Cathleen Nesbitt, 93, the British character actress whose career spanned 70 years and who played Mrs. Higgins in the original 1957 New York production of "My Fair Lady," died Aug. 2 at her home. The cause of death was not reported.
During her stage career, Miss Nesbitt played the lead in "Quality Street," "Justice," "Hassan," "Spring Cleaning," "The Case of the Frightened Lady," "Children in Uniform," "Our Betters," and "Medea."
She appeared on the New York stage in "Gigi." Other hits included "Sabrina Fair," "Anastasia," "The Sleeping Prince," "The Royal Family," and "The Aspern Papers."
To Americans, her name was always linked to that of "Mrs. Higgins," the irascible Henry Higgins' wise and sophisticated mother. She originated the role on Broadway 25 years ago, and repeated it in a revival with Rex Harrison that toured the country last year.
Miss Nesbitt's film credits include "An Affair to Remember," with Cary Grant, "Desiree," with Marlon Brando, and "Staircase," with Richard Burton. Her other films included "The French Connection" and "Three Coins in the Fountain." In television she appeared in the award-winning British series "Upstairs Downstairs" and "Separate Tables."
In her homeland, Miss Nesbitt was always a symbol of young love. At the age of 90 she complained that her achievements as an actress were still somewhat blurred by public interest in her great romance with the poet Rupert Brooke.
In 1912 Miss Nesbitt was introduced to the rising young poet. In later years, Miss Nesbitt insisted her romance with Brooke was poetic and not physical, although after his death she said she regretted not having had a child by him. Brooke died at the age of 28 of septicemia while serving in the British Army during World War I.
She was honored by Queen Elizabeth in 1978, who made her a commander of the Order of the British Empire.
In 1921, Miss Nesbitt married Cecil Ramage, a student seven years her junior, who played Antony to her Cleopatra in an Oxford University production. They had a son and a daughter, and separated some 20 years later.