By Joshua Rich
Updated April 02, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Mercedes McCambridge, who died at 87 of natural causes March 2, won an Oscar for her feature debut as a governor’s mistress in 1949’s All the King’s Men. The ragged-edged characters that followed (a vindictive cowgirl in 1954’s Johnny Guitar and Rock Hudson’s ballsy big sister in the 1956 classic Giant) faintly mirrored a tortured off-screen life that included alcoholism and family tragedy (in 1987, McCambridge’s son murdered his wife and kids before killing himself). While the radio veteran never truly broke out as a full-fledged movie star, she may be best remembered as the raspy voice of the demon in 1973’s The Exorcist — an unexpected capper to a haunted life just out of the spotlight.