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Actress Eva Gabor Dies at 74 : Hollywood: Younger sister of Zsa Zsa and star of TV's 'Green Acres' succumbs to pneumonia.

July 05, 1995|AMY WALLACE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eva Gabor, the youngest of the glamorous sisters from Hungary, who was best known for her role in the television series "Green Acres," died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia. She was 74.

Miss Gabor had been admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on June 21 after breaking her hip while traveling in Mexico, said Ron Wise, a hospital spokesman. She was found to be suffering from a serious case of pneumonia, Wise said, and died of related respiratory failure.

"It was a big shock because Eva has been one of those people who had boundless energy and strength--a zest for living," said Kevin Sasaki, Miss Gabor's publicist. "She traveled, did charity work. She kept herself busy, always juggling eight plates at a time."

Most recently, the platinum-haired actress had devoted herself to promoting Eva Gabor International, the world's largest wig-maker, where she was chairman of the board. Sasaki said Miss Gabor's recent appearances on the Home Shopping Network had broken sales records. One of her best-selling wigs was a mop of golden curls inspired by Miss Gabor herself.

Described as the most down-to-earth of the Gabor sisters, Eva nevertheless had a lot in common with her many-times-married siblings, Zsa Zsa and Magda. Eva, who married and divorced at least four times, was said to have coined the phrase, "Marriage is too interesting an experiment to be tried only once or twice."

They were all entertainers. And they all possessed the unmistakably breezy Gabor style. When introduced to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Eva Gabor greeted him in her trademark Hungarian accent: "Hello, Mr. President, darling."

Born in Budapest, Eva aspired to acting from the age of 4. She began studying at 15, but her parents thought acting was too vulgar a profession and forced her to withdraw. Two years later, the 5-foot-2-inch beauty met a Swedish-born Hollywood physician at a party. They married in 1939 and moved to California.

Miss Gabor spoke only broken English then, but not long after her arrival she signed with Paramount Pictures. The studio gave her acting lessons and soon made her a leading lady in a hastily produced 1941 film called "Forced Landing." Miss Gabor would later call the movie "a B picture only to those too lazy to go down the alphabet."

As Miss Gabor struggled to win better acting roles, the rest of her family immigrated to the United States. By the 1950s, they would become a show business phenomena, with photographs of Zsa Zsa and Eva appearing regularly on the covers of popular magazines. In 1953, the three Gabor sisters had a nightclub act in Las Vegas.

Miss Gabor's motion picture credits include "The Last Time I Saw Paris," in which she played a divorcee who has a fling with Van Johnson, "Don't Go Near the Water," in which her black-lace panties became the mascot of a U.S. Navy ship, and "Gigi," the film version of the Lerner-Loewe musical in which she played the discarded mistress.

But the role of her career, she once said, was playing Lisa Douglas, the dizzy wife of a pompous attorney in the television barnyard farce, "Green Acres."

Conceived as a mirror image of "The Beverly Hillbillies," in which country folk move to the city, the CBS series poked fun at a couple of New York City socialites-turned-farmers who move to a town called Hooterville. Miss Gabor, always elegantly dressed and coiffed, co-starred with Eddie Albert.

The series, which aired from 1965 to 1971, gave Miss Gabor a claim to fame independent of her family. While some reviewers reviled it as silly fluff, Miss Gabor said the show represented "the best six years of my life. I adored every minute of it."

In 1990, Miss Gabor starred in the made-for-TV movie "Return to Green Acres."

"It was easy for me to fall back into the role of Lisa. There's a part of me that is just that kooky, but only a little part," she said. "I'm Hungarian, and that accounts for why I've been mixed up since the day I was born."

Sasaki, Miss Gabor's publicist, said funeral arrangements were still being planned. Miss Gabor, a resident of Bel-Air, is survived by her two sisters, her mother, Jolie, and six stepchildren.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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