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Diane Marie Antonia Varsi (February 23, 1938 – November 19, 1992) was an American film actress best known for her performances in Peyton Place – her film debut, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award – and the cult film Wild in the Streets. She left Hollywood in order to pursue personal and artistic aims, notably at Bennington College in Vermontmarker, where she studied poetry with poet and translator Ben Belitt, among others.


Varsi was born in San Mateo, Californiamarker and made her screen debut as Allison MacKenzie in Peyton Place (1957), receiving an Academy Award nomination for an Best Supporting Actress for her performance. The following year, she shared the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year - Actress with Sandra Dee and Carolyn Jones.

She appeared in the films Ten North Frederick (1958) and Compulsion (1959) and worked steadily until 1960. Afterwards, she left Hollywood. She returned to acting in the late 1960s, but by this time she was no longer being offered major film roles. Her later films include Johnny Got His Gun in 1971, a film which Varsi described as her favorite, and a 1972 ABC-TV "Movie of the Week", titled The People.

Personal life

In 1968, while working on the set of Wild in the Streets, Varsi suffered extreme trauma to her cervical spine, which led to years of misdiagnosed pain. In 1977, she contracted Lyme disease and lived for five years in undiagnosed and unremitting meningitis which brought her close to death several times. The Lyme disease, combined with her neck injury, which had resulted in numerous surgeries, was not diagnosed until 1989.

Varsi was married three times; her first marriage while still in her teens, was annulled. She was married to James Dickson from 1955 until 1958, when they divorced. She was married to Michael Hausman on May 21, 1961, until her death; they had a daughter, Willo.


On November 19, 1992, Varsi died from respiratory failure at the age of 54 in Los Angelesmarker. At the time of her death, she also had Lyme disease. She is buried in Mount Tamalpais Cemetery in San Rafael, Californiamarker.


Year Film Role Notes
1957 Peyton Place Allison MacKenzie
1958 Ten North Frederick Ann Chapin
From Hell to Texas Juanita Bradley Alternative title: Man Hunt
1959 Compulsion Ruth Evans
1967 Sweet Love, Bitter Della Alternative titles: Black Love, White Love
It Won't Rub Off, Baby!
Roseanna Mary Jane
1968 Wild in the Streets Sally LeRoy
Killers Three Carol Warder
1970 Bloody Mama Mona Gibson
1971 Johnny Got His Gun Fourth Nurse
1977 I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Sylvia
Year Title Role Notes
1959 Playhouse 90 Lurene Dawson 1 episode
1966 Dr. Kildare 2 episodes
1969 My Friend Tony 1 episode
1971 Cannon Mrs. Hill 1 episode
1972 The People Valancy Carmody Television movie

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Film or series
1958 Academy Award Nominated Best Actress in a Supporting Role Peyton Place
Golden Globe Award Most Promising Newcomer - Female
Laurel Awards Nominated Top New Female Personality
Top Female Supporting Performance Peyton Place


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