Sue Lyon, Star of 'Lolita', Dead at 73

Sue Lyon, a model-turned-actress who turned heads as the star of Stanley Kubrick's 1962 adaptation of Lolita, has passed away at the age of 73. Her death was first announced by The New York Times, and Lyon's friend Phil Syracopoulos had told the outlet that her health had been failing for some time, although no official cause of death was named.

Born in Davenport, IA in 1946, Lyon had a lengthy modeling resume but had only appeared in two films when she auditioned for the role of Dolores Haze in Lolita, which remains her best-known acting credit. The film was based on the 1955 book of the same name by author Vladimir Nabokov, which depicted the relationship with a grown man and his 12-year-old lover.

The book was banned across the U.K. in the wake of its release and wasn't available stateside until 1958. While it sharply divided critics, it went on to become not only a bestselling book but something of a cultural sensation as well.

Lyon was 14 when the film was being made, and though Nabokov wrote the initial screenplay, Kubrick re-wrote much of the story to comply with the Motion Picture Production Code, which included changing Dolores' age from 12 to 15. It was secretly filmed in London to avoid further controversy regarding both its sexual nature and the age of its star.

Like the book it was based on, reception to Kubrick's take on Lolita was decidedly mixed at the time. Though the film currently boasts a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The role shot her into stardom, and she'd go on to work with legendary directors such as John Ford and John Huston, appearing in films like Night of the Iguana, 7 Women and Four Rode Out. Later in her career, she appeared on TV shows like Love, American Style and Fantasy Island. Her last role was as a newswoman in the 1980 horror flick Alligator, which was written by acclaimed filmmaker John Sayles.

The actress was married five times in her life, first to filmmaker Hampton Fancher, as well as football coach Roland Harrison, Cotton Adamson, Edward Weathers and Richard Rudman.


Her third husband, Adamson, was convicted of murder during their marriage, and Lyon attributed that to why her career didn't quite elevate her to super-stardom. By the time she married Rudman, she'd given up on acting altogether.

Lyon is survived by her daughter, Nona, whom she had with Harrison.