Childhood & Early Life
Piper Laurie aka Rosetta Jacobs was born on January 22, 1932 to Charlotte Sadie and Alfred Jacobs in Detroit, Michigan. Her father, a furniture dealer, was of a Russian-Polish descent. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1938.
She attended the Hebrew School in Los Angeles and attended elocution classes to grow more confident. This led to her being cast in minor roles at Universal Studios, which was nearby.
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Piper Laurie decided to take the plunge in acting and signed a contract with Universal Studios in 1949. She also changed her screen name from Rosetta Jacobs to Piper Laurie. She made her debut in 1950 with the film ‘Louisa’. She also worked in ‘The Milkman’ in the same year.
From 1951 until 1955, she appeared in several other movies, such as ‘The Prince Who Was a Thief’ (1951), ‘No Room for the Groom’ (1952), ‘The Golden Blade’ (1953), ‘Dangerous Mission’ (1954), and ‘Smoke Signal’ (1955).
However, she briefly switched to theatre and television owing to lack of well-written roles for her. She moved to New York and worked in local plays. She was seen in the productions of ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Days of Wine and Roses’, and ‘Winterset’.
Piper returned to the big screen with ‘Hustler’ in 1961, which became a major hit and earned her an Academy Award nomination. Despite this, Laurie did not receive many roles and her output staggered again.
In 1976, she was cast as Margaret White in ‘Carrie’, which proved to be a hit and she was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Subsequent movies like ‘Ruby’ (1977), ‘Rainbow’ (1978), and ‘Tim’ (1979) followed in her career.
She began starring in TV series in the 1980s. She was seen in the drama series ‘Skag’ for six episodes and later appeared as the lead in ‘The Thorn Birds’, a miniseries, in 1983. This role earned her nominations for both the Golden Globe and Emmy awards. Her role in the television show ‘St. Elsewhere’ also won similar acclaim.
In 1985, Piper appeared in the following TV shows, ‘Murder, She Wrote’, ‘Hotel’, and ‘Twilight Zone’. She was later seen in an episode of ‘Matlock’ (1986) and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1989).
In 1986, she starred in two major movies. Her role as Mrs. Norman in ‘Children of a Lesser God’ got her another Academy Award nomination, while her portrayal as Annie Gilbert in ‘Promise’ won her an Emmy and earned a Golden Globe nomination.
In 1990, she began starring in the acclaimed TV series ‘Twin Peaks’ as Catherine Martell/Mr. Tojamura. The show was a cult hit and won her a Golden Globe award, in addition to a host of other reputed nominations. Her other TV performances in the 1990s include, appearing on ‘Frasier’, ‘E.R.’, and ‘Diagnosis Murder.’
Piper’s TV credits in the 2000s include TV series, such as ‘Will & Grace’ (2000), ‘Possessed’ (2000), ‘Law & Order’ (2001), and ‘Dead Like Me’ (2004). Her movies from this decade were ‘Eulogy’ (2004), ‘Hounddog’ (2007), and ‘Another Harvest Moon’ (2009).
Her love for theatre didn’t erode despite her growing popularity on other mediums. She starred in the Broadway productions of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ in 1965, ‘The Destiny of Me’ in 1992’, and ‘Morning’s at Seven’ in 2002.
Piper released her autobiography ‘Learning to Live Out Loud’ in 2011, which chronicled her early career and subsequent stardom. She returned to the silver screen for the reprisal of ‘Twin Peaks’ in 2017.
Her latest on-screen appearances include an episode of ‘MacGyver’ (2018) and the movie ‘White Boy Rick’ (2018). She currently lives in Southern California and works as a sculptor.
Family & Personal Life
Piper Laurie briefly dated her ‘Louisa’ co-actor and former US president Ronald Reagan in the 1950s. She later married Joe Morgenstern, an entertainment writer, on January 21, 1962. They have a daughter together, Anne Grace Morgenstern. The couple divorced in 1982.
She was conferred an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts by Tucson University in 1996. She was also named ‘Woman of the Year’ by Harvard University in 1962.