Sylvia Miles  

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"Quirky, funny, busty blonde New York character actress." --Cult Movie Stars (1991)

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Sylvia Miles (née Lee; September 9, 1924 – June 12, 2019) was an American actress. She was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performances in Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Farewell, My Lovely (1975).

Early life

Miles was born and raised in Greenwich Village, New York City where her father worked as a furniture maker. According to an I-94 entry card from a 1962 flight that Miles took from London to New York, she was born on September 9, 1924. Miles stated her parents' names were "Reuben and Belle". She was educated at Washington Irving High School and the Actors Studio.


Miles began her career on stage in 1947 and on television and film in 1954. In the early 1960s, she played the role of Sally Rogers in the pilot episode of what would become The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was later taken by Rose Marie for the series. She appeared Off-Broadway in “Ruthless!” The Musical (1992) at the Players Theatre, NYC, playing Sylvia St. Croix, originally played by Joel Vig in drag, she was one of the few females to play the role. Miles was cast in the film Midnight Cowboy (1969) as an aging Park Avenue kept-woman, who invites Joe Buck (Jon Voight) up to her penthouse apartment for sex. The role earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, although she appeared on-screen for about six minutes. She received a second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her slightly larger role (eight minutes) in Farewell, My Lovely (1975).

Miles had a cameo role in the Indian suspense film Shalimar (1978). She appeared in the film version of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun (1982), portraying a Broadway producer, one of her more mainstream film roles. She played real-estate agent Dolores in the Oliver Stone film Wall Street (1987), a role she reprised in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010).

Wayland Flowers and his puppet Madame first uttered the widely quoted line, "Sylvia Miles and Andy Warhol would attend the opening of an envelope". In 1976, People magazine repeated the joke without citing a source. Miles starred in Warhol's film Heat (1972). She was also featured in mainstream films including 92 in the Shade, Critical Condition, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday, Crossing Delancey, and the 1989 comedy She-Devil, in which she played the mother of Meryl Streep's character.

In a New York restaurant in 1973, Miles publicly dumped a plate of food onto critic John Simon's head for his negative comments about her in a film review. In her final years, Miles appeared in a few roles on television such as Sex and the City and One Life to Live, and in the films Go Go Tales and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Selected filmography

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