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Tony-Nominated Actress Elizabeth Allen


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Tony-Nominated Actress Elizabeth Allen

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Elizabeth Allen on 'The Match Game'

Elizabeth Allen, a two-time Tony Award-nominated actress who played opposite John Wayne in "Donovan's Reef" and appeared in "Diamond Head" and "Cheyenne Autumn," died from kidney failure on Tuesday, September 19 at Wingate Nursing Home in Fishkill, New York. She was 77.

Born January 25, 1929, in Jersey City, New Jersey, Allen worked as a high-fashion model with the Ford Modeling Agency before she began her acting career. She first became known as "The Away We Go" girl, who introduced skits on "The Jackie Gleason Show."

Allen was a member of the Helen Hayes Repertory Company in New York City for several years learning her craft. She made her Broadway debut opposite Peter Ustinov playing Juliet in David Merrick's 1957 production of "Romanoff and Juliet."

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Tony Award-nominated Elizabeth Allen and Sergio

Franchi on Broadway in 'Do I Hear a Waltz?'

In "Do I Hear a Waltz?" -- based on Arthur Laurents' play, "The Time of the Cuckoo," which also inspired the Katharine Hepburn film, "Summertime" -- Allen played a lonely American woman who falls in love with a married man while on vacation in Venice.

Allen was nominated in 1965 for a Tony Award in the Best Actress in a Musical category for her portrayal in "Do I Hear a Waltz?" Her other Tony nomination came in 1962 for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for "The Gay Life."

She went on to appear in other New York productions of "Sherry!" and "Lend an Ear." Allen also starred in national tours of "Cactus Flower" and "California Suite." Her last stage role was that of Dorothy Brock in the original Broadway and touring productions of "42nd Street."

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Elizabeth Allen and Cesar Romero in 'Donovan's Reef'

Allen was married and divorced from a real-life Baron, one Baron Carl von Vittinghoff-Schell. However, the lure of a film career soon beckoned. Her film credits include "From the Terrace," "Diamond Head," "Cheyenne Autumn," "The Star Spangled Girl" and "The Carey Treatment."

Allen has seldom been as appropriately cast as she was in John Ford's "Donovan's Reef." Elizabeth played the Boston-bred daughter of rapscallion Jack Warden. Her impending visit prompts Warden and his drinking buddies, John Wayne and Lee Marvin to clean up their act double-quick.

Switching to the smaller screen, Allen is perhaps best known for her role as the creepy saleslady in the television episode of "The Twilight Zone" where actress Anne Francis (playing 'Miss Marsha White') finally realizes that she is a mannequin and that her month of freedom and living amongst the humans is over.

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Elizabeth Allen and John Wayne in 'Donovan's Reef'

Allen's saleslady (seen by no one but Marsha) character is the mannequin whose turn is up next and has already been delayed by one full day, explaining her slightly peeved attitude. She portrayed an enemy-agent seductress on a 1966 episode of TV's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

Her numerous television appearances include roles in "Mannix," "The Fugitive," "Dr. Kildare," "Cannon," "Kojak," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," "Burke's Law," "Stoney Burke," "Ben Casey" and "Combat!"

Allen played Paul Lynde's wife on the short-lived 1970s sitcom, "The Paul Lynde Show." She also was a cast member on the dramatic series, "Bracken's World" and on Don Rickles' sitcom, "C.P.O. Sharkey," as well as the soap operas "Another World" and "Texas."

Allen also was a familiar face on the quiz show circuit including regular appearances on the "Match Game" and 1977's "Battle of the Network Stars II." Allen quietly retired from show business in 1982 to devote her time to charitable causes.

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Elizabeth Allen in the soap opera, 'Texas'

Over the years she was an avid animal lover and philanthropist, donating to such causes as Greenpeace, Save the Children, The Sierra Club and many more. She was active in her local organizations at her homes in Lake Peekskill, New York, New York City and Studio City, California.

Ms. Allen was predeceased by her brother and only sibling, Joseph L. Gillease. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Marion Gillease of Poughkeepsie, New York, her nephew and godson, Patrick J. Gillease and his companion, John V. Kloepfer, both of Poughkeepsie, her niece, Erin Phelan and Erin's husband Jeffrey P. Phelan, both of Westbrookville, New York and her grand-nieces, Alicia F. Phelan and Alexandria S. Phelan, also of Westbrookville.

A memorial celebration of her life will be held on October 8 at the Auchmoody Funeral Home in Fishkill, New York. In lieu of flowers, donations to The Actors' Fund of America are suggested. A separate celebration of her life will occur some time this fall with her friends and family in Studio City, California at a time and location to be announced.

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