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Rita Gam, a glamorous actress who starred in such exotic films as Saadia with Cornel Wilde, Sign of the Pagan with Jack Palance as Attila the Hun and Nicholas Ray’s biblical King of Kings, died Tuesday. She was 88.
Gam, who was director Sidney Lumet’s first wife and a bridesmaid at Grace Kelly’s 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier, died of respiratory failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, publicist Nancy Willen said.
Gam also appeared opposite Gregory Peck in Night People (1954) and Shoot Out (1971), in William Dieterle’s Magic Fire (1955), with Victor Mature in Hannibal (1959) and with Jane Fonda in Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971).
She and her co-star Viveca Lindfors shared the Silver Bear for best actress at the 1962 Berlin International Film Festival for their roles as the women in the hotel room in Tad Danielewski’s No Exit, based on the play by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Born in Pittsburgh on April 2, 1927, Gam was raised in New York City. A founding member of The Actors Studio, she landed a role on Broadway in 1946 in A Flag Is Born, written by Ben Hecht, then made her movie debut in The Thief (1952) opposite Ray Milland.
Gam was a leading member of the Minnesota Theater Company during the opening season (1963) of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis with Zoe Caldwell, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
In 2003, she was in the rotating cast of the off-Broadway stage reading of Wit & Wisdom. Among her other notable stage productions were Hamlet with Dan Mason and Broadway’s There’s a Girl in My Soup with Gig Young.
On television, Gam appeared on such shows as Playhouse 90, Family Affair, McMillan & Wife, Mannix and The Rockford Files. More recently, she produced the documentary series World of Film, which examined the movie business around the world, and the PBS travel series series World of Beauty.
Gam was married to Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon) from 1949 until their divorce in 1955; he went on to wed socialite Gloria Vanderbilt a year later. She then was married from 1956-63 to Thomas Guinzburg, who served as the first managing editor of The Paris Review and president of Viking Press.
Soon after Gam and Kelly signed contracts with MGM, they roomed together with another girl in a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood. They remained close until Kelly’s death in 1982.
Survivors include her daughter, film producer Kate Guinzburg, who partnered with Michelle Pfeiffer in Via Rosa Productions; her son, novelist Michael Guinzburg; and granddaughters Michelle, Olivia and Louisa.
Services are pending.
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek