Dissatisfied with the work she was being offered in Hollywood, Laurie went to New York City in 1955 to work on the live television programs of the 1950s, in such productions as Twelfth Night and Days of Wine and Roses. In 1961 she returned to Hollywood to star opposite Paul Newman in The Hustler, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Once again disenchanted with the work available, Laurie returned to semi-retirement to raise a family. She appeared in the Australian film Tim opposite a very young Mel Gibson, but perhaps her most famous role in her later career was as the fanatically religious mother in Carrie, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She received another Supporting Actress nomination in 1987 for Children of a Lesser God.