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October 9, 2015

Remembering Jill Clayburgh, TV Star

by Jane Murphy, posted Nov 8th 2010 7:00PM
Fans still missing 'Dirty Sexy Money' are now mourning anew. The matriarch of the dysfunctional Darling clan, Jill Clayburgh, died last week at the age of 66.

If you only knew Clayburgh from her work on the sometimes-outrageous Manhattan drama, you probably had more of a connection to her than you think. She made several appearances on 'The Practice', 'Nip/Tuck', 'Law & Order', and played 'Ally McBeal's mother.

Away from TV, here's another piece of Clayburghia: did your high school ever put on a production of 'Pippin'? ('fess up!) Clayburgh was 'Pippin's original Catherine on Broadway in the early 1970s.

Clayburgh earned two Oscar nominations ('An Unmarried Woman' and 'Starting Over'), but she started and ended her career mixing film and TV work. In fact, one of her failed TV series led to an indie feature. In 1999, she starred with Jeffrey Tambor and Eric Schaeffer in a short-lived comedy from 'Arrested Development' creator Mitch Hurwitz called 'Everything's Relative' for NBC. Two years later, Schaeffer reunited Tambor and Clayburgh in 'Never Again', a bawdy romantic comedy he wrote and directed.

Let's celebrate Jill Clayburgh the TV star by reviewing some of her work for the small screen.

'N.Y.P.D.' According to IMDB, this 'N.Y.P.D.' gig -- watch below -- came less than two years after her graduation from Sarah Lawrence College (which has also produced Julianna Margulies and Jane Alexander). It was Clayburgh's first professional TV role and her co-star was Al Pacino. Poignantly, Pacino is soon to open on Broadway in 'The Merchant of Venice', playing Shylock to Lily Rabe's Portia. Lily Rabe (pictured left) is Jill Clayburgh's daughter.

'The Snoop Sisters'. More early Clayburgh from 1972, an appearance on 'The Snoop Sisters', a mystery series that would air occasionally on NBC. A young Clayburgh enlists the help of the Snoops, granny-aged detectives played by Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick.

'The Rockford Files'. In this 1974 episode, Jim Rockford (James Garner) pursues a beautiful blond. So what else is new? But Clayburgh plays a hippie hitchhiker central to Rockford's case -- the blond is played by Suzanne Somers (at left, in October of this year). Watch the whole episode here.

'SNL'. During 'Saturday Night Live's Belushi/Aykroyd/Radner golden years, Clayburgh hosted not once but twice. Go to this site and scroll down to see the Broadway musical veteran belt out a tune from studio 8H.

'Griffin & Phoenix: A Love Story'. This TV movie appeared just before Clayburgh's greatest film triumph in 'An Unmarried Woman' (for which she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival -- pictured at left). Clayburgh teamed with Peter Falk in 1976's 'Griffin & Phoenix', a quirky flick with a kind of 'Bucket List' premise. 'Griffin & Phoenix' was remade a few years back with Amanda Peet in Clayburgh's role.

'Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story'. Clayburgh goes biopic in this 1991 TV movie, which had Clayburgh playing the elegant British actress struggling with cancer. Clayburgh starred opposite Lance Henriksen as Ireland's devoted husband, tough guy legend Charles Bronson.

'Dirty Sexy Money'. You know as soon as Clayburgh says "Would you excuse us please?" that Letitia Darling is about to lower the boom. Enjoy as she tells off her dirty, sexy, wealthy daughter (played by Natalie Zea) who seems to be allergic to monogamy. All 23 'DSM' episodes are available on Hulu.com.

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