Eleanor Kilgallen dies at 95; talent agent had legendary clients

Eleanor Kilgallen, who left a radio casting director job to become talent agent to the stars, dies at 95

Eleanor Kilgallen, a New York-based talent agent who helped launch or advance the careers of Hollywood stars from Warren Beatty to Kim Cattrall, has died. She was 95.

A resident of Paramus, N.J., in recent years, Kilgallen died Saturday at the Christian Health Care Center in Wyckoff, N.J., her family announced.

Kilgallen, younger sister of show business columnist and “What’s My Line?” panelist Dorothy Kilgallen, began her career as a casting director at NBC Radio in the 1940s. While at CBS Radio, she befriended her assistant, Monique James. The women left to form their own company, Casting Consultants, where their clients included Grace Kelly and Leslie Nielsen.

MCA acquired their agency in 1952, and Kilgallen and James became agents for the entertainment giant, Kilgallen on the East Coast and James on the West Coast. The pair continued with Universal after 1962, signing and nurturing such contract players as Jack Klugman, Robert Redford, Jamie Lee Curtis and Harrison Ford.

When not dealing with screen legends on the job, Kilgallen was surrounded by them at home. From 1953 to 1963, she and her then-husband, Wilbur Snaper, who owned a chain of New Jersey movie theaters, resided at the Dakota on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

“Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli were at the back door, Boris Karloff was on the other side and Rosemary Clooney was directly above,” said Kilgallen's daughter, Susan Snaper-Shousha of Paramus.

Of all the Hollywood players Kilgallen helped along, “the one who stayed with her forever and forever was the late George Peppard,” her daughter said. “They were very good friends, and Mom actually talked him into taking the role in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’” the 1961 movie with Audrey Hepburn. “George really didn't want to do the movie, but, fortunately, Mom was able to talk him into it, and the rest is history.”

Eleanor Kilgallen was born in Indianapolis on March 19, 1919, and reared in Brooklyn, N.Y.. Her father, James L. Kilgallen, was a newspaper reporter who covered the Lindbergh kidnapping, World War II and other major events. Herr mother was Mae Ahern.

Her sister, Dorothy, was six years older. Eleanor attended the Juilliard Institute of Musical Art in Manhattan.

After retiring in 1982, Kilgallen “stayed in touch with the contract players” and enjoyed going to Broadway shows and lunching at Sardi's, her daughter said.

Besides her daughter, Kilgallen is survived by two grandchildren.

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