"Mockingbird" actress Collin Wilcox Paxton dies

Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:24am EDT
 
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By Mike Barnes

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Collin Wilcox Paxton, who played the white girl who accused a black man of raping her in the classic 1962 film "To Kill a Mockingbird," died October 14 of brain cancer at her home in Highlands, North Carolina. She was 74.

Wilcox Paxton studied at Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio in New York and became an accomplished stage actress who appeared on Broadway starting in 1958 with "The Day the Money Stopped" opposite Richard Basehart.

She went on to work with Tallulah Bankhead in "Crazy October," Geraldine Page in "Strange Interlude" and Ruth Gordon in "La Bonne Soup," as well as in off-Broadway productions of Tennessee Williams' "Camino Real" and "Suddenly, Last Summer."

In "Mockingbird," her major-film debut, Wilcox Paxton portrayed Mayella Violet Ewell, the pressured daughter of a racist (played by James Anderson) who accused Brock Peters' character of rape. The scene in which she is cross-examined by Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch is among the film's most memorable.

Later, Wilcox Paxton appeared in such TV shows as "The Twilight Zone," "Playhouse 90," "The Waltons" and "Columbo." She left Hollywood in the early '80s and returned to her birthplace of Highlands to care for her mother.

Wilcox Paxton rarely appeared professionally after her return to North Carolina. There, she and husband Scott Paxton founded the Highlands Studio for the Arts, which offered arts education classes to children. They also created the Instant Theater Company, a local acting troupe.

In addition to her husband, Wilcox Paxton is survived by her children, Kimberley and Michael.

(Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters)