Joining Ranks with Garbo and Gish, Kathleen Turner Proves That Playing Camille Is Not a Dying Art

updated 01/05/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/05/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

In Peggy Sue Got Married, Kathleen Turner was transported back to 1960. Now she's gone back even further in time—to Paris of the 1840s, where a tubercular courtesan once fell in love with a handsome young aristocrat, then gave him up for the sake of his family and passed away. That's right: Turner is the latest actress to play Camille, a role that offers a woman one of the greatest death scenes (and the most conspicuous consumption) in theater.

Turner, 32, says she took the part—at a fraction of her usual salary—to help establish herself as a stage actress. Her sacrifice seems justified. Camille's six-week run at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn, has been sold out, and the production may move next to Broadway.

This latest adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' 1852 play, La Dame aux Camélias, is more modern and less romantic than any that have gone before. A gutsy feminist, pragmatic Camille gives up her aristocrat only after his family agrees to put her son through school. Yet Turner's version retains the tear-jerking appeal that has made the play a crowd pleaser since it was first produced. Its story has remained familiar through film and TV translations, and through Verdi's powerful 1853 opera, La Traviata. Here is a roundup of notable Camilles. Some are now more famous than others, but all were capable of persuading an audience to yank out the hankies and have a good cry.

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