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Barbara Rush, ‘It Came From Outer Space’ and ‘Peyton Place’ actor, dies at 97

A woman with short white hair in a gold jacket and pants, wearing a large necklace and posing with her hands at her sides
Barbara Rush, a TV and film actor whose career included the sci-fi horror film “It Came From Outer Space,” has died. She was 97.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)
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Barbara Rush, the Golden Globe-winning actor who starred in the sci-fi horror “It Came From Outer Space,” has died. She was 97.

Claudia Cowan, Rush’s daughter and a journalist at Fox News Channel, confirmed her mother’s death to The Times on Monday. Rush died Sunday afternoon in a senior care center in Westlake Village after years of living with dementia.

Cowan broke the news with social media posts shared Monday morning. On Instagram, Cowan wrote, “There’s another star shining on us tonight.”

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“My beautiful mother was called to heaven on Easter of all days — a nod to the transition and resilience and joy we celebrate on this happy holiday — and I know she will stay alive in our hearts through cherished memories and movie reruns,” Cowan captioned several Instagram pictures of moments she shared with her mother. “She was [an] elegant and classic actress and the best mom in the world.”

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March 30, 2024

Cowan also shared news of her mother’s death on Facebook.

Rush, considered “among the last of Old Hollywood Royalty” by her daughter, rose to prominence in the 1950s as she started in movies like “The Goldbergs” and “Quebec,” then added sci-fi films “When Worlds Collide” and “It Came From Outer Space.”

For the record:

2:27 p.m. April 3, 2024A previous version of this article said Barbara Rush starred alongside John Putnam in the film “It Came From Outer Space.” Rush’s co-star was Richard Carlson, who portrayed the fictional character named John Putnam.

The 1953 alien-invasion film, from director Jack Arnold, starred Rush as Ellen Fields, the fiancée of an amateur astronomer played by Richard Carlson. “It Came From Outer Space” earned Rush the promising female newcomer prize at the 1954 Golden Globe Awards, making way for more silver screen opportunities, including the Paul Newman legal drama “The Young Philadelphians.”

Rush’s film career also included roles in “The Young Lions,” “The Bramble Bush,” “Strangers When We Meet” — where she shared the screen with fellow classic Hollywood stars Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak.

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March 29, 2024

By the ‘60s, Rush expanded her Hollywood career to include TV work. After years of minor appearances in a variety of television titles, Rush found small-screen longevity with the ABC soap drama “Peyton Place” which ran from 1964 to 1969. Rush appeared as Marsha Russell, a woman caring for her teen daughter amid a messy divorce with an adulterous husband.

Rush’s television career also included regular series jobs on “Flamingo Road” and the soap drama “All My Children,” where she appeared in 38 episodes from 1992 to 1994, according to IMDb. One of Rush’s most recent credits was a recurring guest spot as Ruth Camden in the family drama “7th Heaven.”

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Rush’s decades-long career also includes films “Taza, Son of Cochise,” “Magnificent Obsession” and “Hombre,” and TV series “Magnum, P.I., “Murder, She Wrote” and “Fantasy Island.”

She also pursued a stage career that included productions of “Same Time, Next Year,” “Father’s Day,” “Steel Magnolias” and her solo show, “A Woman of Independent Means.”

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“I’m one of those kinds of people who will perform the minute you open the refrigerator door and the light goes on,” she joked in a 1997 interview, according to the Associated Press.

Rush was born Jan. 4, 1927, in Denver, but grew up in Southern California. She graduated in 1948 from UC Santa Barbara, where she was part of the school’s theater program. Before making her screen debut, Rush performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, where she caught the eye of Paramount talent scout Milton Lewis, according to Marin Magazine.

She was married and divorced three times — to screen star Jeffrey Hunter, Hollywood publicity executive Warren Cowan and sculptor James Gruzalski. She was preceded in death by Hunter and Cowan, who died in May 27, 1969 and May 14, 2008, respectively.

The actor’s survivors are daughter Claudia Cowan, son Christopher Hunter, and four grandchildren. A celebration of life will take place at a later date. Cowan said those looking to celebrate her mother’s legacy can do so by watching her films.

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“That’s the way to honor her memory,” Cowan told The Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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