Two-time Oscar nominated actress and camp icon Sylvia Miles has died at 94.
Her old pal Geraldine Smith told Page Six that Sylvia ‘didn’t want to die’ in her nursing home and left the facility before her demise.
Sylvia’s notoriety grew when she joined Andy Warhol’s New York social circle in the 1970s, becoming a legendary party girl and inspiring the famous jibe: ‘Sylvia Miles and Andy Warhol would attend the opening of an envelope.’
Sensation: Two-time Oscar nominated actress and camp icon Sylvia Miles has died at 94; she is pictured at an Oscar party at New York’s 21 Club in 2012
The quote has been variously attributed to gossip columnist Earl Wilson and ventriloquist Wayland Flowers, but Sylvia insisted otherwise.
‘Earl Wilson didn’t say it. I said it about myself, and unfortunately, everything I say sounds like a press release,’ she snapped to the New York Times in 1992.
‘O.K., so I did once go to the opening of a delicatessen. I heard Jackie would be there, too. Turned out to be Jackie Mason.’
Sylvia had only 14 minutes of screen time in 1969’s Midnight Cowboy as a tough-talking client of Jon Voight’s hooker character, and still got an Oscar nod.
Talent: Sylvia had only 14 minutes of screen time in 1969’s Midnight Cowboy as a tough-talking client of Jon Voight’s hooker character, and still got an Oscar nod
She earned another supporting actress nomination at the Oscars for the 1975 Raymond Chandler adaptation Farewell, My Lovely starring Robert Mitchum.
Born in Greenwich Village in 1924, Sylvia studied at the Actors Studio and became a well-regarded theater actress.
In the 1950s, she played in Eugene O’Neill’s 1946 drama The Iceman Cometh opposite its original leading man Jason Robards, and in 1976 she starred in a Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Night Of The Iguana.
She snagged a plum role in the 1960 pilot Head Of The Family – only to be replaced by Rose Marie when the program got reworked into The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Evocative: She earned another supporting actress nomination at the Oscars for the 1975 Raymond Chandler adaptation Farewell, My Lovely starring Robert Mitchum
‘If you see the pilot, you see that Rose Marie did my characterization. I was the only one that was offered the part,’ Sylvia told the Bright Lights Film Journal in 1999.
She rejected the role so she could ‘have an important career in the theater,’ a decision she stood by decades later, vamping: ‘I said: “Listen, when that show is over, whoever does that part is going to be doing game shows.” That’s what she’s been doing ever since, right? I didn’t want to do it.’
Sylvia’s association with Andy Warhol was not only social – she also starred in a 1972 film he produced called Heat, directed by Paul Morrissey.
‘I wrote every line I said in Heat. There was no script. I didn’t write it, I made it up,’ she said later, describing her process: ‘you’re not improvising, you’re behaving.’
‘Opening of an envelope’: Sylvia’s notoriety grew when she became part of Andy Warhol’s New York social circle in the 1970s; the pair are pictured together in 1973
Her acting career, which included the first two Wall Street movies, ran side by side with her reputation as a mainstay of the cocktail circuit.
At one soiree, she poured a dinner over the head of a critic who had insulted her in print. She later told People of the incident: ‘I have always had the temperament of an actress, which is just an excuse for volatile behavior.’
Her splashy image rankled with her – ‘I am not a social figure, I am an actress,’ she insisted to the New York Times in a 1976 profile.
Smoldering: Sylvia’s association with Andy Warhol was not only social – she also starred in a 1972 film he produced called Heat; she is pictured with her co-star Joe Dallesandro
According to Michael Musto in Paper, her nightlife and career interests were intertwined: ‘She would actually traipse through 54 looking for show biz folks she could barrel up to and screech: “Hire me!”‘
Alongside her late-night antics and thespian prowess, Sylvia became known for an idiosyncratic fashion sense she called ‘bizartful.’
‘I dress artistically. Actually, I dress to please myself. I wear designer clothes – Nicole Miller, Pauline Trigere, Chanel, Yves St. Laurent – but the secret is to concentrate on artfully layered accessories,’ she said of her style.
Sylvia had a yen for self-invention when it came to her personal history, telling the New York Times: ‘I had three husbands before I was 24.’
‘I dress to please myself’: Alongside her late-night antics and thespian prowess, Sylvia became known for an idiosyncratic fashion sense she called ‘bizartful’
In fact, she was nearly 40 when she tied the knot with her third and final husband, radio jockey Ted Brown. At seven years, it was her longest-lasting marriage.
She later ran around with toyboys, dishing in 1976: ‘What’s wrong with younger men? They have less problems, less bitterness and more stamina.’
Sylvia had booked a role alongside Geraldine, Michael and former porn star Ron Jeremy in the upcoming independent film Japanese Borscht.