Her acting career afforded her memorable turns as a variety of sensitive souls and obsessive monsters.
Stanley appeared in five motion pictures, beginning with "The Goddess" in 1958 and ending with "The Right Stuff" in 1983. In "The Goddess" she portrayed a Marilyn Monroe-style star, somewhat against type given Stanley's down-home, frayed-edges appeal. On screen, Monroe took the "Bus Stop" role introduced on stage by Stanley.
Despite her limited film output, Stanley received two Oscar nominations: for her portrayal of the crazed medium in "Seance on a Wet Afternoon" (1964), then -- after an 18-year screen absence -- for the rageful mother of Frances Farmer in "Frances" (1982).
Reclusive by Hollywood standards, Stanley preferred the stage, her daughter, Dr. Rachel Ryder Zahn of San Diego, said Monday. "She got a lot of pleasure later in life from teaching."
Most recently, Stanley taught at the College of Santa Fe; she also taught acting in Los Angeles over the years.
Born Patricia Beth Reid in Tularosa, N.M., Stanley was raised in Texas. She attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Texas State University in Waco.
After being spotted by a Pasadena (Calif.) Playhouse scout while performing in a college production, she moved west, briefly, following World War II. Thereafter she got work doing winter stock in Louisville, Ky.
She then boarded a Greyhound bus to Manhattan.
"When I arrived, in the spring of '47, I had $21," she told the New Yorker magazine. "It was raining. I got off at the 34th Street station, and took the first room I saw -- a rooming house in the West 30s. I didn't know one single person in the city. I still had a heavy Texas accent. Theater people told me to go back to Texas.
"But by then I'd made up mind to be an actress."
In New York, Stanley worked as a dress model (employed by composer Stephen Sondheim's dressmaker father), and as a cocktail waitress.
Stanley developed her stage chops laboring in the fledgling off-Broadway movement. She did everything from e.e. cummings to Gertrude Stein and claimed to understand little of the often-unconventional material.
Stanley's first major Broadway success came as the moony tomboy in Inge's "Picnic," directed by Joshua Logan. In it Stanley, 27, at the time in the first of her three marriages, played a convincing and heartfelt 12-year-old. Inge's "Bus Stop" provided Stanley with an even greater Broadway success two seasons later.
Her extensive television credits, dominated in the 1950s and early '60s by anthologies including "Goodyear TV Playhouse" and "Magnavox Theater," led to two Emmy awards, for
"Ben Casey" in 1963 and the PBS/American Playhouse airing of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in 1984. In "Cat," Stanley played Big Mama.
She is survived by a son, Jamison Clift of Santa Fe, and two daughters, Zahn and Lisa Conway of Walnut Creek, Calif.
She is also survived by a brother, Justin Reid of Crestone, Colo., and three grandchildren.