The daughter of a well-to-do attorney and a socialite, Bethel Leslie was born on August 3, 1929, in New York City. Ms. Leslie was a 15-year-old student at the Brearley School on the Upper East Side when she was discovered by the legendary producer George Abbott, for the Broadway play “Snafu” in 1944. She quickly became a theatre mainstay with such plays as “The Dancer” (1946), “How I Wonder” (1947), “Goodbye, My Fancy” (1948), “Pygmalion” (1952) and “The Time of the Cuckoo” (1952) under her belt. In later years she gave stunning theater performances in “Inherit the Wind” (1955), “Career” (1957), and “Catch Me If You Can” (1965), then capped her formidable career with a Tony nomination as the drug-addicted mother “Mary Tyrone” in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 1986 opposite Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey and Peter Gallagher, which was subsequently televised.
While not as well known for her movie work, the seriously attractive actress was best utilized as a brittle support player in such films as The Rabbit Trap (1959) and Captain Newman, M.D. (1963). Sporadic filming later included A Rage to Live (1965), The Molly Maguires (1970), Old Boyfriends (1979), Ironweed (1987), and Message in a Bottle (1999). On TV as a teen, her first series was playing Cornelia Otis Skinner in The Girls (1950), in 1950. Throughout the 50s, she appeared in scores of dramatic parts on episodic TV and became one of those faces without a name, playing with great relish a neurotic victim or cruel-eyed villainess. TV soaps took up Bethel’s later years, appearing in The Doctors (1963), All My Children (1970) and One Life to Live (1968) at various times.
At one point, she was a head writer for The Secret Storm (1954). Bethel died of cancer at age 70 and was survived by daughter Leslie.
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