Sue Lyon, Teenage Star of Stanley Kubrick's 'Lolita,' Dies at 73

MGM/Photofest

Lyon was a model with two acting credits to her name when she beat out a reported 800 other actors for the part of Dolores Haze.

Sue Lyon, the titular "nymphet" in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, has died. The actor was 73.

Lyon died on Thursday in Los Angeles, according to The New York Times, which broke the news. A friend, Phil Syracopoulos, told the publication that she had been in "declining health" for a while, but a cause of death was not provided.

Born in 1946 in Davenport, Iowa, Lyon was a model with two acting credits to her name when she beat out a reported 800 other actors for the part of Dolores Haze in Kubrick's Lolita, a project that was controversial from the start. Seven years old at the time of the film adaptation's release, Lolita divided critics over its depiction of a pedophile's relationship with a 12-year-old girl. After its initial publication in 1955 in France, officials in the U.K. and France banned sales of the book, which was finally published in the U.S. in 1958. In the face of naysayers, Lolita nevertheless became a bestseller and cultural sensation.

Though Nabokov was originally hired to write Lolita's screenplay, the famously finicky Kubrick rewrote much of the script which, in its final edition, portrayed Dolores Haze as a 15-year-old instead of a 12-year-old to comply with Motion Picture Production Code mandates. The movie was filmed secretly in London due to its difficult subject matter, and though Lyon was 14 at the time that the film was shot, Lolita was infamously marketed with a picture of Lyon lounging in a bikini, wearing red-shaped sunglasses and licking a lollipop.

Reception of the film was mixed at the time of its release, and critics were divided over how the film treated the book's pedophilia. However, Kubrick's Lolita currently has a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, showing how critical consensus has grown more positive over time.

Lyon shot to fame after playing Haze and, two years later, appeared in John Huston's Night of the Iguana. She also starred in John Ford's 1966 film 7 Women, 1967's Tony Rome and 1970's Four Rode Out and Evel Knievel, among a few other titles. Most recently, Lyon appeared in 1980's Alligator as an "ABC Newswoman."

In her personal life, Lyon married five times, to actor and filmmaker Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner); photographer and football coach Roland Harrison; Cotton Adamson, who was a convicted murderer at the time of their marriage; Edward Weathers; and radio engineer Richard Rudman. Lyon has blamed her controversial union with Adamson, whom she met via a mutual friend, for losing out on parts in the industry.

But by the time of her marriage to Rudman, Lyon had ended her acting career, something she said in an early interview that she would eventually like to do: "I'd like to teach school and I'd like to get married and have children," she told The Pittsburgh Press in 1967.

Lyon is survived by her daughter with Harrison, Nona.