Oscar-Nominated Actress Susannah York Dies

Starred in "Tom Jones," "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and Played the Mother of Superman
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Oscar-Nominated Actress Susannah York Dies

Susannah York (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND (CBS/AP) - British actress Susannah York, one of the leading stars of British and Hollywood films in the late 1960s and early 1970s and an Academy Award nominee, has died at the age of 72.

York died of cancer Saturday at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

Her son, the actor Orlando Wells, said York was an incredibly brave woman who did not complain about her illness and was a “truly wonderful mother.” He said she went into the hospital on Jan. 6 after experiencing shoulder pain.

York had a long, distinguished career on film, television and on stage, making a strong impact in the 1963 romp “Tom Jones” opposite Albert Finney.

With its tongue-in-cheek sensuality and gentle send-up of the British aristocracy, the film is remembered as an early landmark in ’60s cinema, and York’s unmistakable presence added to its appeal. Her long blond hair, stunning blue eyes and quick-witted repartee brought her a string of excellent roles.

“Tom Jones” won the Oscar for Best Picture, as did another of York’s ’60s classics, “A Man for All Seasons.”

But she is perhaps best remembered by younger audiences as the mother of Kal-el, the baby who grew up to be “Superman,” in the 1978 film and two of its sequels.

She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the 1969 classic “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” Other early films credits include “Tunes of Glory” (with Alec Guinness), “Freud” (with Montgomery Clift), “Oh! What a Lovely War,” “Kaleidoscope” and “Battle Of Britain.”

She stirred controversy with her daring portrayal of a lesbian in the 1968 drama “The Killing of Sister George,” and earned an Emmy Award nomination for the 1970 television remake of “Jane Eyre” (featuring George C. Scott as Rochester).

She won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her startling portrayal of a schizophrenic in Robert Altman’s “Images” (1972). She also appeared in “appy Birthday, Wanda June”and Shout.”

She moved on to television and stage work, including several one-woman shows. Among her U.S. and British TV credits are “Ruth Rendell Mysteries,” “The Love Boat,” “Holby City” and “We’ll Meet Again.”

Wells said his mother was incredibly versatile throughout her working life.

“There was the glamorous Hollywood aspect – she has worked with everyone from John Huston to Sydney Pollack – as well as the big commercial films like ‘Superman,’” he said.

Wells said his mother also had a passion for writing.

“She wrote two children’s books, which is great for her grandchildren and something we will pass on to them,” said Wells.

York was born in London and studied at the storied Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which has tutored many of Britain’s top actors throughout the years.

York had two children – son Orlando and daughter Sasha – with her husband, Michael Wells, before they divorced. She is survived by her children and several grandchildren.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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