Susan Anspach, who starred in 'Five Easy Pieces,' dead at 75

NEW YORK — Susan Anspach, a screen and stage actress best known for playing non-conformists in "Five Easy Pieces," ''Blume in Love" and other films, has died at age 75.

Anspach died April 2 at her home in Los Angeles. Her son Caleb Goddard said the cause was heart failure.

A New York City native, Anspach had an extensive stage career before breaking into movies in the early 1970s. It was a golden age of independent filmmaking in Hollywood, a time well suited for an actress who specialized in playing women as strong or stronger than their male counterparts. She was the piano player who became Nicholson's lover, then broke off with him in "Five Easy Pieces." She co-starred with George Segal in Paul Mazursky's comedy "Blume in Love," playing the estranged wife of a divorce lawyer. Her other roles included Woody Allen's ex-wife in "Play It Again, Sam" and a businessman's wife who breaks free in the Swedish production "Montenegro."

Goddard said Monday that Anspach was especially proud of "Blume in Love," ''Montenegro" and, again as an estranged wife, in the 1979 release "Running." Off-screen, she was married for much of the 1970s to "Lost in Space" actor Mark Goddard and dated the Band's Robbie Robertson. She was married in the 1980s to musician Sherwood Ball.

Anspach learned early to take care of herself, telling People magazine in 1978 that her childhood was one of "too many sad memories." Alleging physical abuse, she left home as a teenager and worked as a cabaret singer before receiving a scholarship from Catholic University, where she studied acting. In New York, she worked with future stars such as Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall, and appeared in several stage productions. She starred in the original off-Broadway production of "Hair" and in a production of "A View From the Bridge" that also featured Duvall and Jon Voight.

Her recent credits included the 2002 television film "Dancing at the Harvest Moon" and the 2009 drama "Wild About Harry." She was also a political activist, who marched with United Farm Workers head Cesar Chavez, protested the racist apartheid system of South Africa and advocated for human rights in Central America.

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