Jill Clayburgh, who earned Oscar nominations for her turns as a divorcee in 1978’s An Unmarried Woman and as a woman romancing Burt Reynolds’ divorcé in Starting Over, died over the weekend, ending a 21-year battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. She was 66.
Clayburgh was a major star of the 1970s, often playing complicated yet sympathetic women in films that captured the increasing complexities of the post-sexual revolution era, including Portnoy’s Complaint, It’s My Turn, First Monday In October, and I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can. She also just starred in some just-plain hits, like playing Gene Wilder’s love interest in Silver Streak, and playing the daughter of the owner of a football team in Semi-Tough, where she was caught in a love triangle that included Kris Kristofferson and Burt Reynolds (again). In that decade, her career ran the gamut from playing Carole Lombard opposite James Brolin’s Clark Gable in the mushy big-screen biopic Gable And Lombard to starring in Bernardo Bertolucci’s dark La Luna, as a famous opera singer trying to keep her son off drugs (and, in one infamous scene, resorts to masturbating him to keep him from using heroin).
Although her movie career slowed somewhat in the early ’90s, she continued to perform on stage and was a frequent presence on television, notably playing the mother of Ally McBeal, playing Letitia Darling on Dirty Sexy Money, turning up on Law And Order and The Practice, and earning Emmy nominations for both the 1975 TV movie Hustling and her guest appearances on Nip/Tuck. Her last major movie role was in 2006’s Augusten Burroughs adaptation Running With Scissors. She can be seen playing Jake Gyllenhaal’s mother in Love And Other Drugs, to be released later this year, and in the Paul Feig-directed Bridesmaids, due in 2011.