Zelda Rubinstein Dies

Poltergeist actress was 76

Zelda Rubinstein, best known for her role as Poltergeist's diminutive psychic, has died in Los Angeles. She was 76.

The actress, who died at Barlow Respiratory Hospital after suffering a recent heart attack, made her screen debut in Chevy Chase's 1981 screwball farce Under The Rainbow. It was a year later, though, that she landed the part she'll be best remembered as Tangina Barrons, the Freeling family's guide to the spirit world in Poltergeist.

The New Yorker's Pauline Kael enthused that Tangina "gives the movie new life, and she makes a large chunk of it work. . . . She emanates the eerie calm of someone who is used to dealing with tricky, deceiving ghosts."

Rubinstein went on to reprise the role in Poltergeist 2: The Other Side and Poltergeist 3. She also appeared in John Hughes' coming-of-age comedy Sixteen Candles, Teen Witch and most recently Southland Tales.

The character actress was a passionate campaigner for HIV/AIDs awareness from as early as 1984. At 4 foot 3 inches, she was also an often outspoken advocate for the rights of little people, setting up a theatre company and giving her charges the advice: "Become an actor and your world will get much bigger."

Rubinstein has no immediate surviving family members.