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Obituaries

Helen Westcott; Stage, Screen Actress Began Career at 4

March 26, 1998|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Helen Westcott, an actress who began her career as a child on stage and later co-starred in such films as "The Gunfighter" opposite Gregory Peck, has died. She was 70.

Westcott, a founding member of the Stage Society who returned to live theater after her screen career, died March 17 of cancer in an Edmunds, Wash., hospital.

A native of Los Angeles, Westcott was the daughter of Warner Bros. leading man Gordon Westcott, who died in a polo accident in 1935, and a vaudeville drummer and pianist. She had small acting roles by age 4, and sang with her mother.

At 7, Westcott began a nine-year run as little Julia, the daughter of the title character in "The Drunkard," at the Theatre Mart in Hollywood.

After literally growing up on stage, she went to New York to attempt Broadway. But she found little success in either the theater or odd jobs--getting fired after only two days as a clerk at Macy's.

"I was sure to lose out a day or two after I got [a job]," she told The Times in 1950, "because I couldn't add."

She returned to Hollywood, landed a contract at Warner, and began her adult career as Lady Diana in the 1949 "Adventures of Don Juan" with Errol Flynn.

Other films from the late 1940s to 1970 included "Charge at Feather River," "The Last Hurrah," "Studs Lonigan," "Hot Blooded," "I Love My Wife," "Dancing in the Dark," "Mr. Belvedere Goes to College," "With a Song in My Heart" and "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Her other stage works included "God's Little Acre" and "The Golden Fleece."

A memorial service will be scheduled later. Memorial donations can be sent to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, 23388 Mulholland Drive, Woodland Hills, Calif. 91364.

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