Piper Laurie hugs Sissy Spacek with one hand while wielding a knife in the other in 'Carrie'.

Piper Laurie, Star of ‘Carrie’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, Dies at 91

Oscar-nominated actress Piper Laurie has passed away at the age of 91. She was known for her great performances in Carrie (1976) as well as The Hustler. I remember being a teenager and seeing Carrie for the first time. Laurie played Margaret, Carrie’s (Sissy Spacek) fanatical and abusive mother. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh! This woman is so controlling and crazy.” I was as fascinated by Margaret and Laurie’s performance as I was Spacek’s career-making role. I mean, the ultimate stab in the back if you will! As I have grown, I often look back on this film and Margaret’s character as a standalone performance. I think about Laurie’s crazed antics and dedication to the role and realize just how good she was.

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Laurie also had roles in television, starring in Days of Wine and Roses and Twin Peaks. I watched a little bit of the latter because again, I am a sucker for things made before my time! She played Catherine, who was quite devious and stood out, even though she wasn’t technically one of the main characters. She had a great career, having been nominated for a coveted Oscar three times, for Carrie, Children of a Lesser God, and The Hustler. She was also an Emmy winner in 1987 for her work in the miniseries Promise and was nominated a total of nine times. While many of her best-known performances took place earlier in her career, she did have some great roles later in life. In 2018, she starred in White Boy Rick where she played the grandmother of a teenage FBI informant who then became a drug dealer. She starred alongside Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Jason Leigh in that final performance. 

Piper Laurie lived quite an incredible life aside from acting. According to The Hollywood Reporter, her family moved west when she was six and she spent three whole years in a children’s sanitarium, where she accompanied her sister, who suffered from asthma (sanitariums have a very different meaning now). Laurie had said the experience made her very quiet but enhanced her imagination. In school, she started performing, often having comedy routines for classmates and even won a talent contest. The talent contest win came with a screen test with Warner Bros. While that one wasn’t particularly successful, she had another at Universal Studios in 1949 with another classic Hollywood actor, Rock Hudson. Laurie also had quite the cinematic love life. In her 2011 memoir, Learning to Live Out Loud, she said that she lost her virginity to Ronald Reagan! I mean, this may make sense since he was an actor as well. But wow! Talk about a good line to use for the ‘two truths and a lie’ game. She also claimed she slept with controversial star Mel Gibson when she was twice his age. The age part really got me! Mel is problematic but she was getting them young men honey!

Overall, Piper Laurie was a very talented woman who lived quite a full and incredible life. We will always have her on-screen performances to remember her by.

(featured image: United Artists)

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