'GH' actress Anna Lee dead at 91

posted 2004-05-17 11:04:50 by stevemay

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Anna Lee, whose nearly 70-year acting career in movies and television spanned from her breakthrough role in "How Green Was My Valley" to an extended run on "General Hospital," died Friday of pneumonia, her son said. She was 91.

Lee had been ailing for the past several months and died at her home near Beverly Hills with son Jeffrey Byron, 48, by her side, Byron said Sunday.

Paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident just a year after she began playing Lila Quartermaine in ABC's "General Hospital," Lee acted in a wheelchair for more than two decades until she left the soap last year, Byron said.

Born in Kent, England, Lee studied acting in London and was known as "the British bombshell" when touring with the London Repertory Theatre, her son said.

In the early 1930s she moved to California to work in Hollywood, and appeared in more than 60 films including "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Fort Apache" (1948) and "King Solomon's Mines" (1937).

"She was beautiful," said actress Maureen O'Hara, who starred with Lee in 1941's "How Green Was My Valley." "She came to the United States and immediately everybody fell in love with her."

O'Hara said Lee was most effective as an actress in straightforward tales of love and family life. "She made you feel, looking at her, that you belonged to the same family as her," she said.

Nearing retirement age, Lee's stint on ABC's "General Hospital" rejuvenated her, Byron said. "That was really a great elixir for her. Without a doubt it gave her much more longevity later in life," he said.

In 1982, Lee received an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire award. She is to be honored with a lifetime achievement award at Friday's Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony.

Lee was married three times, first to Robert Stevenson, the director of films including "The Love Bug" and "Mary Poppins." She was married to George Stafford for two decades and wed writer Robert Nathan in 1970. Nathan died in 1985.

Lee is survived by a sister, Ruth, two sons, two daughters, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in Los Angeles in several weeks, Byron said.