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Lynne Marta of 'Footloose' and 'Joe Kidd' dies at 78 after battle with cancer

Lynne Marta, in a hat, has a relaxed smile as she rests her head on her arm, her outstretched foot rests on a metal rail
Lynne Marta appeared in various popular television shows, such as "Starsky & Hutch," "Days of Our Lives" and in the 1977 TV special "David Soul and Friends," while dating Soul. (Walt Disney Television Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Actor Lynne Marta, best known for her roles in films "Footloose" and "Joe Kidd" and as a prolific television actor whose career spanned five decades, has died. She was 78.

Marta died last Thursday in her Los Angeles home after a battle with cancer, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which confirmed the actor's death with her friend, Chris Saint-Hilaire.

Born in New Jersey, Marta's first on-screen role came when she was in her early 20s in 1966, playing a minor character in an episode of the coming-of-age sitcom, "Gidget" alongside future Oscar winner Sally Field. After a run of one-offs in other shows, she booked a role on "Love, American Style," an anthology comedy show in which she appeared in minor parts throughout its first and second seasons.

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Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, she appeared in guest spots for iconic shows, such as "Gunsmoke," "Mod Squad" and "Charlie's Angels" and four episodes of "Starsky & Hutch." Marta and David Soul, who played Sgt. Kenneth Richard "Hutch" Hutchinson, began dating while she was on the show. Soul, who died one week before Marta, told People in 1983 that the pair dated throughout the show's four seasons and had an open relationship. The two also appeared together in 1977 in the TV special "David Soul and Friends."

On the big screen, Marta became more widely known for her part in Clint Eastwood's 1972 western "Joe Kidd." In the film, Eastwood's gun-for-hire character falls for Marta's Elma, the girlfriend of a wealthy, murderous landowner played by Robert Duvall. More than a decade later, Marta appeared in the hit musical drama "Footloose" in 1984; she played Lulu Warnicker, an aunt of Kevin Bacon's Ren and one of the many conservative townspeople who frown on dancing.

In 1989, Marta also made headlines as a witness in the murder trial of a man accused of shooting and killing fellow Hollywood actor Rebecca Schaeffer, who died at 21. Marta lived down the hall from Schaeffer in the same Fairfax District apartment. During the incident, Marta was home and said she had heard a gunshot and subsequent screaming.

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“The door shook, the wall shook,” Mart said in court, according to The Times' coverage of the trial in 1989. “The cat went up into the air. I fell to my knees and crawled into the bedroom. Then, I heard Rebecca’s first scream.”

She then called 911.

“She was still screaming while I was talking to 911,” Marta continued. “By the time I got to the door, she was wailing. I opened the small hatch in my door. There was a smell I’ll never forget: the smell of gunfire. It was quiet except for light moaning.”

Robert John Bardo, a 19-year-old fan of Schaeffer's who had been stalking her, was convicted of Schaeffer's murder. Her death would lead to the passage of tougher anti-stalking laws in California.

After the trial, Marta spent the next two decades playing small roles in popular television shows such as "Law & Order," "Passions," "Crossing Jordan," "ER" and "Days of Our Lives." Marta played her last role in 2004, appearing as an attendant in the second season of the Emmy-winning NBC drama, "American Dreams."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.