Catherine Burns
Catherine Burns 1974.JPG
Burns in 1974
Born(1945-09-25)September 25, 1945
New York City, U.S.
DiedFebruary 2, 2019(2019-02-02) (aged 73)
OccupationActress, writer
Years active1967–1989
Kenneth Shire
(m. 1989)

Catherine Burns (September 25, 1945 – February 2, 2019)[1] was an American actress of stage, film, radio and television. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Last Summer (1969).[2]

Early years

Born in New York City of Irish and Polish heritage, Burns was raised in Manhattan, and attended Hunter College High School, Hunter College and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[1][3]


Burns's professional acting debut occurred in David Susskind's TV production of The Crucible (1967).[4] She made her Broadway debut in 1968 in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,[5] for which she received the Clarence Derwent Award.[4] She also appeared in Operation Sidewinder (1970) on Broadway.[5]

In 1970 she won the Theatre World Award for her performance in the off-Broadway play Dear Janet Rosenberg, Dear Mr. Kooning.[citation needed]

Burns made her screen debut in 1969 in Last Summer[6] as sensitive, conservative Rhoda, receiving critical acclaim and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.[3] The role also brought her the 1970 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress.[citation needed] Despite the recognition, Burns never appeared in another theatrically released film after 1971, when she was just 26 years of age.

Her other film credits include Me, Natalie (1969) and Red Sky at Morning (1971).


Burns's television debut was the role of Mary Warren in Arthur Miller's The Crucible (1967). She went on to appear as the original Cathy Craig on One Life to Live in 1969. Her other TV credits include the adaptation of Arthur Miller's play A Memory of Two Mondays (1974), the miniseries The Word (1978), and guest appearances on Love, American Style, Adam-12, Emergency!, The Mod Squad, Police Woman, The Waltons and The Bionic Woman. She continued on television throughout the 1970s and into the mid-1980s, when she turned from acting to writing.


Her children's book, The Winter Bird, was published by Windmill Books in 1971. Staying behind when other birds go south for the winter, a little bird discovers a new way of life in the unusual world of carousel horses. She also wrote screenplays and stage plays, and sold scripts to the CBS soap opera Guiding Light in 1989.[1]


She also was an actress on radio, appearing in 1973 on the Mutual Broadcasting System's series The Zero Hour, hosted by Rod Serling.[citation needed]

Personal life and death

In June 1989, Burns married Kenneth Shire.[2] At the time, she lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.[1] Later in her life, she and Shire resided in a retirement community in Lynden, Washington.[1] Little is known about Burns' life following her acting career; Shire said that she had resented the publicity and scrutiny from it, saying "She hated the movie [Last Summer]... and most everything that came with it. She wanted to be remembered as a published writer of novels."[1]

A 2020 article in The Hollywood Reporter found that, according to Washington state health records, Burns died at age 73 on February 2, 2019, from complications of a fall she had suffered at home, with cirrhosis listed as a contributing factor.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Feinberg, Scott; Johnson, Scott (February 3, 2020). "Catherine Burns: The Vanishing of an Oscar-Nominated Actress". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 3, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Berg, Mary Helen (November 26, 1989). "In Search of... Catherine Burns". Los Angeles Times. p. 30. Retrieved June 26, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Klemesrud, Judy (April 27, 1970). "A Second Career: Children's Books". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Salmans, Sandra (October 25, 1969). "An Academic Dud Before Turning Actress". The Journal News. Ohio, Hamilton. p. 12. Retrieved January 12, 2020 – via
  5. ^ a b "Catherine Burns". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (June 11, 1969). "Last Summer (1969) Screen: 'Last Summer':Cinema I Film Brings Trio of Newcomers". The New York Times.