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Dorothy McGuire in 1983

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Actress Dorothy McGuire Dies at 85

Dorothy McGuire, the lovely, soft-voiced actress who lent dignity and inner strength to such films as ``Gentlemen's Agreement'' and ``Friendly Persuasion,'' has died. She was 85.

The actress died Thursday night at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, her daughter, Topo Swope, said Friday. She had broken her leg three weeks ago and then developed heart failure, Swope said.

``She had a wonderful life and accomplished a lot,'' she said. ``She went very peacefully.''

From 1943 to the 1960s, the Omaha, Neb.-born actress was a favorite leading lady to such stars as Robert Young, Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper, often playing the gentle, understanding wife.

She became a star in her first film, ``Claudia,'' based on the Rose Franken play in which she had appeared on Broadway. In her later years, she moved gracefully into character roles in films, television and theater.

McGuire's controlled, well-crafted portrayals won critical praise but no Academy recognition until she was nominated as best actress from her role as Peck's wife in the 1947 film ``Gentleman's Agreement.'' The film, one of the first to attack anti-Semitism in America, won the Oscar as best picture.

``I love my career, but I never felt much about it, about how to nurture it,'' she remarked in a 1982 interview.

``To this day I don't know what shapes a Hollywood career. ... I was never a classic beauty. I had no image. So I found myself in a lot of things accidentally,'' she said.

Her other films included ``A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'' 'The Spiral Staircase,'' the sequel ``Claudia and David,'' ``The Enchanted Cottage'' ``Three Coins in the Fountain,'' ``Till the End of Time,'' ``Mister 880,'' ``Old Yeller,'' ``A Summer Place'' ``The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,'' ``Swiss Family Robinson,'' ``Susan Slade'' and ``The Greatest Story Ever Told'' (as the Virgin Mary).

She veered from the sweet roles only once, when she played an older woman who seduces Guy Madison in the 1946 ``Till the End of Time.'' The film failed, and ``I went right back to playing nice girls and faithful wives.''

It was the same in real life. She had a long, storybook marriage to John Swope, who helped found an airline and later became an acclaimed photographer for Life magazine. In addition to their daughter, they had a son, Mark Swope, who also survives.

Omaha is a city rich in theatrical tradition, having spawned the careers of Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando and others. McGuire, who was born there in 1916, grew up with theater-loving parents who encouraged her ambition to become an actress.

Her stage debut came in 1930, when Fonda, who was beginning to have success on Broadway, returned to his home town for an engagement in James Barrie's ``A Kiss for Cinderella.'' The teen-age Dorothy was chosen to play the role opposite him.

When she auditioned for ``Claudia,'' the play's producers recognized her elfin charm and gave her the role immediately. Movie producer David O. Selznick signed her to a film contract and bought the film rights to ``Claudia'' as well. He wound up selling the rights to Twentieth Century-Fox and persuaded that studio to let McGuire repeat the role in the 1943 film.

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