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Lola Albright, the charming actress with the smoky voice who sang and starred on TV’s Peter Gunn and was spurned by the back-stabbing Kirk Douglas in the classic 1949 boxing drama Champion, has died. She was 92.
Albright died Thursday in a home in the Toluca Lake enclave of Los Angeles, her friend, Eric Anderson, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. News of her death was first reported by the Akron Beacon Journal; she was born and raised in the Ohio city.
Albright was perhaps best known for playing the sultry singer Edie Hart, the girlfriend of private eye Craig Stevens, on all three seasons of the Blake Edwards NBC-ABC series Peter Gunn. She received an Emmy Award nomination in 1959 for her work.
While the series was on the air, Albright released the album Dreamsville, backed by Henry Mancini’s orchestra (he, of course, composed the theme song for Peter Gunn), in 1959. She had done an album two years earlier, Lola Wants You.
On the big screen, the blue-eyed blonde was memorable in a leading role as an aging burlesque stripper who seduces a teenager (Scott Marlowe) in A Cold Wind in August (1961), and she received the best actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for portraying Tuesday Weld’s suicidal mother in Lord Love a Duck (1966).
In Champion, an adaptation of a Ring Lardner story, Albright played the spoiled Palmer Harris, the wife of a manipulating boxing manager, who falls for fighter “Midge” Kelly (the Oscar-nominated Douglas). The manager offers Kelly a bigger percentage of the gate to leave his wife alone, which the boxer agrees to, leaving Palmer devastated.
Albright also appeared on the big screen in Tulsa (1949), The Good Humor Man (1950) — opposite her future husband, Jack Carson — The Killer That Stalked New York (1950), Frank Sinatra’s The Tender Trap (1955), The Impossible Years (1968), Elvis Presley’s Kid Galahad (1962), Joy House (1964), Douglas’ The Way West (1967) and Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? (1968).
She stepped in for Dorothy Malone, who had suffered a pulmonary embolism, to play Constance for several episodes of ABC’s Peyton Place in 1965-66.
Albright was born on July 20, 1924, in Akron. She graduated from West High School in 1942, worked as a receptionist at radio stations and was discovered by a talent scout while she was modeling in Chicago.
She made her big-screen debut in The Unfinished Dance (1947), starring the youngster Margaret O’Brien, and appeared in two Judy Garland movies, The Pirate and Easter Parade, the following year.
Albright played Bob Cummings’ love interest on his 1955-57 NBC-CBS comedy and guest-starred on such shows as Lux Video Theatre, Panic!, The Beverly Hillbillies, Branded, Burke’s Law, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Columbo and Airwolf.
Albright was married to Carson from 1952-58 and then to Bill Chadney, who played her pianist at the bar called Mother’s on Peter Gunn, from 1961-71. (Chadney also owned L.A. restaurant-clubs that bore his name.) Both marriages ended in divorce.
She had no children. Survivors include her step-daughter, Susan Chadney.
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