Anne Jeffreys, the actress, opera singer and Goldsboro native whose name graces the lobby in the Paramount Theatre in downtown Goldsboro, has died. She was 94.
She died peacefully in her sleep at her Los Angeles home on Wednesday evening, her manager Don Gibble said Thursday. Her husband, actor Robert Sterling, died in 2006.
Jeffreys was born in Goldsboro on Jan. 26, 1923, as Anne Carmichael.
The actress had a storied career in film and on Broadway, but local businessman and one of Jeffreys' friends, David Weil, said she had a "larger-than-life personality" and always remained true to her Goldsboro roots.
"Anne always considered herself a Goldsboro girl," Weil said. "It's how she presented herself to her Hollywood friends. She came back to Goldsboro often, but she was always quiet when she did so."
Jeffreys returned to Goldsboro in 2008 for the dedication of the Paramount Theatre when it reopened three years after a fire burned it down.
Current Paramount Director Sherry Archibald met Jeffreys when she came to Goldsboro for the gala that marked the theater's reopening.
"She was an icon for us," Archibald said. "We have her history in our lobby, and she was a significant contributor to us when we were rebuilding. We've continued to keep in contact with her, and so it was so sad to hear of her loss today."
While Jeffreys was there for the theater's return to glory, she will not be present for its 10-year anniversary in February -- and she will be missed.
"I just thought she was immortal," Weil said.
Arts Council of Wayne County Executive Director Wendy Walker said Jeffreys' legacy will continue on, even after her death.
"Anne Jeffreys truly lived the dream," Walker said. "She was the hometown girl born with talent, fortified with excellent training and blessed with a stellar career on the stage and screen. She was generous and a friend of the arts, and her legacy will live on in her impressive body of work."
Jeffreys spent two decades playing Amanda Barrington on "General Hospital."
She was featured in the role on more than 350 episodes of the soap opera from 1984 until 2004.
TV audiences came to know her in the 1950s as Marion Kerby in the series "Topper." She and Sterling starred as fun-loving husband and wife George and Marion Kerby who, after dying in a Swiss avalanche, return as ghosts to their mansion and comically haunt its new occupant, actor Leo G. Carroll as staid banker Cosmo Topper.
Each week they were introduced to viewers as George, "that most sporting spirit," and Marion, "the ghostess with the mostess."
They were among many varied roles in a long career in films, television, opera and on Broadway for Jeffreys, who continued to work well into her 70s. Her final on-screen appearance was on the HBO series "Getting On."
Early in her career, she appeared opposite John Wayne in "Flying Tigers." In later years, she appeared on such TV shows as "L.A. Law" and "Murder, She Wrote" and played David Hasselhoff's mother on "Baywatch."
The blonde beauty with the lilting soprano voice began her performing career in 1940 with the New York City Opera, the Ford Symphony and the Los Angeles Opera Company, singing Mimi in "La Boheme" and Cho Cho San in "Madame Butterfly."
She had made her film debut at MGM in 1942 in "I Married an Angel," which marked the final costarring of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.
During a contract with Republic, she appeared with Wayne in "Flying Tigers" and made B westerns. Hughes signed her to a contract at RKO and cast her in "Step Lively," which starred Frank Sinatra.
In a 1993 interview, Jeffreys recalled Sinatra as "smart-alecky, little, skinny, wide-eyed," adding that although she was never attracted to him the two did become good friends.
During her RKO days, Jeffreys appeared in 15 movies, mostly B films. She made two films in the 1940s as Tess Trueheart, girlfriend of sleuth Dick Tracy.
Seeing no future in Hollywood, Jeffreys returned to New York to appear in a musical version of "Street Scene." She continued in opera, light opera and musicals and played the lead in the touring company of "Kiss Me Kate." Later, she replaced Patricia Morison, the original Kate, in the Broadway production.
It was during the show's New York run that she met Sterling, who was also starring in a New York show. They married in 1951.
In addition to "Topper," Sterling and Jeffreys appeared in their own nightclub act and starred together in another TV series, "Love That Jill" which lasted for half a season in 1958.
Throughout her later career Jeffreys divided her time between television and musical theater, singing on the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows and appearing on numerous sitcoms, dramas and soap operas.
During one hectic period in the 1980s she was featured on two TV series, the daytime soap "General Hospital" and the prime-time drama "Finder of Lost Loves."
Jeffreys also toured the country in musical productions such as "Camelot," "Bells Are Ringing," "Kismet," "Pal Joey," "The King and I," "The Sound of Music" and "Follies."
Her mother, who had aspired to be an opera singer, taught her daughter to sing at an early age, and at 5, Anne made her debut before a local audience. After studying at Anderson College, South Carolina, she launched her career.
Sterling and Jeffreys had three sons, Jeffreys, Dana and Tyler.
"She has a lot of history in Goldsboro," Goldsboro Mayor Chuck Allen said. "She really meant a lot to Goldsboro, especially a lot of our older residents who had ties with her. It's a really sad loss to our community. Our hearts, certainly, go out to the family."
-- Goldsboro News-Argus staff writer Rochelle Moore and the Associated Press contributed to this story.