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Oscar-nominated actress Martha Hyer dies at 89

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Martha Hyer
Paramount/Getty Images

Martha Hyer, best known for her Oscar-nominated turn as Frank Sinatra’s love interest in 1958’s Some Came Running, died May 31 in her Santa Fe home. The actress was 89.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1924, Hyer studied theater at Northwestern University before joining the Pasadena Playhouse in California. There, she was spotted by a Hollywood talent agent and later signed a three-year contract with RKO Pictures.

Hyer married the director C. Ray Stahl in 1951. Stahl went on to direct his wife in the African safari film The Scarlet Spear in 1954, the same year the couple divorced. But 1954 wasn’t a total wash for Hyer: She had her first big break appearing in Billy Wilder’s romantic comedy Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, playing the fiancée of William Holden’s character. Other film work included The Delicate Delinquent with Jerry Lewis, Houseboat with Cary Grant, and Once Upon a Horse with Dean Martin. Many have speculated that Hyer found success because she served as an unofficial replacement for Grace Kelly, who had recently retired from acting following her marriage to the Prince of Monaco, Rainier III.

After a string of less popular films, Hyer was cast opposite John Wayne and Dean Martin in The Sons of Katie Elder in 1965. The next year Hyer married the producer of the film, Hal Wallis. Hyer was also known for her extravagant lifestyle and lavish spending. Though her Hollywood home was robbed in 1959 — after she penned a first-person account about herself for Life magazine — Hyer was able to reclaim some of her paintings through ransom money. By the early 1980s, Hyer was millions of dollars in debt; she found help via her husband, as well as the FBI. The couple stayed together until Wallis’s death in 1986. Shortly after, Hyer moved to New Mexico where she lived for the rest of her life.

A representative from the Rivera Funeral Home confirmed Hyer’s death to The New Mexican, but said that no funeral service or memorial were currently planned.