BACK IN APRIL, WHEN FRIENDS HEARD that Lee Remick had suddenly dropped out of the musical A Little Night Music, they feared her days were numbered. On July 2, the day after Michael Landon died, the elegant actress lost her two-year battle with kidney and lung cancer at 55, drawing her final breaths at home in Brentwood, Calif. By her side were her husband of 21 years, William "Kip" Gowans, 61, and her kids by an earlier marriage to Bill Colleran—writer Kate Sullivan, 32, and rock guitarist Matthew, 30.
More than 200 friends gathered at Westwood Mortuary on July 9 to bid Remick farewell. Jack Lemmon and Gregory Peck delivered eulogies, and her children sang the title song from Anyone Can Whistle, her 1964 Broadway musical.
To the end, Remick described her life as "charmed." The daughter of Frank Remick, a wealthy Quincy, Mass., department-store owner, and actress Pat Packard, Lee was taken by her mom to New York City at age 7 after her parents' 1942 divorce. She attended the posh Hewitt School and Barnard College, dropping out to pursue her dream of acting.
When in 1957 Remick cavorted onscreen as the nubile majorette in A Face in the Crowd, Hollywood slotted her as a "new Brigitte Bar-dot." But she pluckily chose challenging material rather than star fodder—the alcoholic wife in the film Days of Wine and Roses (1962), the blind heroine in Broadway's Wait Until Dark (1966) and Lady Randolph Churchill in the 1975 TV film Jennie. She was nominated for an Oscar, six Emmys and a Tony. She never won.
An intensely private person, Remick went public with her illness to undo its stigma. Accepting the Cancervive 1990 Victory Award, she noted, "Of all the performances in my life, this one counts the most." Sadly, her final curtain has come down.
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