Don Murray, ‘Bus Stop’ Star and Marilyn Monroe’s Last Living Leading Man, Dies at 94

Actor Don Murray has died at the age of 94. He was one of Marilyn Monroe’s last living leading men, working opposite her in 1956’s “Bus Stop.” He earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the film, which follows a lovestruck cowboy (Murray) who falls for a saloon singer (Monroe) who can’t stand him.

Murray was working as late as 2021 on the feature film “Promise,” and had appeared in David Lynch’s 2017 revival of “Twin Peaks.” During his time in the studio era Murray appeared in films like 1957’s “A Hatful of Rain,” 1962’s “Advise & Consent” and 1965’s “Baby the Rain Must Fall.”

The news was confirmed by Murray’s son, Christopher to the New York Times, though no details were given.

Murray was born July 31, 1929 in Los Angeles. You could say he had show business in his blood. His father, Dennis, was a Broadway dance director and stage manager, while his mother, Ethel, was a former performer for the legendary Ziegfeld Follies. After graduating from high school Murray studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and made his Broadway debut in 1951’s “The Rose Tattoo.”

When the Korean War broke out Murray registered as a conscientious objector and was sent to help orphans and war casualties in Europe. He worked for over two years in German and Italian refugee camps for $10 a month. He returned to America in 1954 and starred opposite Helen Hayes and Mary Martin in “The Skin of Our Teeth” on Broadway. It was there that director Joshua Logan saw Murray and cast him in “Bus Stop,” an adaptation of the William Inge play.

Murray was praised, both by critics and various awards bodies, for his performance. Outside of the Academy Award nomination — the only Oscar recognition he got in his career — he also secured a BAFTA nom.

In 1957 he played the morphine-addicted Korean War vet Johnny Pope in “A Hatful of Rain,” a role director Fred Zinnemann initially didn’t want to cast him in, thinking he was better suited for playing a more comedic side character. From there Murray continued to work with legendary actors and director, like James Cagney in “Shake Hands With the Devil” (1959) and Steve McQueen in “Baby the Rain Must Fall” (1965). The 1961 feature “The Hoodlum Priest” even saw Murray co-write the screenplay.

By the 1960s, Murray’s roles on the big screen started to decrease, though he would continue working in the medium; in 1972 he appeared in “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.” He regularly appeared on television and, in 1972, directed an adaptation of the book “The Cross and the Switchblade.” From 1979 to 1981 he had a starring role on the TV soap drama “Knots Landing.”

Murray is survived by his five children.

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