Soapstar Eileen Herlie dies at 90

10/11/2008 NEW YORK Herlie died Wednesday of pneumonia, said Julie Hanan Carruthers, the ABC soap opera's executive producer.

The actress joined the long-running show in 1976 to play Myrtle, who became the surrogate mother to many of the soap's major characters, including Erica Kane, portrayed by Susan Lucci.

"I'm sure Eileen is lighting up the sky's in heaven with her flaming red hair and lovely Scottish accent," Lucci said. "The earth's loss is heaven's gain!"

Herlie's last appearance on the program was in June.

Before joining "All My Children," Herlie was a regular on Broadway. She made her debut in Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" in 1955, playing milliner Irene Molloy in the comedy, which starred Ruth Gordon as Dolly Gallagher Levi.

Musical theater buffs knew Herlie from her appearances in two shows: "Take Me Along" (1959), an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!," in which she played Jackie Gleason's love interest, and "All American" (1962), in which Herlie co-starred with Ray Bolger. In "All American," she and Bolger sang the musical's best-known song, "Once Upon a Time," a Charles Strouse-Lee Adams tune later popularized by Tony Bennett.

Herlie was nominated for a Tony for her performance in "Take Me Along."

Among Herlie's other Broadway appearances were the Richard Burton production of "Hamlet" (1964), in which she played Queen Gertrude; two plays written by Peter Ustinov, "Photo Finish" (1963) and "Halfway Up the Tree" (1967); and "Crown Matrimonial" (1973), a drama about the events leading up to the abdication of King Edward VIII, in which she played Queen Mary and George Grizzard the love-stricken monarch.

Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Herlie worked for several years in the Scottish National Theater and in the English theater with Tyrone Guthrie. Among the hit London plays she appeared in: Jean Cocteau's "The Eagle Has Two Heads."

Her movie credits include two filmings of "Hamlet," the Burton version and the 1948 Laurence Olivier production, in which she also played Gertrude. Her other movies include "Freud" (1962) with Montgomery Clift and Sidney Lumet's "The Sea Gull" (1968) with Simone Signoret, James Mason and Vanessa Redgrave.

Herlie is survived by a brother, nieces and nephews.

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