(NEW YORK) — Sue Lyon, who at age 14 played the title character in director Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film “Lolita,” has died.
Lyon’s longtime friend Phil Syracopoulos told The New York Times she had been in declining health for some time, and died Thursday in Los Angeles. No further details on her death were provided. She was 73.
Lyon was reportedly chosen from some 800 girls who sought the role of “Lolita” for the film based on Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel about a middle-aged literature professor’s sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl.
Nabokov also wrote the screenplay for Kubrick’s adaptation, whose cast included movie luminaries James Mason, Peter Sellers and Shelley Winters.
A close-up of her face wearing heart-shaped sunglasses with a lollipop at her lips was used as the movie’s poster and became its lasting iconic image, despite neither the glasses nor the sucker appearing in the film, which eliminated the book’s more graphic sexual depictions and played up its comic aspects.
For Lyon, it was her first film. She had taken a pair of tiny TV roles before it, and would act for nearly 20 years after it, but would never be known for anything nearly as much as for “Lolita.”
Born the youngest of five children in Davenport, Iowa, in 1946, Lyon’s father died before she was one year old. Her mother soon after moved the family to Dallas, then a few years later took her children to Los Angeles, where Lyon took up acting.
She got roles in 1959 on “The Loretta Young Show,” where Kubrick noticed her, and in 1960 on “Dennis the Menace.”
Her post-“Lolita” credits included 1964’s “Night of the Iguana” and 1971’s “Tony Rome.” Her final acting job was in the 1980 horror film “Alligator.”