Dorothy Malone, famous as Constance MacKenzie on the TV adaptation of Peyton Place (1964-1968), has died in Dallas of natural causes, Variety reports. She was 93. (Update: Originally thought to be 92, her daughter confirmed her mother was 93, the opposite of a Peyton Place plot point.)
There are now roughly 160 actors and actresses with credited, starring roles in "Golden Age of Hollywood" films made between the end of the Silent Era and the end of 1949, when the studio system began to disintegrate. (And only one living Silent Era star.)
Chicago-born Malone grew up in Dallas, where she was discovered in a college play and given a screen test that resulted in a mailed 13-week contract with RKO — with a six-year option.
Her earliest films were forgettable, and/or resulted in uncredited appearances, including her 1943 debut, Gildersleeve on Broadway. One juicy bit part was in the classic The Big Sleep (1946), as a bookshop clerk, of which she had been among the last surviving credited cast members.
Her first lead was in Two Guys from Texas (1948), and she acquired several other memorable parts in quality pictures, including in Convicted (1950), Scared Stiff (1953) and as Liberace's (1919-1987) leading lady in Sincerely Yours (1955) before her big break, as a nymphomaniacal bad girl in Douglas Sirk's (1897-1987) Written on the Wind (1956), starring opposite Rock Hudson (1925-1985), Lauren Bacall (1924-2014) and Robert Stack (1919-2003).
More than a big break, it won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and became a gateway to — for a short time — juicier parts, often as bad girls. Highlights include playing Diana Barrymore (1921-1960) in Too Much, Too Soon (1958), The Tarnished Angels (1957) and The Last Sunset (1961).
Her turn toward racier roles — with blonder hair — allowed her to embrace a far more glitzy and glam image, which is probably the one most associated with her to this day.
Having done a lot of TV work prior to her Oscar, it was natural for her to drift back to the medium, where her fame was extended by Peyton Place. [She famously stepped away for surgery for a stretch and was replaced by Lola Albright (1924-2017).] She later sued the show's producers when she was fired and settled.
The bad blood didn't keep her from reprising the role in Murder in Peyton Place (1977) and Peyton Place: The Next Generation (1985).
Other high-profile TV gigs included the celebrated miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) and Condominium (1980); and the made-for-TV movie Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold (1978).
Malone's film work declined sharply after she became more affiliated with TV, but she popped up in the high-profile, yet highly regarded, star-studded bomb Winter Kills (1979), the schlock horror cult classic The Being (1983) and her final film, Basic Instinct (1992), in which she played a tiny but pivotal part as a lesbian who murdered her family.
She was as glamorous as ever in her swan song.