since on the screen
After 11 years of mostly roles as loving sweethearts and wives, the brunette actress decided she needed to gamble on her career instead of playing it safe. She fired her agent, hired a publicist, dyed her hair blonde and sought a new image.
“I came up with a conviction that most of the winners in this business became stars overnight by playing shady dames with sex appeal,” she recalled in 1967. She welcomed the offer for Written on the Wind, in which she played an alcoholic nymphomaniac who tries to steal Rock Hudson from his wife, Lauren Bacall.
“And I’ve been unfaithful or drunk or oversexed almost ever since on the screen, of course,” she added.
When Jack Lemmon announced her as the winner of the 1956 Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role, she rushed to the stage and gave the longest speech of the evening. Even when Lemmon pointed to his watch, she continued undeterred, thanking “the Screen Actors and the Screen Extras guilds because we’ve had a lot of ups and downs together”.
Malone’s career waned after she reached 40, but she achieved her widest popularity with Peyton Place, the 1964-69 ABC series based on Grace Metalious’s steamy novel which became a hit 1957 movie starring Lana Turner. Malone assumed the Turner role as Constance Mackenzie, the bookshop operator who harbored a dark secret about the birth of her daughter Allison, played by the 19-year-old Mia Farrow.
ABC took a gamble on Peyton Place, scheduling what was essentially a soap opera in prime time three times a week. It was a ratings winner, bringing new prominence for Malone and making stars of Farrow, Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Parkins.
Malone was offered a salary of $10,000 a week, huge money at the time. She settled for $7,000 with the proviso that she could leave the set at 5pm so she could spend time with her young daughters, Mimi and Diane. She had been divorced from their father, a dashing Frenchman, Jacques Bergerac.
Malone married three times – two and a half by her calculation. Her second marriage, to stock broker Robert Tomarkin in 1969, was annulled after six weeks. A marriage in 1971 to motel chain executive Huston Bell also ended in divorce.
“I don’t have very good luck in men,” Malone said. “I had a tendency to endow a man qualities he did not possess.” When a reporter suggested she was well fixed because of the Peyton Place money, she replied: “Don’t you believe it. I had a husband who took me to the cleaners. The day after we were married he was on the phone selling off my stuff.”
Besides Vanderstraaten, Malone is survived by a son, retired US district judge Robert B Maloney, and a daughter, Diane Thompson, all of Dallas.