Martha Hyer, nominated for an Academy Award, dies at 89

Van Johnson, top center, Shelly Winters, left, Janet Leigh, center, and Martha Hyer, right, are seen in this Feb. 9, 1963 file photo. Hyer, who starred alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart, died May 31 in Santa Fe, N.M.
Van Johnson, top center, Shelly Winters, left, Janet Leigh, center, and Martha Hyer, right, are seen in this Feb. 9, 1963 file photo. Hyer, who starred alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart, died May 31 in Santa Fe, N.M. Don Brinn/AP Photo

Martha Hyer, an Oscar-nominated actress who was likened to Grace Kelly for her cool, blond elegance, has died in Santa Fe, N.M., where she lived since the 1980s. She was 89.

Hyer's death May 31 was confirmed by the Rivera Family Funeral Home. No cause was given.

Her most noted role was as an Indiana schoolteacher in "Some Came Running" (1958), the tale of an embittered World War II veteran, played by Frank Sinatra, returning to his hometown. Her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress.

Hyer also played William Holden's wealthy fiancee in "Sabrina" (1954) and diplomat Cary Grant's rich sister-in-law in the comedy "Houseboat" (1958).

Portraying sophisticated women came naturally for Hyer, who amassed an impressive collection of French Impressionist paintings and joked that she had to give up her mansion in the Hollywood Hills because she had run out of wall space.

"It's very embarrassing when you are forced to hang an original Renoir in the bathroom," she once told reporters.

Hyer was married to legendary producer Hal B. Wallis from 1966 until his death 20 years later.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, on Aug. 10, 1924, Hyer was the daughter of Agnes Barnhart Hyer and Julien C. Hyer, a judge who participated in the prosecution of World War II criminals at Nuremberg.

As a girl, she loved riding - a pastime that she grew to rue early in her career.

"I remember how I used to pray every night that God would let me grow up and be a cowgirl," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1962. "Well, he heard my request, all right. I thought RKO would never let me get off a horse!"

Among her early films were "Gun Smugglers" (1948), "Roughshod" (1949) and "Rustlers" (1949).

Hyer received a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University, where she studied drama. She later took acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Though she was often cast as a woman of the world, Hyer did her share of cornball comedies, including "Abbott and Costello Go to Mars" (1953) and "Francis in the Navy" (1955), with the famous talking mule.

Hyer's first marriage, to film producer C. Ray Stahl, ended in a 1954 divorce. They had no children. A list of her surviving relatives was not immediately available.

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