Strasberg, Susan (1938–1999)

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Strasberg, Susan (1938–1999)

American actress. Born in New York City in 1938; died in New York City on January 21, 1999; daughter of Lee Strasberg (an acting teacher) and Paula Strasberg (an actress and co-founder of the Actors Studio); attended the Actors Studio; married actor Christopher Jones (divorced); children: one daughter, Jennifer.

Grew up around the Actors Studio; in 1955 starred in the Broadway hit The Diary of Anne Frank (1955); over the next 40 years appeared on stage, on television, and in films; wrote two autobiographies.

Born in New York City in 1938, the daughter of Paula Strasberg and Lee Strasberg, cofounders of the Actors Studio, Susan Strasberg was considered an accomplished actress at an early age. She grew up among such luminaries of the New York stage as Julie Harris , Maureen Stapleton , Marlon Brando and Walter Matthau, who were members of the Actors Studio where her father taught Method acting and directed. She also had a special friendship and rivalry with Marilyn Monroe , which she describes in the autobiographical Marilyn and Me: Sisters, Rivals, Friends (1992). Strasberg was devastated when Monroe died in 1962.

In 1955, at age 17, Strasberg created the role of Anne Frank in Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett's Broadway hit The Diary of Anne Frank. Her performance electrified audiences and established her as an exceptional talent in her own right. Strasberg recalled that when she auditioned for the role, she was so nervous that she clung to the script to keep from trembling and started to weep as she read the lines. When she finished her reading, everyone in the room was completely silent until Joseph Schildkraut, who was cast as Anne's father, said, "Hello, Anne."

That year Strasberg also appeared in two films, The Cobweb, directed by Vincente Minnelli, and Picnic, starring William Holden and Kim Novak . In 1957, she appeared in Time Remembered with Helen Hayes and Richard Burton. She had an ill-fated affair with Burton that she described in her memoir Bittersweet (1980). The autobiography also chronicled her destructive marriage to actor Christopher Jones, her drug abuse, and her daughter's birth defects (four holes in her heart and a cleft palate), which may have been the result of Susan's problems with drugs.

Strasberg's career spanned four decades; she acted in over 30 films, including Stage Struck and the 1957 remake of Morning Glory, made nearly two dozen television appearances, and appeared in many plays, including the touring company of Agnes of God. In the mid-1990s, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although it was thought to be in remission, Strasberg died unexpectedly on January 21, 1999. She was "a beautiful hothouse orchid that was slightly bruised," said her friend Leonard Finger.


The Boston Globe (obituary). January 23, 1999.

"Frank Actress," in People Weekly. February 8, 1999.

Klemesrud, Judy. "Susan Strasberg Looks Back," in The New York Times Biographical Service. April 1980.

Malinda Mayer , writer and editor, Falmouth, Massachusetts

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Strasberg, Susan (1938–1999)

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