Oscar Nominated Actress Betsy Blair Dead at 85

Betsy Blair, the Oscar-nominated actress and teenage bride of Gene Kelly, has died in London at the age of 85, her publisher said on Thursday.

The New Jersey-born actress, who later married film director Karel Reisz, suffered from cancer and died on March 13. Mark Searle, at Elliot & Thompson, the British publishers of Blair's 2003 autobiography, confirmed her death.

Blair left suburban high school for life as a nightclub dancer in New York, where she met Kelly, then a choreographer on the brink of success. Blair and Kelly married in 1941 and moved to Hollywood, where he became a major star. She was 17 and he was 29. The couple divorced in 1957. Blair struggled to win new movie roles for several years, focusing instead on caring for the couple's daughter, Kerry.

In 1955, Blair took her most famous role, in "Marty," playing a dowdy school teacher who captures the heart of a lonely Italian-American butcher. The movie brought Academy Award nominations for both leading actors but Blair lost out on the best supporting actress award, though her co-star, Ernest Borgnine, won for best actor. Two years later, Blair and Kelly separated. She rarely discussed their split in public, and refused to criticize Kelly, who died in 1996.

Finding herself more popular in Europe than in the U.S., Blair moved to Paris and took roles in movies in France, Spain and Italy. For several years, she worked mainly in theater and television and briefly halted her acting career to train as a speech therapist.

In 1988, three decades after her last Hollywood film, Blair returned to the United States to star in "Betrayed" alongside Tom Berenger. A year later, she took a part in the television series "Thirtysomething." To read the full Associated Press article on her passing click here.

She is survived by her daughter, Kerry, from her marriage to Kelly.

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