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Anna Lee

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A car accident left actress Anna Lee paralyzed from the waist down shortly after she joined the cast of the soap opera " General Hospital. "

Ms. Lee, who had a nearly 70-year acting career in movies and television, portrayed Lila Quartermaine in a wheelchair for more than two decades until she left the popular soap last year, her son, Jeffrey Byron said.

Ms. Lee, who was to be honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony, died Friday of pneumonia, Byron said. She was 91.

The actress, whose breakthrough role was in " How Green Was My Valley, " had been ailing for the past several months and died at her home near Beverly Hills with her son by her side.

Born in Kent, England, Ms. Lee studied acting in London and was known as " the British bombshell " when touring with the London Repertory Theatre, her son said.

In the early 1930s she moved to California to work in Hollywood, and appeared in more than 60 films including " The Sound of Music " (1965), " Fort Apache " (1948) and " King Solomon ' s Mines " (1937).

" She was beautiful, " said actress Maureen O ' Hara, who starred with Ms. Lee in 1941 ' s " How Green Was My Valley. " " She came to the United States and immediately everybody fell in love with her. "

O ' Hara said Ms. Lee was most effective as an actress in straightforward tales of love and family life. " She made you feel, looking at her, that you belonged to the same family as her, " she said.

Nearing retirement age, Ms. Lee ' s stint on ABC ' s " General Hospital " rejuvenated her, Byron said. " That was really a great elixir for her. Without a doubt it gave her much more longevity later in life, " he said.

In 1982, Ms. Lee received an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire award.

Ms. Lee was married three times first to Robert Stevenson, the director of dozens of films including " The Love Bug " and " Mary Poppins, " then to George Stafford for two decades and finally writer Robert Nathan, who died in 1985.

Ms. Lee is survived by two sons, two daughters, a sister, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on May 20, 2004
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