Bright Lights Film Journal

R.I.P. Jill Haworth (1945-2011)

Otto Preminger had a thing for saintly blondes.

The best known of Preminger’s saintly – and hauntingly beautiful – blondes was Jean Seberg whom Preminger discovered and cast as the lead in his version of Saint Joan (1957), but the archetype appears in his movies as far back as Alice Faye’s performance in Fallen Angel (1945 – the year Haworth was born). Other examples include Eva Marie Sainte in Exodus (1960) and Carol Lynley in Bunny Lake is Missing (1965).

British-born Jill Haworth (pronounced “Hah-worth”) was another Preminger discovery. Preminger first cast the blonde, blue-eyed Haworth as a displaced 14-year-old Jewish girl in Exodus (with Eva Marie Sainte and Paul Newman, above), a calming influence on the angry young man played by Sal Mineo, and a younger doppleganger of Sainte’s maternal American. In her next film for Preminger, The Cardinal (1963), Preminger cast Haworth as a French-Catholic girl who cares for a dying priest played by Burgess Meredith. When the film’s leading character, Father Fermoyle (Tom Tryon), begins an innocent flirtation with her, he learns that she has already decided to join an order of nuns whose mission is to care for the sick and dying. Saintly indeed!  Her final role for Preminger was in the criminally underrated In Harm’s Way (1965, top), a World War II epic in which Haworth was cast as a Navy nurse who is raped by Kirk Douglas’s character. The Douglas character’s regret for that act ultimately leads to his suicide. It is no easy thing to play a saint, but Haworth brought reality and conviction to all of these roles.

In between her Preminger epics, Haworth found time to appear – memorably – in a classic episode of The Outer Limits, “The Sixth Finger,” playing a young Welshwoman, part of a coal-mining community, who acts as a calming influence (again) on David McCallum’s artificially evolved man-of-the-future.

The New York Times obituary (emphasizing her theater work) is here.