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Don Murray, Oscar-Nommed for His ‘Bus Stop’ Role Opposite Marilyn Monroe, Dies at 94

Don Murray, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance opposite Marilyn Monroe in the 1956 film adaptation of William Inge’s play “Bus Stop,” has died. He was 94.

His son Christopher confirmed his death to the New York Times.

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In the 2017 reboot of “Twin Peaks,” he played Bushnell Mullins, the chief executive of Lucky 7 Insurance.

Murray also starred in the fourth entry in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”; played Brooke Shield’s father in “Endless Love”; and recurred on prime-time soap “Knots Landing” as Sid Fairgate.

Reviewing “Bus Stop,” directed by Joshua Logan, the New York Times said: “With a wondrous new actor named Don Murray playing the stupid, stubborn poke and with the clutter of broncos, blondes and busters beautifully tangled, Mr. Logan has a booming comedy going before he gets to the romance. A great deal is owed to Mr. Murray. His tempestuous semi-idiocy exploding all around a juvenile softness sets up a mighty force to be curbed by Miss Monroe. And the fact that she fitfully but firmly summons the will and the strength to humble him — to make him say ‘please,’ which is the point of the whole thing — attests to her new acting skill.”

In the Delbert Mann-directed “The Bachelor Party” (1957), scripted by Paddy Chayefsky, Murray played a young husband who learns that his wife is going to have a baby, then must go out with a group of friends from the office for the title celebration for one of the boys. Over the long evening, the group makes an effort to “whip up cheer,” in the words of the New York Times review, but Murray’s character “wryly reflects on his own boredom and his sense of being trapped,” ultimately realizing that “his only happiness is with his wife.” Murray, the Times said, “is the standout, only because he has the ‘fattest’ role and is able to work beneath the surface of his bookkeeper to some depths of genuine sensitivity.”

Also in 1957 Murray appeared in “A Hatful of Rain,” a Fred Zinnemann-directed adaptation of the play by Michael V. Gazzo about Polo Pope, played in the film by Anthony Franciosa, who must deal with the drug addiction of his brother Johnny, a Korean War veteran — played by Murray — and his growing attraction to Johnny’s pregnant wife (Eva Marie Saint). Variety praised Franciosa’s performance and said: “Don Murray scores, too, as the likable junkie who desperately attempts to hide his secret from his wife and his obtusely devoted father.”

The next year Murray starred in two fine, CinemaScope-shot Westerns, “From Hell to Texas,” directed by Henry Hathaway, and Richard Fleischer’s “These Thousand Hills”; the actor also appeared with a fiery James Cagney in Michael Anderson’s political drama “Shake Hands With the Devil,” about the moral complexities of the 1921 Irish Rebellion.

In 1961 Murray starred in and co-scripted the preachy melodrama “The Hoodlum Priest,” based on the true story of a priest who ministered to street gangs. The following  year he had a high-profile role in Otto Preminger’s political drama “Advise and Consent,” about the attempt of an ailing president to get his nominee for secretary of state (Henry Fonda) through a rancorous Senate confirmation; Murray played an ethical senator outraged by the Fonda character’s perjury regarding his youthful membership in the Communist Party, but a vile threat by another senator leads Murray’s Sen. Anderson to commit suicide.

Among the many Westerns he appeared in was 1966’s “The Plainsman,” in which he played Wild Bill Hickok.

Murray tried series-regular television, starring in the single-season Western “The Outcast” in 1968-69 and guesting on numerous other series.

In 1969 he starred with Linda Evans in the movie “Childish Things,” written and produced by Murray and co-directed by Evans’ new husband John Derek. He had a supporting role in the Kurt Vonnegut-scripted “Happy Birthday Wanda June” (1971) — then he starred with Roddy McDowall and Ricardo Montalban in “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972), which takes place on a near-future Earth where all the dogs have died, people turned to apes as pets, but then, because of their intelligence, they have become servants, under the regulation of overseer Murray, who are led in revolt by the McDowall character. The New York Times said: “Don Murray, Hari Rhodes and Ricardo Montalban do well on the erring human side.”

Murray appeared in a long series of TV movies before being cast as the Brooke Shields character’s father in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 melodrama “Endless Love.”

On “Knots Landing” the actor played Sid Fairgate, the first husband of Michelle Lee’s Karen Cooper and the owner of Knots Landing Motors.

In 1986 he had a supporting role in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

He starred in the brief NBC comedy “A Brand New Life”  opposite Barbara Eden in 1989-90 and was a series regular in the brief CBS ensemble dramedy “Sons and Daughters” (1991).

The actor directed and starred in the 2001 feature “Elvis Is Alive” (2001).

Donald Patrick Murray was born in Hollywood, California. His father was a Broadway dance director and stage manager, his mother a former Ziegfeld performer. He studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Murray appeared in the original hit 1951 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” that starred Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach.

He was an objector during the Korean War and took a three-year break from acting to assist orphans and war casualties.

He next appeared, with “an also starring” credit, in a revival of Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” that featured both Helen Hayes and Mary Martin. After the brief run of the original farce “The Hot Corner” in 1956, Murray moved into film roles and did not return to Broadway until 1973, when he appeared in the original musical “Smith” whose run was also brief. The actor served as a replacement in Bernard Slade’s enormously successful two-hander “Same Time, Next Year,” which ran in total for 1,453 performances from 1975-78. Murray also served as Ken Howard’s replacement in the role of Tom in Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy “The Norman Conquests.”

The actor made his television debut in the early days of the medium, playing Biondello  in an adaptation of “The Taming of the Shrew” for “Studio One in Hollywood” that starred Charlton Heston and Lisa Kirk. Murray also appeared in a variety of the other episodic anthology shows that were popular in the 1950s.

Murray married his first wife, actress Hope Lange, during the 1956 production of “Bus Stop,” in which both were making their film debut. They were divorced in 1961, and she died in 2003.

Information on other survivors was not available.

 

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