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Sunday, April 9, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Claire Trevor, who won Academy Award for `Key Largo' role, dies

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Claire Trevor, the sultry-voiced actress who appeared in more than 60 films and won an Academy Award for her 1948 performance as a boozy, broken-down torch singer in "Key Largo," died yesterday.

Ms. Trevor died at a hospital near her Newport Beach home, family spokesman Richard Elbaum said. He did not know the cause of death.

He gave her age as 90, based on a birthdate of March 8, 1910. Some movie Web sites and biographies list a 1909 year of birth, which would have made her 91.

Ms. Trevor won Oscar nominations for "Dead End," a 1937 melodrama in which she played a good girl who grows up to be a prostitute, and for "The High and the Mighty," a 1954 plane-in-trouble epic.

She also was in John Ford's 1939 classic "Stagecoach," playing a frontier prostitute redeemed by a gallant John Wayne.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1987, Ms. Trevor was reluctant to name a favorite among her films but singled out two she said "were the most fun to make."

" `Stagecoach,' because John Ford was marvelous. And `Key Largo' because everyone in the cast was interesting or exciting or different," she said. "I could have stayed on that picture for the rest of my life. I adored it."

Ms. Trevor was a close friend of Wayne's and a neighbor in Newport Beach, a wealthy enclave about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

In "Key Largo," she played ex-singer Gaye Dawn, mistress of gangster Edward G. Robinson.

In the 1950s, she appeared in a number of television dramas and won a 1956 Emmy Award for her performance in "Dodsworth" on NBC's Producers Showcase.

Her last feature film was "Kiss Me Goodbye" in 1982. She played Sally Field's poker-playing mother.

She was born Claire Wemlinger in New York. When her father, a Fifth Avenue clothier, lost his business during the Depression, she went to work to help the family.

She made her Broadway debut in 1932 and shot some film shorts in Brooklyn at the Vitagraph studio. She made her feature-film debut in "Life in the Raw" in 1933 and soon was a contract player in B movies.

Ms. Trevor married producer Clark Andrews in 1938, and they divorced four years later. A second marriage to Cylos William Dunsmoore produced a son, Charles.

They divorced in 1947, and she married producer Milton Bren in 1948. Her son and his two sons from a previous marriage, Peter and Donald Bren, lived with the newlyweds.

Charles died in an airline crash in 1978. Milton died of a brain tumor in 1979. Donald became a billionaire real-estate developer.

"Claire was a special woman whose lifelong passion was to bring joy to others," Donald Bren said in a statement. "Her legacy will be the many ways she touched people."

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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