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Technically, Marty's mother, Catherine Scorsese and Mimi Stark, star of the NYU short What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? were His first leading ladies. Zina Bethune, actress, dancer, choreographer, animal lover, and star of Marty's debut feature, Who's That Knocking at My Door?, met with a tragic end shortly after midnight Sunday.

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Ms. Bethune pulled over along Forest Lawn Drive in L.A. to come to the aide of a wounded possum. She was hit by an oncoming car that propelled her across the street where she was struck by another vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

A former New York City Ballet soloist and the founder of a Los Angeles multimedia dance and theatrical company, Ms. Bethune starred opposite Harvey Keitel as "The Girl" (no names, please) in Who's That Knocking at My Door? She plays a rape victim rejected by Keitel due to her lack of purity. It's one of the most brutally honest depictions of a man's fear of the opposite sex ever filmed.

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Harvey Keitel and Zina Bethune in Who's That Knocking at My Door?

Before Marty, she played Anna Roosevelt in the film version of Sunrise at Campobello, and had recurring roles in two soap operas, Guiding Light and The Doctors and the Nurses. The rest of her acting career was devoted to one-shot appearances in well-known television series (Gunsmoke, CHiPS, Party of Five).

At age 6 she started formal ballet training at George Balanchine's School of American Ballet in New York City. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 11 and hip dysplasia when she turned 17. "I was born with everything that said I wouldn't be a dancer," she told The L.A. Times in 1985. "Every surgeon who sees my X-rays says, 'You can't dance.' But I have all my life. Some doctors told me that, if I hadn't danced, I'd have been a cripple."

Image "The Girl."

She founded Bethune Theatredanse in 1980, a multimedia performance company and two years later launched Dance Outreach, now known as Infinite Dreams, which currently enrolls about 1,000 disabled children in dance-related activities throughout Southern California.

Bethune is survived by her husband, Sean Feeley, and her mother, Ivy. The hit-and-run accident that claimed her life occurred just five days short of her 67th birthday.

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Comments

Visduh Feb. 15, 2012 @ 8:59 p.m.

As I read this, I had to go back to the top and check that the author was not Mencken. As I've said many times, it is often hard to separate reality from satire. She was killed while rescuing an injured 'possum? You gotta be kidding! Surreal doesn't begin to describe it. But then life is often stranger than fiction, and ironic too.

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Scott Marks Feb. 15, 2012 @ 10:20 p.m.

Believe me, were it anybody else I'd have had a field day with the possum angle. She was in Marty's first film. I can't be rude.

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