Movie Stars: Zsa Zsa Gabor, Celebrity (and Actress?), Dies at 99

Hungarian-born beauty queen Zsa Zsa Gabor, better known for being a celebrity than an actress, has died of heart attack. She was 99.

Publicist Ed Lozzi confirmed that Gabor died Sunday in her Bel Air mansion, after being on life support for several years.

Long before Kim Kardashian there was Zsa Zsa Gabor, a woman who devoted lifetime to being famous. just for the sake of being famous.

Gabor had some acting credits–her films include John Huston’s “Moulin Rouge,” 1953’s “Lili,” Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” and the 1958 camp classic “Queen of Outer Space.”

But her greatest performance was playing herself: She was famous for her accented English (she called everyone “dahling”), eccentric name (she went by Zsa Zsa), offscreen antics (a 1989 incident in which she slapped a cop) and one-liners about her jewelry, nine marriages and diverse ex-husbands.

Despite her glamorous image, her life was marred by battles between her last husband Frederic Prinz von Anhalt (who was younger by decades) and her daughter.

In recent years, the actress was in the news largely due to health issues.  She broke her hip in 2010 in a fall in her Bel-Air home after a 2002 car accident had left her wheelchair-bound and a massive stroke in 2005. Her leg was later amputated above the knee.
Born in Budapest, Zsa Zsa (Sari) Gabor was crowned Miss Hungary in 1936 and followed her sister Eva Gabor to Hollywood.

She began her screen career in MGM’s 1952 “Lovely to Look At” and got a bigger break that year in “Moulin Rouge,” directed by John Huston, who is said to have given the ingenue, who spoke heavily accented English and had almost no film experience, a difficult time during the shoot.

Gabor’s English improved, but her Eastern European roots became part of her trademark.

On TV, she appeared on “The Red Skelton Hour,” “Playhouse 90” and “Matinee Theater.” She was featured in a 1960 TV adaptation of “Ninotchka” and guested on series including “Bonanza,” “Batman” (as the villainess Minerva) and “The Facts of Life.” She appeared on the soap “As the World Turns” in 1981.

Her theater credits include “Forty Carats” on Broadway and a touring production of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.”

Hollywood didn’t take her seriously as an actress, maybe because she didn’t take herself too seriously.  Instead she chose to showcase her personality, her glamour, and sparking outrage, which explains why she mostly played variations of herself in dozens of films and TV series.

A third sister, Magda, and their mother, Jolie, also received attention from the media, but not as much as Zsa Zsa and Eva. And while Eva Gabor eventually landed a major role–as Lisa Douglas on the 1960s sitcom “Green Acres”–Zsa Zsa was simply “famous for being famous.”

Many of Gabor’s most well-known quips came at her own expense and highlighted her predilection for marrying wealthy men. Some of the most notable were “I want a man who’s kind and understanding. Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?” or “a man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.”

“Getting divorced just because you don’t love a man is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.”  Describing herself as a great housekeeper, she once said, “Every time I divorce a man, I keep the house.”

She had a daughter, Francesca, during her 1940s marriage to hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, though Hilton reportedly believed Francesca was not his biological daughter, and the millionaire left her just $100,000 in his will.

After spending much of her life contesting Hilton’s will, Francesca Hilton died destitute in 2015. Gabor, meanwhile, was the great-great aunt of Paris Hilton.

Other husbands included actor George Sanders (1949-1954) and Jack Ryan (1975-1076), who is credited with designing the Barbie doll for Mattel.

Her marriage to actor and attorney Felipe de Alba was annulled in 1983 after a single day because her marriage to Michael O’Hara, her divorce lawyer in her breakup with Ryan, had not been dissolved.

In 1986, at age 69, she married Prinz von Anhalt, some 30 years her junior. He was accused by her daughter of keeping her away from her mother, and it is doubtful Gabor knew of her daughter’s death.

Her 1989 run-in with a Beverly Hills police officer, whom she famously slapped in a traffic stop, was explored in 1991 documentary “The People vs. Zsa Zsa Gabor.”

The notorious gesture was mocked, often by Gabor herself, in the movies  “Naked Gun 2½,” “A Very Brady Sequel,” and others.