Model and sometime actress Doe Avedon Siegel, best known for her marriages to photographer Richard Avedon and to Dirty Harry movie director Don Siegel, died Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 86.
Born Dorcas Nowell (on April 7, 1928) in Westbury, New York, she was discovered by Avedon, who married her in 1944. (Avedon herself told journalists she began her acting career while working as a waitress.) A highly romanticized version of their courtship was turned into a would-be play by Leonard Gershe, Funny Face, which finally was produced as a Paramount musical in 1957, starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn under the direction of Stanley Donen. By then, the Avedons had been divorced for six years.
Doe Avedon’s stage debut took place in 1948, in the Broadway production of N. Richard Nash’s The Young and Fair, which also featured Julie Harris, Rita Gam, and future Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge. For her efforts, Avedon was named one of the recipients of that season’s Theater World Awards, along with Julie Harris (for Sundown Beach), Cameron Mitchell, Gene Nelson, Carol Channing, and several others.
The following year, Avedon had an important role in Philip Barry’s English-language adaptation of My Name Is Aquilon at the Guild Theatre. Among the other players were Jean-Pierre Aumont (writer of the original play), Lilli Palmer, Arlene Francis, Phyllis Kirk, and Katharine Hepburn’s brother Richard Hepburn. My Name Is Aquilon ran for 31 performances. (A decade earlier, Katharine Hepburn had triumphed in Barry’s The Philadelphia Story.)
Avedon later toured with Mae West, apparently (reports are vague) in Diamond Lil, which West had been restaging on Broadway in the late ’40s and early ’50s. During the tour, Avedon met her next husband, actor Dan Mathews. According to reports, he was killed in a car accident in the early ’50s.
Avedon had only a handful of film credits. She was featured in a couple of 1954 all-star releases, landing a small supporting role in William A. Wellman’s near-disaster movie The High and the Mighty (1954), with John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and Robert Stack, and landing a bigger one in Stanley Donen’s musical Deep in My Heart, as composer Sigmund Romberg’s wife no. 2, Lillian Harris. Jose Ferrer (as Romberg) and Merle Oberon (as wife no. 1 Dorothy Donnelly) starred.
Avedon could also be seen in Byron Haskin’s low-budget drama The Boss (1956), starring former 20th Century Fox leading man John Payne, and written by blacklistee Dalton Trumbo (with Ben Perry as his front). Nearly three decades later, she appeared in her next and last movie, John Cassavetes’ Love Streams (1984). Avedon also had a small role – billed as Betty Harper – in the 1949 crime drama Jigsaw (1949), starring Franchot Tone and Jean Wallace.
Avedon quit acting after marrying Don Siegel in 1957, the year after his cult hit The Invasion of the Body Snatchers was released in theaters (and the year Funny Face was garnering rave reviews).