Savage died in her sleep from complications following a series of strokes.
Born Bernice Maxine Lyon in Columbia, South Carolina on February 19, 1921, Savage’s father passed away when she was four. Moving with her mother to Los Angeles with her mother when hse was 10, she caught the acting bug wand started appearing in local theater productions. It was during a workshop production of Golden Boy that the then 22-year old Savage attracted the attention of a studio talent scout.
Upon being hired by Columbia Pictures, Savage was put into roles in a variety of b-pictures starting with One Dangerous Night (1943), an installment in the studio’s “Lone Wolf” detective series. She also made appearances in After Midnight With Boston Blackie (1943) and in comedies such as Two Senoritas From Chicago, Dangerous Blondes and Footlight Glamour (all 1943).
Savage played tough women in the noirs The Unwritten Code (1944), Apology For Murder (1945) and The Last Crooked Mile (1946).
But it was in 1945 when director Edgar G. Ulmer cast Savage as the cigarette-smoking Vera in Detour that she found the role for which she would be best remembered. In the film she memorably bullies tough guy musician Al Roberts (Tom Neal) into doing her bidding. When the film slipped into public domain and began airing on television, it soon sparked a critical reappraisal of the film. In 1992, Detour would become the first film noir to be named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Detour also marked Savage’s fourth co-starring role opposite Neal- the three previous pairings being in Klondike Kate (1943), Two Man Submarine (1944) and The Unwritten Code.
Heading into the 1950s, Savage took only sporadic jobs, mostly in television. Last year, she made her final film appearance in Canadian director Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg.