Jill Clayburgh dies at 66; Oscar-nominated actress

Jill Clayburgh

, whose Broadway and Hollywood


was highlighted by her Oscar-nominated roles in the 1970s films "An Unmarried Woman" and "Starting Over," died Friday. She was 66.

Her husband,

Tony Award

-winning playwright David Rabe, said she died after a 21-year battle with chronic lymphocytic


. She was surrounded by her family when she died at her home in Lakeville, Conn., he said.

She dealt with the disease courageously, quietly and privately, Rabe said, and conducted herself with enormous grace "and made it into an opportunity for her children to grow and be human."


(1978), directed by

Paul Mazursky

, Clayburgh starred opposite

Alan Bates

and Michael Murphy as a divorcee exploring her sexuality. She was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress but lost to

Jane Fonda

in "Coming Home." Her second Oscar nomination came for


Alan J. Pakula



about a divorced man, played by

Burt Reynolds

, who falls in love but can't get over his ex-wife, played by

Candice Bergen

. (

Sally Field

won for "Norma Rae.")

Her other movie credits include "Semi-Tough," "I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can,"

"First Monday in October" and "Running With Scissors." On Broadway, she appeared in

Noel Coward's

"Design for Living," the original production of

Tom Stoppard

's "Jumpers," and the Tony Award-winning musicals "Pippin" and "The Rothschilds."

She appeared on TV shows including

and was nominated for two Emmys: for best actress in 1975 for her work on "Hustling" and for her guest turn on




in 2005.

Born April 30, 1944, in

New York

, Clayburgh came from a privileged family. Her father was vice president of two large companies and her mother was a secretary for Broadway producer

David Merrick

. Her grandmother, Alma Clayburgh, was an opera singer and New York socialite.

She was entranced seeing

Jean Arthur

play "Peter Pan" on Broadway, and she and a school friend concocted their own dramatics every day at home. At Sarah Lawrence College, she studied religion, philosophy and literature.

Clayburgh also took drama classes at Sarah Lawrence. She and her friend

Robert De Niro

acted in a film, "The Wedding Party," directed by a Sarah Lawrence graduate,

Brian DePalma

. After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree, she began performing in repertory and in Broadway musicals such as "The Rothschilds" and "Pippin."


Richard Thomas

, she headed the 2005 Broadway cast of "A Naked Girl on the Appian Way," Richard Greenberg's comedy about one family's unusual domestic tribulations.

Director Doug Hughes, who directed her in a production of

Arthur Miller

's "All My Sons" at the

Westport Country Playhouse

two years ago, called her for "A Naked Girl."

"That she has the time to do a run of a play is just an extraordinary boon because I've had the pleasure of seeing her play a bona fide tragic American role beautifully, and I have had the pleasure of directing her in a very, very smart light comedy and be utterly brilliant in that," he said in 2005.

During an interview that year, Clayburgh explained the unglamorous side of acting.

"One of the funny things about actors is that people look at their careers in retrospect, as if they have a plan," she said.

"Mostly, you just get a call. You're just sitting there going, 'Oh, my God. I'm never going to work again. Oh, God. I'm too old. Maybe I should go and work for

Howard Dean

.' And then it changes."

Besides her husband, survivors include her daughter, actress Lily Rabe; a son, Michael Rabe; and a stepson, Jason Rabe.

Her family will have a memorial in about six months, though plans have not been finalized.