Throughout her career, Jill Clayburgh stuck by the credo “Happiness is, as Freud said, love and work,” the actress told PEOPLE in 1979. Her dedication to her work was never in doubt-even as she secretly struggled with chronic leukemia for 21 years, finally succumbing to the disease Nov. 5 at 66 at the Connecticut home she shared with her husband, playwright David Rabe.
“Living with that for as long as she did made her appreciate things,” says Jake Gyllenhaal, her costar in Love and Other Drugs. Colleagues say Clayburgh, a theater actress who made the transition to the big screen, had a “perfectionist streak” but was always happy in front of the camera, from her Oscar-nominated turn in 1978’s An Unmarried Woman to a memorable role on Ally McBeal. “Every set she was on was friendlier and warmer,” James L. Brooks says of the star, whose daughter Lily Rabe, 28, followed her into the business. (She is also survived by her son Michael, 25, and stepson Jason, 38.) Adds Starting Over costar Burt Reynolds: “She was a wonderful actress-and a wonderful person.”