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Dorothy Hart, 82; actress began career as cover girl

LOS ANGELES -- Dorothy Hart, a 1940s cover girl whose brief Hollywood career included playing the female lead in the film-noir classic "The Naked City" and Jane opposite Lex Barker's Tarzan in "Tarzan's Savage Fury," has died. She was 82.

Ms. Hart died of complications of Alzheimer's disease Sunday in a long-term care facility in Arden, N.C.

A Cleveland native, Ms. Hart had been a homecoming queen at Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University when a newspaperman friend entered her photo in Columbia Pictures's 1944 "National Cover Girl" contest.

As the winner in a field of 20,000 contestants, Ms. Hart was offered a movie contract at Columbia. But Ms. Hart, who had gained some acting experience in productions at the Cleveland Playhouse, turned it down.

"I knew I wasn't ready for it," Ms. Hart said in a 1950 interview. "Instead of taking the contract, I went to New York and started studying drama."

Initially working for an oral surgeon to pay to support herself, she got a job modeling and landed on the covers of Cosmopolitan, McCall's, and Esquire.

It was only then that Ms. Hart thought she was ready for Hollywood.

Originally signed to Columbia Pictures and later under contract to Universal and Warner Bros., she made her film debut opposite Randolph Scott in the 1947 western "Gunfighters."

A year later, she won national attention for her role in "The Naked City," the acclaimed crime drama set in New York City starring Barry Fitzgerald and Howard Duff.

In five years, Ms. Hart appeared in 15 films, including co-starring with Frank Lovejoy in the 1951 drama "I Was a Communist for the FBI."

In 1952, the year her Tarzan epic and her last film, "Loan Shark" with George Raft, were released, Ms. Hart moved to New York.

"I can't stand mediocrity," she had said in a 1948 Los Angeles Times interview. "As long as I feel I'm learning and progressing, fine; but if ever I realize I can't be a really fine actress, I'll quit the business and try something else. There are too many wonderful things to do with one's life."

After leaving Hollywood, she spent a couple of years playing leading roles in television drama showcases such as "Broadway Television Theater," "Four Star Playhouse," and "Goodyear Television Playhouse." She later was a panelist on "I've Got a Secret" and she was a regular on "Mike Stokey's Pantomime Quiz" and "Stump the Stars."

While living in New York, Ms. Hart was appointed by Eleanor Roosevelt to the American Association of the United Nations speakers committee and in 1959 she was an observer for the United States to the World Federation of United Nations Association meeting in Geneva.

Twice married and divorced, Ms. Hart leaves her son, Douglas Pittera of Fairfield, Conn.; three grandchildren; and her sister, Elizabeth Akers of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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