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June 21, 2012

Susan Tyrrell, Actress Known for Gritty, Challenging Roles

Tyrrell earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her performance in the 1972 film Fat City.

Susan Tyrrell, an actress who received an Oscar nomination as a supporting actress role in the 1972 film Fat City, died June 16, 2012, in Austin, Texas. She was 67.

According to news reports, the cause was believed to be a heart attack.

Frequently referred to as a “cult actress,” and described with adjectives such as “eccentric” or “unconventional,” Tyrrell established her reputation with roles that included, as Variety put it, “whores, crazies and grotesques.”

Tyrrell, whose father was an agent at William Morris, was born Susan Jillian Creamer in San Francisco on March 18, 1945. She began performing on stage and went on to become a member of New York’s Lincoln Center repertory company.

She made the transition to television with roles in such series as The Patty Duke Show and Mr. Novak. She also broke into movies in such productions as Shoot Out and Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.

Her fourth film, Fat City, brought her an Oscar nomination for her performance as the heavy-drinking girlfriend of Stacy Keach, who starred as a down-and-out boxer.

She went to appear in other films, including The Killer Inside Me, Andy Warhol’s Bad, Islands in the Stream, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Tales of Ordinary Madness, Forbidden Zone, Big Top Pee-Wee, Powder and Cry-Baby.

In addition, she was often on television, including episodes of Bonanza, Baretta, Starsky and Hutch, Kojak, Tales from the Crypt, Open All Night and Wings.

Tyrrell also did voice-over work on animated series such as I Am Weasel, Cow and Chicken and Extreme Ghostbusters.

Her later stage work included the one-woman show My Rotten Life: A Bitter Operetta.

In 2000, Tyrrell contracted essential thrombocythemia, a rare blood disease that required the amputation of both her legs below the knee. Despite the amputation, she continued to work, and was seen in the movies Masked and Anonymous and Kid-Thing. She moved to Austin in 2008.

Survivors include her mother, two sisters, a half-brother and a niece.

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