Eva Gabor dies said she 'adored' 'Green Acres'

July 05, 1995|By Amy Wallace | Amy Wallace,Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles -- Eva Gabor, the youngest of the glamorous sisters from Hungary, who was best-known for her role in the television series "Green Acres," died yesterday of complications from pneumonia.

Ms. Gabor, 74, had been admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center June 21 after breaking her hip while traveling in Mexico, said Ron Wise, a hospital spokesman. She was found to be suffering from a serious case of pneumonia, he said, and died from related respiratory failure.

"It was a big shock because Eva has been one of those people who had boundless energy and strength," said Kevin Sasaki, her publicist. "She traveled, did charity work. She kept herself busy, always juggling eight plates at a time."

Most recently, the platinum-haired actress had devoted herself to promoting Eva Gabor International, the world's largest wig-maker, where she was chairman of the board. Mr. Sasaki said her recent appearances on the Home Shopping Network had broken sales records. One of her best-selling wigs was a mop of golden curls inspired by Ms. Gabor herself.

Described as the most down-to-earth of the Gabor sisters, Eva nevertheless had a lot in common with her many-times-married siblings, Zsa Zsa and Magda. Eva was married and divorced at least four times.

They were all entertainers. And they all possessed the unmistakably breezy Gabor style. Once, for example, when introduced to then-President Johnson, Eva Gabor greeted him in her trademark Hungarian accent: "Hello, Mr. President, darling."

Born in Budapest, Eva aspired to acting from the age of 4. She began studying at 15, but her parents thought acting was too vulgar a profession and forced her to withdraw. Two years later, the 5-foot-2 beauty met a Swedish-born Hollywood physician at a party. They married in 1939 and moved to California.

Ms. Gabor spoke only broken English then, but not long after her arrival she signed with Paramount Pictures. The studio gave her acting lessons and soon made her a leading lady in a hastily produced 1941 film called "Forced Landing." Ms. Gabor would later call the movie "a B picture only to those too lazy to go down the alphabet."

As Eva Gabor struggled to win better acting roles, the rest of her family immigrated to the United States. By the 1950s, they would become a show business phenomena, with photographs of Zsa Zsa and Eva appearing regularly on the covers of popular magazines. In 1953, the three Gabor sisters had a nightclub act in Las Vegas.

Eva Gabor's motion picture credits include "The Last Time I Saw Paris," in which she played a divorcee who has a fling with Van Johnson, "Don't Go Near the Water," in which her black-lace panties became the mascot of a U.S. Naval ship, and "Gigi," the film version of the Lerner-Loewe musical in which she played the discarded mistress.

But the role of her career, she once said, was playing Lisa Douglas, the dizzy wife of a pompous city-slicker in the television barnyard farce, "Green Acres."

Conceived of as a mirror image of "The Beverly Hillbillies," in which country folk move to the city, the CBS series poked fun at a couple of socialites-turned-farmers who move to a town called Hooterville. Ms. Gabor, always elegantly dressed and coiffed, co-starred with Eddie Albert and a pig named Arnold.

The series, which aired from 1965 to 1971, gave Ms. Gabor a claim to fame independent of her family. While some reviewers reviled it as silly fluff, Ms. Gabor said the show represented "the best six years of my life. I adored every minute of it."

She is survived by her two sisters; her mother, Jolie, and six stepchildren.

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