Lois Smith, a much-admired veteran movie publicist and the mother of Grey’s Anatomy actress Brooke Smith, died Sunday afternoon after suffering a brain hemorrhage due to an accidental fall, Deadline reports. She was 84.
The New York-based industry trailblazer was in Maine, where her husband, Eugene Smith, was set to be recognized for his philanthropic work. Smith fell down the stairs late Saturday night at the bed-and-breakfast where they were staying.
A maternal figure to both stars and journalists who tended to adore her in equal doses, Smith, along with Pat Kingsley and Patricia Newcomb, helped establish the publicity firm of PMK (initially known as Pickwick, it merged with Maslansky/Koenigsberg) as an A-list leader. As a publicist, Smith was as involved in shaping images as she was in promoting specific movies, and always with a personal touch.
Among her clients were Robert Redford (their professional marriage went back to the late ’60s, when his star was launched with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), as well as Marilyn Monroe, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Whitney Houston.
Steven Bach, a United Artists executive and author of the 1985 book Final Cut, about the studio’s Heaven’s Gate disaster five years before, described Smith as having the softest shoulder to lean on in the business.
In 2003, Smith was presented the Publicists Guild’s lifetime achievement award, with Scorsese paying tribute to the woman he described as a “beacon in the industry,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
By 2010, she had retired (and the foundation of her career, PMK, had been re-named PMK*BNC after another merger). “I’m so glad I’m not doing publicity now,” she said in an interview, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “Between celebrity magazines and websites, there’s so much out there to be filled up, so much information that has to be put out there simply because those publications exist.”
As Scorsese said, “What matters to her is the art, as it should be.”
She is survived by three children, Eric, Luke and Brooke, four grandchildren and her husband.