Sylvia Miles

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Sylvia Miles
Sylvia Miles on Duval Street.jpg
Sylvia Miles on Duval Street during the filming of 92 in the Shade in November 1974.
Born Disputed
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Actors Studio
Occupation Actress
Spouse(s) Ted Brown (September 4, 1963 – 1970; divorced)
Gerald Price (1952–1960; divorced)
William Miles (1948–1950; divorced)

Sylvia Miles (born September 9, 1932 (?))[1] is an American film, stage and television actress, twice nominated for an Academy Award. She was born and raised in Greenwich Village, where her father was a furniture maker.[2]


Miles played the role of "Sally" in the pilot episode of what would become The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was later taken by Rose Marie for the series.[3] She appeared in two episodes of Naked City, including once as a lovely barfly attempting to communicate with a psychotic Jack Warden.[4]

She may be best known for her role in Midnight Cowboy as a well-to-do middle-aged New Yorker, who invites Joe Buck (Jon Voight) up to her penthouse apartment for sex. The role earned her an Oscar nomination in 1969 for Best Supporting Actress, despite only appearing on screen for about six minutes.[5] She received a second Oscar nomination for her slightly larger role (eight minutes) as Best Supporting Actress in 1975 for her role in Farewell, My Lovely.[3]

In 1978, she played a cameo in the Indian suspense film Shalimar. She appeared in the 1982 film version of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun, portraying a Broadway producer, one of her more mainstream film roles. She played a real estate agent in the Michael Douglas-Oliver Stone film Wall Street (1987), a role she would reprise in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.[4]

Over the years, Miles has become a cult figure, both for her ties to avant-garde personalities (including Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey) and her increasingly bizarre appearance over the years and her willingness to attend any public function. Wayland Flowers and his puppet Madame first uttered the widely quoted line "Sylvia Miles and Andy Warhol would attend the opening of a sewer". Another source quotes Flowers as saying, "Sylvia Miles would attend the opening of an envelope", while in 1976, People Magazine repeated the same joke without citing a source.[2][6]

Miles starred in Warhol's 1972 film Heat. She also was featured in mainstream films including 92 in the Shade, Critical Condition, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday, Crossing Delancey and the 1989 comedy She-Devil, in which she played the mother of Meryl Streep's character.

In a New York restaurant in 1973 she publicly dumped a plate of food onto critic John Simon's head for his insulting comments about her in a review.[7]

Her most recent acting roles have been on Sex and the City, One Life to Live, and the films Go Go Tales and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (reprising her role from the first film, as a real estate agent).[4]


On May 30, 2014, it was reported that Miles had been hospitalized with apparent severe anemia.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miles' year of birth is wildly disputed.
    a) NNDb cites 1923
    b) Miles herself has, since at least 1976, claimed her year of birth as 1934, which, while consistent, is unreliable, given its source.
    c) The once ubiquitous 1932 year of birth estimate probably derives from this article in People Magazine, which gives her age on October 31, 1988 as 56; it may carry the most weight if the information was provided by her third and final husband, Ted Brown, who is included in the article, which details an on-air radio dialogue between the two, long since divorced at the time. Brown, however, also claimed he never knew Miles' real name or year of birth.
    d) This genealogy record (via ship manifest indicates that a Sylvia Miles, aged 22, traveled on The Queen of Bermuda, from Bermuda back to New York in November 1950; clearly indicating a birth year of 1928. The date of birth unfortunately is not listed on this manifest, although other manifests do list such information, however her address is given as 11 Waverly Place, Greenwich Village; her father was a Greenwich Village furniture maker.
    e) This genealogy record (via ship manifest indicates that a Sylvia Miles, also of 11 Waverly Place, traveling aboard the American steamship "Evangeline", arrived at the Port of New York on August 4, 1950, aged 25, indicating 1924 as her year of birth given her date of birth, or possibly 1925 depending on the meticulousness of the records.
  2. ^ a b Judy Kessler. "What Would a Manhattan Party Be Without the Ubiquitous Sylvia Miles?", People Magazine, October 18, 1976, Vol. 6 No. 16
  3. ^ a b New York Times profile of Miles
  4. ^ a b c Sylvia Miles at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Miles' profile,; accessed November 20, 2014.
  6. ^ New York Magazine reference to Sylvia Miles,; accessed November 20, 2014.
  7. ^ NPR website referencing John Simon-Sylvia Miles altercation,; accessed October 8, 2014.
  8. ^ "Sylvia Miles ailing",, May 30, 2014; accessed October 8, 2014.

External links[edit]