Signed by Universal in 1950, the perky, redheaded Piper Laurie (born Rosetta Jacobs) was a welcome presence in many a musical, situation comedy and costume drama. In later years, she tended to dismiss her ingenue years, noting that she spent most of her time posing for cheesecake layouts. Thanks in great part to her devastating performance as an alcoholic in the 1958 Playhouse 90 TV drama "The Days of Wine and Roses", Laurie completely altered her cuddly image, reinventing herself as a powerful dramatic actress. She earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Paul Newman's neurotic girlfriend in The Hustler (1961), then suddenly retired from acting upon her marriage to movie critic Joseph Morganstern. She made a brilliant return to films with another Oscar-nominated performance, this time as Sissy Spacek's religious fanatic mother in Carrie (1976). Ten years and several topnotch performances later, she was honored with a third Oscar nomination for Children of a Lesser God (1986). Laurie's television work has included a co-starring assignment opposite a very young Mel Gibson in the superb Australian TV movie Tim (1979) and an Emmy-nominated stint on David Lynch's 1990 "cult" series Twin Peaks. Working only when the spirit moves her in recent years, Piper Laurie has been seen in such prestige productions as Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993) and White Man's Burden (1995).
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Signed a contract with Universal Studios at age 17 and changed her name.
- Screen debut was as Ronald Reagan's daughter in 1950's Louisa; later, she began dating the future president.
- Broke her studio contract in 1955 to pursue more demanding roles in New York, including the Playhouse 90 production of Days of Wine and Roses.
- Breakthrough film role came in 1961 playing Paul Newman's bitter girlfriend in The Hustler.
- Made her Broadway debut in the 1965 revival of The Glass Menagerie.
- Screen career reignited in 1976 when she played Sissy Spacek's unbalanced mother in Carrie.
- Continued to distinguish herself in film (Children of a Lesser God), TV movies (Promise) and TV series (Twin Peaks) throughout her career; also played George Clooney's mother on ER.
- Published her autobiography Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoir in 2011.
- Is an accomplished sculptor and painter.