Sally Forrest, a dancer who appeared in 1940s MGM musicals before being cast by Ida Lupino in dramatic roles, died March 15 at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 86.
She had long battled cancer, said publicist Judith Goffin.
Forrest, whom columnist Hedda Hopper once called “a typical example of overlooked talent in Hollywood,” had been released from her studio contract when Lupino chose her for the lead in an independent film she was coproducing, “Not Wanted” (1949).
The role of an anguished, unwed mother went against type for Forrest, often described as “perky” or “pert” in newspaper accounts. But she clearly valued the experience of doing the film that Lupino also directed after the initial director fell ill.
“She was the best I ever worked with,” Forrest said of the pioneering female filmmaker in the Los Angeles Times in 2002. “She was completely understanding and knew exactly what she wanted.”
Lupino cast Forrest in two more films: “Never Fear” (1949) and “Hard Fast and Beautiful” (1951).
Forrest went on to appear in noir films such as “While the City Sleeps” (1956), directed by Fritz Lang.
She was born Katherine Feeney on May 28, 1928, in San Diego, and started taking dancing lessons at 5. Moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1940s, she appeared as a showgirl in the MGM musical “Till the Clouds Roll By” (1946) and had other uncredited roles until her dramatic turn in “Not Wanted.”
She appeared in early television anthology series of the early 1950s and had roles in episodes of “The Millionaire,” “Rawhide” and “Family Affair.”
On Broadway in the 1950s, Forrest starred in the hit comedy “The Seven Year Itch” in the lead female role played by Marilyn Monroe in the film version. She also toured in shows, but was essentially retired in 1984 when she was asked to be in a production of the tap-dancing musical “No, No Nanette” in her hometown of San Diego.
In all her years of dance, however, she had not done tap. “Ballet, Spanish and modern dancing I know,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune. But ever the hoofer, she went through with it. “They helped me along with some lessons, and here I am.”
Forrest’s husband, agent Milo Frank, died in 2004. She had no immediate survivors.