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OBITUARIES : Eileen Herlie, 1918 - 2008

Actress played Myrtle Fargate on ABC's 'All My Children'

October 11, 2008|From the Associated Press
  • Eileen Herlie joined the cast of "All My Children" in 1976. Her final appearance on the show was in June. Her character, Myrtle Fargate, became a second mother to the citizens of Pine Valley.
Eileen Herlie joined the cast of "All My Children" in 1976. Her… (STEVE FENN, Associated…)

Eileen Herlie, a stage and TV actress who appeared on the ABC daytime soap opera "All My Children" for more than three decades as former carny turned boutique owner Myrtle Fargate, has died. She was 90.

Herlie died Wednesday of complications of pneumonia in New York City, the network announced.

The actress joined the long-running show in 1976 to play Myrtle, who became a surrogate mother to many of the soap's major characters -- including Erica Kane, portrayed by Susan Lucci.

"I'm sure Eileen is lighting up the skies in heaven with her flaming red hair and lovely Scottish accent," Lucci said.

Herlie's last appearance on the program, set in fictional Pine Valley, was in June.

Before joining "All My Children," Herlie was a regular on Broadway. She made her debut in Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" in 1955, playing milliner Irene Molloy in the comedy that starred Ruth Gordon as Dolly Gallagher Levi.

Musical-theater buffs knew Herlie from her appearances in two shows: "Take Me Along" (1959), an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!" in which she played Jackie Gleason's love interest; and "All American" (1962), in which Herlie co-starred with Ray Bolger. In "All American," she and Bolger sang the musical's best-known song, "Once Upon a Time," a Charles Strouse-Lee Adams tune later popularized by Tony Bennett.

Herlie was nominated for a Tony for her performance in "Take Me Along."

Among Herlie's other Broadway appearances were the Richard Burton production of "Hamlet" (1964), in which she played Queen Gertrude; two plays written by Peter Ustinov, "Photo Finish" (1963) and "Halfway Up the Tree" (1967); and "Crown Matrimonial" (1973), a drama about the events leading to the abdication of King Edward VIII, in which she played Queen Mary and George Grizzard played the love-stricken monarch.

Born in 1918 in Glasgow, Scotland, Herlie worked for several years in the Scottish National Theater and in the English theater with Tyrone Guthrie.

Her movie credits include two filmings of "Hamlet," the Burton version and the 1948 Laurence Olivier production, in which she also played Gertrude. Her other movies include "Freud" (1962) with Montgomery Clift, and Sidney Lumet's "The Sea Gull" (1968) with Simone Signoret, James Mason and Vanessa Redgrave.

Married and divorced twice, Herlie is survived by a brother.

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