A graduate of Louisiana State University and New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, Elizabeth Ashley started her professional career as a model and ballet dancer (she had studied with Tatiana Semenova). Ashley was still travelling under her given name of Elizabeth Cole when she made her 1959 Broadway bow in The Highest Tree. She first adopted the billing of "Ashley" for her 1961 breakthrough stage appearance in Take Her, She's Mine, which won her the Theatre World Award. Ashley followed this triumph with her performance as newlywed Corrie Bratter in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park (1963). She made her film debut as Monica Winthrop in The Carpetbaggers (1963), co-starring with then-husband George Peppard (she had previously been married to actor James Farentino). After the 1965 film Ship of Fools, Ashley dropped out of acting for five years. In her candid 1978 autobiography Actress: Postcards From the Road, she attributed her career hiatus to a number of mitigating circumstances: a bout with cancer, a difficult pregnancy, her increasingly unhappy marriage to Peppard, and a professional "freeze-out" because she'd turned down the film version of Barefoot in the Park. By the time she reactivated her career in 1970, Ashley's performances had taken on a harsh, dangerous edge -- which, in the long run, had a most salutary effect on her career. With her searing portrayal of Maggie in the 1974 Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, her comeback was complete. A busier-than-ever character actress in films and on stage, Elizabeth Ashley was also seen on a semiweekly basis as husky-voiced Aunt Frieda on the TV sitcom Evening Shade (1990-1994), which starred fellow Floridian Burt Reynolds.