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A view of two 'Bridge' stars, 12 years apart

From the top of the stranger-than-fiction file: Brittany Murphy and Scarlett Johansson wouldn't seem to have much in common beyond gender and prior experience on the silver screen.

But Murphy, the troubled 32-year-old Hollywood actress who died Dec. 20 of causes still being investigated, beat Johansson to a Broadway debut in the same role by 12 years. In 1997, Murphy played Catherine, the 17-year-old niece of a Brooklyn longshoreman in "A View From the Bridge," Arthur Miller's 1955 mythic drama of Italian immigrants and inappropriate lust.

Anthony LaPaglia was the uncle who loved her the wrong way, with Allison Janney as his long-suffering wife. I recall that Murphy, fresh off her breakthrough in "Clueless," was directed by Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening") as a cavalcade of squirmy mannerisms, part adolescent, part puppy in a push-up bra - a cartoonist's vision of a baby Jayne Mansfield as played by Sandy Dennis. This would be her only Broadway appearance, before she focused on a movie career that included "8 Mile" and "Sin City."

Johansson, 25, is currently in previews to play the same alluring teen, with Liev Schreiber as her obsessed uncle. Gregory Mosher's production opens Jan. 24 at the Cort Theatre.

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