Elizabeth MacRae dies: star of 'General Hospital' and 'Gomer Pyle'


Elizabeth “Betsy” MacRae Halsey, best known for her recurring roles on “General Hospital” and “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” has died at age 88.

MacRae died Monday at Highland House Rehabilitation & Healthcare in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, according to a local news outlet. City View reported and Deadline confirmed.

“He had a wonderful life,” the actor's nephew, Jim MacRae, told CityView on Tuesday. “She was brilliant and articulate. She still received letters from fans at Highland House.

Throughout her decades-long career, MacRae captivated audiences and entertainment executives alike, appearing on several classic soap operas and fan-favorite sitcoms. She enjoyed a triumph later in her acting career with a leading role in Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film “The Conversation,” which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

MacRae was born in 1936 in Columbia, S.C., but spent his formative years in Fayetteville, according to CityView. As a child she frequented the cinema, captivated by movie stars such as Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor.

After graduating from the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, a college preparatory school for girls with an emphasis on the arts, MacRae decided to seriously pursue acting in 1956.

That year, she failed an audition for Otto Preminger's historical drama “Saint Joan,” but despite MacRae's failure, the Austrian director encouraged her to continue honing her craft, including through formal training. MacRae took her advice and moved to New York City to study with German-American actress Uta Hagen at the Herbert Berghof studio.

“Dad gave me $100 and told me to come home when it was gone,” MacRae recalled in a 1967 interview. A week after the move, she said, she got a modeling job at Bergdorf Goodman.

After two years of acting in various off-Broadway and summer productions, MacRae made her television debut in the courtroom drama “The Verdict Is Yours” in 1958. Other work followed, she recalled in an interview, allowing her to mail the attached 100 dollars. as a Valentine's Day gift for his father.

MacRae appeared in several classic television series, including “Judd, for the Defense,” “Gunsmoke,” “General Hospital” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” In 1966, she began one of her best-known roles in the spin-off of “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” as the girlfriend of the main character, Lou-Ann Poovie.

According to a 1968 Times report, MacRae was originally cast as a deaf lounge singer for a single episode. But her Southern accent, which she had ironically tried to get rid of early in her career, and her natural chemistry with series lead Jim Nabors, promoted her to a recurring role. She appeared in 15 episodes, the last in 1969, the year Nabors left the series to pursue other projects.

“She was my alter ego and she still lives inside me,” MacRae said. City View in 2021. “I loved playing Lou-Ann Poovie.”

After “Gomer Pyle” ended, MacRae predominantly worked on soap operas, including “Another World,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Guiding Light” and “Search for Tomorrow.” But just when her career seemed to slow down, she was cast opposite Gene Hackman in Coppola's acclaimed neo-noir mystery film “The Conversation.” The film is now recognized as one of Coppola's (and Hackman's) masterpieces.

In 1989, MacRae left Hollywood and returned to New York City, where she embarked on what she called her “second career” as a drug and alcohol counselor. Nearly a decade later, she returned to North Carolina with her husband, Charles Halsey.

She was inducted into the Fayetteville Performing Arts Hall of Fame in April 2023.

“Elizabeth had the 'X factor' that is an important part of being an artist,” Mayon Weeks, who inducted MacRae into the Hall of Fame, told CityView. “A warm and lovely person to be with, and an engaging performer in film and on stage. “A treasured daughter of our Fayetteville community.”

MacRae is survived by five stepchildren: Terry Halsey, Peter Halsey, Hugh Halsey, Cate Halsey and Alex Halsey Topper, and many nieces and nephews.

TO treasure A collection of papers chronicling MacRae's acting career, which she donated in 1999 and 2002, are housed in the Louis Round Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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