Silver Screen Legend Barbara Rush Passes at 97, Leaving Legacy of Hollywood Royalty


The vibrant realm of Hollywood suffered a significant loss with the passing of Barbara Rush, a beloved silver screen legend, who co-starred with esteemed figures in the film industry such as Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman in the vibrant ’50s and ’60s. Switching to a booming TV career later on, her life graciously stretched to a full 97 years.

The regretful conclusion of this Hollywood damsel was confirmed by her daughter, Claudia Cowan, a correspondent with Fox News, who took to Instagram to break the news on Easter Sunday. The private note lacked further information about the specifics of her mother’s departure.

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In a heartfelt tribute to her mother, Cowan framed her as standing among the final shining courses of Old Hollywood Royalty and warmly acknowledged herself as her mother’s most ardent admirer.

Barbara’s Hollywood journey dawned when she captivated the right eyes during a play at the Pasadena Playhouse. This swiftly landed her a contract with Paramount Studios. In 1950, she made her film debut with a low-key role in “The Goldbergs,” a film inspired by the eponymous radio and TV series.

She didn’t linger at Paramount, though, shifting engagements with Universal International and later 20th Century Fox as she navigated her way in the film industry. A retrospective comment from her in 1954 revealed her rationale stating, “Paramount wasn’t geared for developing new talent,” while recounting the studio’s recurrent attempt to enlist Elizabeth Taylor whenever a coveted role surfaced.

Rush’s silver screen adventure spanned a delightful array of genres and co-stars. She graced the screen alongside Rock Hudson in “Captain Lightfoot” and Douglas Sirk’s much-lauded remake of “Magnificent Obsession.” She featured with Audie Murphy in “World in My Corner” and with Richard Carlson in the 3-D sci-fi masterpiece “It Came From Outer Space,” a performance that secured her a Golden Globe for the most promising newcomer.

Her film credentials were further amplified with roles in the time-tested classic “Bigger Than Life” by Nicholas Ray. Her performances in “The Young Lions” with Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and Montgomery Clift, along with “The Young Philadelphians” with Newman were fondly remembered. Sinatra invited her twice on film sets: once for “Come Blow Your Horn” and later for the amusing Rat Pack parody “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” which also starred Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

Rush supplemented her illustrious film career with numerous guest appearances on TV, realizing a full-blown transition as middle age loomed. Amusingly pointing out the starking role-void between 40 and 60, Rush remarked: “You either didn’t work or you pretended you were 20.” Funding no merit in either, Rush enthusiastically embraced roles in series like “Peyton Place,” “All My Children,” “The New Dick Van Dyke Show,” and “7th Heaven.”

Her charm was unstoppable and infectiously enthusiastic: “I’m one of those kinds of people who will perform the minute you open the refrigerator door and the light goes on,” she chuckled in a 1997 interview.

Rush’s early acting imprint was made during the road company rendition of “Forty Carats”, where director Abe Burrows fine-tuned her comedic timing. This indeed turned out challenging, primarily due to deciphering the right moments for pausing for laughter. Nevertheless, she picked it steadily up, and the show went on to charm Chicago for a year and toured for several months more.

Her sparkling on-stage presence was further celebrated in numerous tours such as “Same Time, Next Year,” “Father’s Day,” “Steel Magnolias,” and her solo act, “A Woman of Independent Means.”

Rush was born into the breezy life of an adventurer in Denver; her father, a mining company lawyer, determined her first decade of nomadic life that ended up in Santa Barbara, California. It’s here that she discovered her love for acting while enacting the mythical character of a dryad in a school play.

She was married three times and subsequently divorced. Her ex-husbands were famed screen star Jeffrey Hunter, Hollywood PR magnate Warren Cowan, and sculptor James Gruzalski.