Lori March, matriarch on ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Secret Storm’

NEW YORK — Lori March, who reigned as the matriarch of the long-running daytime television drama “The Secret Storm” for 13 years, died March 19 in Redding, Conn. She was 90.

The death was confirmed by her stepson Philip Taubman, a former New York Times editor.

Ms. March’s career included work on Broadway, in film, and on prime-time television, but her longest-running role of note was that of Valerie Hill Ames Northcote, whom she played on CBS from 1961 until “The Secret Storm” was canceled in 1974. After her screen husband died, Valerie married her stepdaughter’s psychiatrist, eventually played by Ms. March’s first husband, Alexander Scourby.


Lori von Eltz was born in Los Angeles. Her mother, Peggy Prior, was a screenwriter in the 1920s. Her father, Theodor von Eltz, was a character actor who began his career in silent films and went on to appear in “Topper,” “Magnificent Obsession,” and other films in the 1930s and 1940s. When her parents divorced in 1928, Lori and her brother, Ted, were at the center of a bitter custody battle and placed in a foster home. But when her mother remarried, Lori was adopted by her stepfather, Joseph Moncure March, the screenwriter and poet best known for “The Wild Party.”

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Lori March studied acting at HB Studio and began her career in the early 1950s. Her television debut was on a 1952 episode of “Manhunt” and her Broadway debut in “Cyrano de Bergerac,” starring Jose Ferrer, in 1953. Her other Broadway appearances included “Charley’s Aunt” (1953, also with Ferrer) and “The Chalk Garden” (1955). Her off-Broadway work included John Houseman’s 1954 “Coriolanus,” with Robert Ryan.

She made two feature films, both in 1956 — “Lovers and Lollipops,” a romance praised mostly for its pretty photography, and “Ransom!,” a drama with Glenn Ford and Donna Reed — but devoted most of her time to television. She appeared on anthology series like “Playhouse 90,” “Armstrong Circle Theater,” and “The United States Steel Hour.”

Viewers of “The Twilight Zone” saw her in 1960 as Fritz Weaver’s anxious wife, preparing her family to escape nuclear annihilation by stealing a rocket ship and heading to another planet in the episode “Third From the Sun.” “Perry Mason” fans saw her on five episodes over the years, at least twice as a murder defendant.

Ms. March, who lived in Redding, was widowed three times. Scourby, with whom she had a daughter, Alexandra S. Mackler, died in 1985. In 1988 she married Howard Taubman, a music and theater critic for The Times, who died in 1996. Her third husband, Milton Williams, was a public relations executive. They were married from 1997 until his death in 2008.