Patricia Bosworth, Hollywood Actress-Turned-Chronicler, Dies From Coronavirus Complications at 86

Patricia Bosworth - Getty - H 2020
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Known as an actress for her work opposite Audrey Hepburn in 'The Nun's Story,' she later wrote best-selling biographies of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and others.

Patricia Bosworth, an actress during and later a chronicler of Hollywood's Golden Age, died Thursday of complications related to the novel coronavirus. She was 86.

The author's death was announced by the Actors Studio, of which she was a longtime member and board member.

Born Patricia Crum, the Oakland, California, native was the daughter of an attorney and a crime reporter/novelist and had a dramatic life from start to finish. While she was an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College, she eloped with an art student, who abused her, leading to an annulment after 16 months; her younger brother, who was her only sibling, died by suicide (her father would do the same six years later); and she became a model for the John Robert Powers Agency, photographed by Diane Arbus for a Greyhound bus ad. Her dream since childhood, though, was to become an actress, and that she did shortly after graduating in 1955.

Bosworth became a member of the Actors Studio in New York, studying under Lee Strasberg and alongside many of the great performers of Hollywood's Golden Age, including Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen and Jane Fonda. Throughout the rest of the 1950s and into the '60s, she appeared in numerous Broadway productions, including Inherit the Wind and Small War on Murray Hill; on TV series including Naked City and The Patty Duke Show; and in films, most notably playing a nun opposite Audrey Hepburn in Fred Zinnemann's 1959 classic The Nun's Story. (On the same day that she was cast in The Nun's Story, Bosworth learned she was pregnant and then paid to have an illegal abortion.)

In the 1960s, she decided to give up acting to focus on journalism, mostly of a show-business nature. She was a writer at New York magazine and The New York Times before becoming, during the ensuing decades, a writer and editor at Screen Stars, McCall's, Harper's Bazaar, Viva, Mirabella and, most notably, Vanity Fair, where Tina Brown hired her as a contributing editor in 1984.

She held that position through 1991 and then again, under Graydon Carter's regime, from 1997 through the end of her life. Her pieces were among the publication's most widely read and discussed, including a profile of Elia Kazan that brought her the Newswomen's Club of New York's Front Page Award.

Some of Bosworth's most acclaimed work was done in book form. She wrote best-selling biographies of Clift in 1978, Arbus in 1984, Marlon Brando in 2000 and Fonda in 2011.

As interesting as any of them were her own memoirs: 1998's Anything Your Little Heart Desires: An American Family Story and 2018's The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan.

She was predeceased by husbands Mel Arrighi (they were married 1966-86) and Tom Palumbo (2002-08). She had no children.