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The badly decomposed body of the actress and model Margaux Hemingway, who was once described as the face of a generation, was discovered by friends on Monday in her home in Santa Monica, Calif., the police said.

Santa Monica police investigators arrived at Hemingway's studio apartment at 1:52 p.m. after friends made the grisly discovery, said Sgt. Gary Gallinot, a department spokesman.Hemingway, 41, a granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, had not been seen since Friday and friends were concerned, the sergeant said. He said there were no signs of forced entry or foul play.

The friends, whose names were not released by the police, grew worried when Hemingway did not respond to knocks on the door. They asked a laborer working in the neighborhood to get a ladder so they could enter the home through a balcony, Gallinot said.

Officials of the Los Angeles coroner's office said the body was so decomposed that immediate identification was difficult and the police initially would only confirm the body was that of a woman. The cause of death will be determined through an autopsy. Identity was made through dental records.

Hemingway had recently moved into a studio apartment on quiet, leafy street near the beach.

Her agent, David Mirisch, told CNN that she had recently finished a Westinghouse television series narrating an animal show, called "The Wild Guide."

She struggled publicly with alcoholism and bulimia and was treated at the Betty Ford Center in 1988. She made her screen debut in the "Lipstick" in 1976, opposite her younger sister, Mariel. The film, which got negative reviews, was about a young model who was raped then humiliated when the defendant was acquitted by a jury.

The lucrative movie contract was preceded by a successful modeling career, which began with the urging of a former husband, Errol Wetson, the former owner and co-founder of Wetson hamburgers, a fast-food restaurant chain.

Joe Eula, the New York fashion artist, said in 1975 that Hemingway had "the face of a generation, as recognizable and memorable as Lisa Fonssagrives and Jean Shrimpton."

Later that year, she would garner what New Yorker magazine called, "the largest single advertising contract ever involving a female personality," when she signed a $1 million contract to become spokeswoman for Babe, a fragrance line developed by Faberge.

Born in Portland, Ore., in 1955, Hemingway, was the second of the three daughters of John and Byra Hemingway. She was said to have changed her name from Margot when she learned that her parents drank a bottle of Chateau Margaux on the night of her conception.

The family spent several years on Ernest Hemingway's farm in Cuba. They then moved to San Francisco, where her father worked as a stockbroker. In 1967, the family moved once again to mountainous Ketchum, Idaho, where Ernest Hemingway died six years earlier.