Don Murray in a publicity portrait for the 1957 movie "The...

Don Murray in a publicity portrait for the 1957 movie "The Bachelor Party." Credit: United Artists/Getty Images

Don Murray, who started out as a star athlete at East Rockaway High School before achieving screen stardom opposite Marilyn Monroe in the 1956 film “Bus Stop,” died Friday. His son Christopher Murray reported his father's death to The New York Times without offering further details. Murray was 94.

As a rugged, ill-mannered cowboy in “Bus Stop,” Murray made an auspicious film debut. He literally swept his blond co-star off her feet — and carried her over his shoulder — and gave a multilayered performance that earned him a supporting actor Oscar nomination. While he got along well with Monroe, he told Newsday in 2016, she wasn't always easy to work with.

“She had a short concentration span,” he said. “We’d start a scene and just as we were getting into it, she would forget what she was doing. It was a real stop-and-go thing. It wasn’t until I saw the film cut together that I appreciated how brilliant she was.”

While a romance never blossomed with Monroe, Murray became taken with another co-star in the film, Hope Lange, who would become his first wife. They had two children and divorced after five years. (He had three more children with his second wife, Betty, whom he married in 1962 and who survives him.)

Murray went on to forge a successful career in provocative films like “A Hatful of Rain” (1957), in which he played a drug addict; “The Bachelor Party,” where he starred as a man trapped in a difficult marriage; and the 1962 political drama “Advise & Consent,” where he played a senator whose homosexual past threatens to destroy his career. Still, he never forgot his Long Island roots. In 2016, he leapt at the invitation from his alma mater to attend a screening of the documentary “Unsung Hero” at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington.

The movie focused not only on his film career, but also on his family, which was steeped in show business — his mother had been a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl and his father was dance director.  It also looked at his years at East Rockaway High School, where he excelled at basketball and track and starred in the school play in his senior year.

Much of “Unsung Hero” dealt with his social activism. Murray had just made his Broadway debut in 1951 in Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo,” when he was called to report for duty during the Korean War. Murray, who was strongly opposed to the war, was arrested after listing himself as a conscientious objector. He ultimately volunteered to work with displaced refugees in Germany and Italy, most of whom were living in caves and barbed-wire camps.

“That was the most important work of my life,” Murray told Newsday. He continued aiding refugees while making films and worked with Italian government officials to get subsidies for parcels of land that were used to create housing, farms and small industries in Sardinia.

Murray's interest in politics and social issues was piqued even more after he received an invitation to the White House in 1962 while making “Advise & Consent.” He had lunch with President John F. Kennedy and got a private tour of the White House from first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

After the 1960s, Murray found fewer screen projects that meshed with his personal and social beliefs, and his career slowed. A resurgence came when he was a regular on the first season of the 1980s prime-time soap “Knots Landing” and 10 years later with guest appearances on David Lynch's quirky “Twin Peaks.”

In addition to his wife and son Christopher, Murray is survived by his other sons, Sean and Mick, and daughters Patricia and Colleen Murray.

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