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HEPBURN, AUDREY (Edda Kathleen van Hemmstra Hepburn-Ruston) (1929–1993) Actress

During her lifetime, film star Audrey Hepburn was celebrated both for her elegant beauty on screen and for her tireless charity work. On May 4, 1929, she was born Edda Kathleen van Hemmstra HepburnRuston in Brussels, Belgium. The wealth of her mother, who was a Dutch baroness, provided her with a happy, though sheltered, upbringing, even after her English father abandoned the family in 1935. As part of the divorce settlement, Edda was sent to school in England in order to be closer to him. At nine, she began taking ballet lessons with an eye toward pursuing a professional dance career.

At the beginning of World War II, Edda and her mother moved to Holland, hoping to escape Nazi control. The Nazis, however, soon invaded the country and seized her mother’s fortunes. They were forced to fiee into the countryside, where young Edda nearly died from malnutrition. Her life was saved only by food and supplies provided by relief workers. The experience was so traumatic that Hepburn later turned down a chance to play Holocaust victim Anne Frank, feeling that Frank’s wartime experiences in Holland had too many uncomfortable parallels to her own.

After the war, Hepburn returned to London and resumed her ballet studies. Convinced she could not succeed as a ballerina, she began modeling and dancing in musical theater. She also took bit parts in English movies, including The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and Monte Carlo Baby (1952). The filming of the latter took her the Riviera, where she had a chance meeting with the French author Colette. Colette became Hepburn’s champion, insisting that the young actress be cast in the Broadway show Gigi, based on one of the writer’s novels. Hepburn initially refused the part, convinced that with her limited acting experience she could not carry a show on her own. She was eventually persuaded to take on the role, though she was fired and rehired twice during rehearsals. Her performance steadily improved, and when the show premiered, she was hailed as a major new talent.

Hepburn’s success as Gigi earned her the lead in the American movie Roman Holiday (1953). In it, her natural grace and charm were used to their best advantage as she played a runaway princess looking for a brief escape from her official duties during a tour of Italy. For her first major film performance, the 24-year-old Hepburn won an Academy Award for best actress. Three days later, she took home a Tony Award as well for the Broadway show Ondine (1954). Hepburn soon afterward married her Ondine costar, Mel Ferrer; the couple had a son in 1960.

Almost overnight, Hepburn emerged as one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. She used the situation to negotiate an advantageous, long-term contract with Paramount. In addition to guaranteeing her the opportunity to fit theater roles into her schedule, it allowed her script approval of her movie projects. As a result, Hepburn escaped being cast just as the romantic partner for male stars. Instead, most of her movies focused on her, often telling stories of young women who grow and mature through new experiences and hardships.

In her second major role, Hepburn played the titular character in Sabrina (1953), a comedy that had her character bloom from an innocent into a sophisticate during a sojourn in Paris. The film improbably paired her romantically with Humphrey Bogart, who was then more than twice her age and looked it. Such “May-December” relationships became a common feature in Hepburn’s movies. In nearly half of her films, her romantic partners were more than 20 years her senior. Sabrina brought Hepburn a second Oscar nomination. She would be so honored three more times for the films The Nun’s Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), and Wait Until Dark (1967).

During the filming of Sabrina, Hepburn became acquainted with the fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, who remained her close friend throughout her life. As Givenchy’s muse, Hepburn set fashion trends on- and offscreen by wearing his classic, simple designs. His sophisticated clothes on her slender frame helped create an alternative to the then-prevailing standard of Hollywood beauty as personified by curvy bombshells such as MARILYN MONROE. To this day, Hepburn’s impeccable sense of style has continued to have a significant impact on popular fashion. In the 1960s, Hepburn appeared in two of her signature roles: Holly Golightly in the romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and Eliza Doolittle in the musical My Fair Lady (1967). In both parts, she played a poor girl who re-creates herself as a fashionable urbanite, though Hepburn’s innately regal manner made her fairly unconvincing as the characters before their glorious transformations. Critics were particularly hard on her for her performance in My Fair Lady, largely because many felt the then-lesser-known Julie Andrews, who had originated the role on Broadway, had deserved the part. Hepburn herself was disappointed when the filmmakers decided to dub over her own sweet but weak singing voice in the musical numbers.

The decade saw Hepburn in several more memorable films, including Two for the Road (1967) and Wait Until Dark (1967), which was produced by her husband Mel Ferrer. The next year, the couple divorced, and in 1969 Hepburn married Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti. They had a son in 1970 and were divorced in 1982. After retiring in 1967 to spend more time with her family, Hepburn returned to the screen in the mature love story Robin and Marian (1976). The film costarred Sean Connery, who proved to be one of her strongest leading men. Hepburn continued to appear occasionally in small roles in feature films and made-for-TV movies. Her final screen part was an angel in Steven Spielberg’s disappointing Always (1989).

Hepburn devoted her final years to what she regarded as her most important role: serving as the international “goodwill ambassador” for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Fueled by her own gratitude to the relief workers who saved her as a child, Hepburn took her position extremely seriously. She not only raised millions of dollars in relief funds, she also traveled constantly, making personal appearances in the most war-torn and disease-ridden areas of the globe to bring world attention to the miserable living conditions of the people there. Hepburn’s efforts were particularly instrumental in escalating the United States’s relief for famine victims in Somalia. Her devotion to UNICEF ended only with her death from colon cancer on January 20, 1993. Later that year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posthumously gave Hepburn the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her charitable works.

Further Reading:
Keogh, Pamela Clarke. Audrey Style. New York: Harper Collins, 1999.
Paris, Barry. Audrey Hepburn. New York: Putnam, 1996.
Vermilye, Jerry. The Complete Films of Audrey Hepburn. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing, 1995.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Paramount, DVD/VHS, 1999/1996.
My Fair Lady (1964). Warner Home Video, DVD, 1998.
Sabrina (1954). Paramount, VHS, 1998.


BAEZ, JOAN (1941– ) Singer, Songwriter, Musician

The queen of 1960s folk music, Joan Baez is as well known for her political activism as for her pure soprano. She was born on January 9, 1941, in Staten Island, New York but her family moved frequently in her youth. Her father, a physicist of Mexican heritage, was an academic researcher who had eschewed more lucrative defense work on moral grounds. Joan’s parents, both Quakers, nurtured her social conscience. Her mistreatment by schoolmates because of her dark skin also contributed to her sympathy with the less fortunate.

While attending high school in Palo Alto, California, Baez began playing the guitar. After graduating in 1958, she enrolled at Boston University but soon became caught up in the renaissance of folk music pioneered by Pete Seeger and the Kingston Trio. Playing coffeehouses in Boston and Cambridge, Baez developed a reputation as a keen interpreter of classic folk. In the summer of 1959, she was invited to perform at the first Newport Folk Festival. Her performance made her an overnight star of the folk scene. Baez refused better-paying offers to sign with Vanguard Records, then the premier folk label. In 1960, Vanguard released Joan Baez, an album of traditional folk songs, including “House of the Rising Sun.” The first of Baez’s eight gold records, it reached number three on the charts. Baez continued to tour concert halls and campuses to growing crowds. In 1963, she played to an audience of more than 20,000 at Los Angeles’s Hollywood Bowl. Baez constantly broadened her repertoire, singing spirituals, hymns, and country and western tunes. She also sang songs by contemporary folk and rock artists, including Phil Ochs, Leonard Cohen, the Beatles, and most notably Bob Dylan. In addition to touring frequently together, Baez and Dylan became linked romantically.

By the mid-1960s, Baez was using her celebrity status to bring attention to political and social causes she held dear. In 1964, she refused to pay 60 percent of her income tax as a protest against the United States’s military arms buildup. A vehement opponent of the Vietnam War, Baez was arrested two years later for blocking the doors of an armed forces induction center. She married draft resister David Harris in 1968. Soon after she became pregnant with their son Gabriel, Harris was arrested and sent to federal prison for 20 months.

Baez’s antiwar stance won her both supporters and detractors. She was scheduled in 1967 to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., a venue controlled by the conservative Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). When the DAR refused to allow her to play the hall, Baez gave an outdoor concert at the Washington Monument that attracted a crowd of more 30,000. Baez was also well-received when she performed at the legendary Woodstock concert in 1969.

In the 1970s, Baez developed her talents as a songwriter with such albums as Blessed Are . . . (1971) and Diamonds & Ruse (1975). The decade also brought her her greatest commercial successa cover of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” one of the biggest singles of 1972. The same year, Baez began a long-term association with the human rights watchdog group Amnesty International and took a controversial tour of North Vietnam. In 1979, she helped found Humanitas International Human Rights Committee, an organization devoted to promoting human rights and nuclear disarmament through educational seminars.

In her autobiography And a Voice to Sing With (1987), Baez wrote of “the ashes and silence of the 1980s”—a decade that largely ignored both her music and politics. Nevertheless, she performed to acclaim at the Live Aid concert of 1985 and garnered a Grammy nomination for “Asimbonanga,” a song from Recently (1987), her first studio album in eight years.

Baez devoted much of the early 1990s on what she called “inner work,” including therapy to help her overcome stage fright and other phobias that had plagued her for years. At the same time, she discovered a new generation of singer-songwriters playing, in Baez’s words, “this folk/rock kind of music that still suits me best.” Baez’s own work was revitalized as she began touring with younger artists such as Dar Williams, Indigo Girls, and Sinead Lohan. Heading into her sixth decade in music, Baez maintained that she could now perform “a freer concert than I ever thought I could give.” As she told the New York Times in 2000, in recent years she has succeeded in “get[ting] past the myth of being Joan Baez and learn[ing] to enjoy my life.”

Further Reading
Baez, Joan. And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir. New York: Summit Books, 1987.
Fuss, Charles. Joan Baez: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1996.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Rare, Live and Classic. Vanguard, CD set, 1993.


KELLY, GRACE (Princess Grace,Grace Patricia Kelly) (1929–1982) Actress

Although Grace Kelly’ s film career lasted only five years, she remains one of the most luminous stars in Hollywood history. On November 12, 1929, she was born Grace Patricia Kelly into a wealthy Philadelphia family. Her mother was a former model, and her banker father had been a champion oarsman in the 1920 Olympics. Although shy as a girl, she made her stage debut at the age of 10. A blue-eyed blond with aristocratic features, Kelly embarked on a successful modeling career while studying at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the late 1940s. She longed to act on the stage, a goal aided by her uncle George, a Pulitzer prize–winning playwright. Kelly first appeared on Broadway in 1949 in August Strindberg’s The Father but, to her disappointment, had trouble landing other stage roles, perhaps because
of her weak voice. She had much more success in television. In 1949 and 1950, she appeared in some 60 television programs.

In 1950 Kelly set her sights on feature films. Moving to Los Angeles, she appeared in Fourteen Hours (1951) before being cast in her breakthrough role as Gary Cooper’s Quaker wife in the classic western High Noon (1952). Signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Kelly was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for Mogambo (1953), in which she acted opposite Clark Gable. The following year, she won the best actress Oscar for The Country Girl (1954), beating out the favorite, JUDY GARLAND. In the film, she played down her stunning beauty to portray the bitter wife of an alcoholic. More characteristic of her film roles were the three movies she subsequently made with director Alfred Hitchcock: Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), and To Catch a Thief (1955). In these films, Hitchcock made the most of her “ice queen” facade that always suggested a red-hot passion smoldering just beneath the surface. The director once characterized Kelly’s unique appeal as “sexual elegance.”

By 1955, Kelly was the most popular female star in American film. That spring, while attending the Cannes Film Festival in France, she met Prince Rainier III during a photo shoot for the French magazine Paris Match. Hailing from one of Europe’s oldest royal families, Rainier ruled over Monaco, a tiny country smaller than the MGM lot in Los Angeles. The two met again months later at the house of a friend of the Kelly family. Within a week, they announced their engagement. On April 19, 1956, Kelly married Rainier in a televised ceremony and thereafter became known to the world as Princess Grace. Her professional career effectively came to an end. Her final two films, High Society and The Swan, were both released in 1956.

As Princess Grace, Kelly devoted the rest of her life to raising her three children—Caroline, Stephanie, and Albert—and to performing charity work. She earned the affection of the people of Monaco and, through her glamour, helped revive the country’s tourist industry, particularly by making its casinos a favored destination of the rich. Although she was said to be living a fairy tale, she seemed to have missed acting. It is rumored that Hitchcock offered her the lead role in Marnie in 1964, but she hesitantly turned it down because her husband objected. (The role then went to Tippi Hedren, who bore a superficial resemblance to Kelly.) In her final years, Kelly took an apartment in Paris and began spending less and less time at her husband’ s palace.

On September 12, 1982, while driving home to Monaco with her daughter Stephanie, Kelly lost control of her car, which plunged off the twisting mountain road. Stephanie was largely unhurt, but Kelly sustained substantial injuries. Two days later, she died without regaining consciousness. Doctors later determined that she had probably suffered a mild stroke just before the crash. The sudden death of Grace Kelly stunned her fans around the world, who could scarcely believe that such a seemingly charmed life could end so tragically.

Further Reading
Bradford, Sarah. Princess Grace. New York: Stein and Day, 1984.
Lacey, Robert. Grace. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.
Spada, James. Grace: The Secret Life of a Princess. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
The Country Girl (1955). Paramount, VHS, 1998.
High Noon (1952). Republic, DVD, 1999.
Rear Window: Collector’s Edition (1954). Universal, DVD/VHS, 2001/2000.


HAYWORTH, RITA (Margarita Carmen Cansino, Rita Cansino) (1918–1987) Actress, Dancer

Dubbed the “American Sex Goddess” by  Time magazine, Rita Hayworth was one of the 1940s’ most popular film stars. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17, 1918, she was the daughter of a Spanish dancer in vaudeville and a Ziegfeld chorus girl. Hoping to break into movies, her father, Eduardo, moved the family from Brooklyn to Los Angeles when Margarita was nine. He found work teaching dance and staging film dance sequences until his adolescent daughter emerged as a great beauty. At 12, she left school to become Eduardo’s professional dance partner. Billed as the “Dancing Cansinos,” they performed as many as 20 shows a week.

Margarita soon drew the attention of Hollywood talent scouts. In 1934, a screen test won her a sixmonth contract with the Fox studio, which shortened her first name to Rita. She appeared as a dancer in one scene in Dante ’s Inferno (1935). Her other work for Fox was left on the cutting room fioor. Released from her contract, Rita Cansino put her career in the hands of Edward Judson, a shady businessman to whom she was married from 1937 to 1942. Judson found her freelance acting jobs in B movies until Columbia signed the starlet to a sevenyear contract. The studio re-created Cansino, positioning her as a glamour girl instead of as an “ethnic” actress as Fox had. To complete this transformation, they raised her hairline through electrolysis and christened her Rita Hayworth. (Her new surname was a variant spelling of her mother’s maiden name.) Hayworth, a shy woman whoconsidered herself a dancer with a fiair for comedy, was not wholly at ease with her new, sexier image.

At Columbia, Hayworth continued to be cast in forgettable low-budget films before appearing as the second female lead in Howard Hawks’s Only Angels Have Wings (1939). The role led to substantial parts in Blood and Sand and The Strawberry Blonde (both 1941). But she finally achieved stardom when cast as Fred Astaire’s dance partner in the musical You’ll Never Get Rich (1941). With its success, Hayworth performed in series of wartime musicals, playing a young, all-American beauty. The most notable included You Were Never Lovelier (1942), again costarring Fred Astaire, and Cover Girl (1944) with Gene Kelly. During  World War II, Hayworth was also famous for a photograph that appeared in the August 11, 1941, issue of Life magazine. Showing her facing the camera while kneeling in lingerie, the image became one of the most popular pin-ups of soldiers overseas. In a dubious tribute to Hayworth, the photograph was taped to a test atomic bomb dropped on the Bikini Atoll in 1946.

After the war, Hayworth found several of her best roles in films noir. In Gilda (1946), she was both smoldering and vulnerable in the title role. In perhaps her most indelible screen moment, she performed in the film a memorable striptease, pulling off long black gloves while singing “Put the Blame on Mame.” (As in most of her films, her singing voice was dubbed.) The sexy image of Gilda haunted Hayworth’s personal life. She was famously quoted as saying, “Every man I’ve known has fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me.”Hayworth cut her trademark red hair and dyed it blond to play another femme fatale in The Lady from Shanghai (1948). The film’s director was the acclaimed Orson Welles, who became Hayworth’s second husband in 1943 and the father of her daughter Barbara. Called “the beauty and the brain” by the press, they were one of Hollywood’s most sensational couples until she divorced Welles soon after their one film together was completed. Of the marriage’s failure, she once said, “I just can’t take his genius anymore.”

The year before her divorce, Hayworth took a vacation to Europe, where she met Prince Aly Khan. Although both were married at the time, they began a public romance. The tabloid coverage on the couple made Hayworth an international celebrity. Their marriage in May 1949 and the birth of their daughter, Yasmin, seven months later were also widely reported. Like all of Hayworth’s marriages, this union did not last long, probably because of Aly’s philandering. They were divorced in 1953. In 1951, Hayworth returned to Hollywood after a three-year absence. She had successes with films such as Affair in Trinidad (1952), Pal Joey (1957), and Separate Tables (1958), but she was unable to revive the popularity she had achieved during the 1940s. Even worse for Hayworth, she weathered two disastrous, violent marriagesthe first to singer Dick Haymes (1953–55), the second to  Separate Tables producer James Hill (1958–1961).

In 1962, Hayworth tried to boost her failing career by appearing in Step on a Crack on Broadway. However, the show was canceled because of the star’s inability to memorize her lines and her increasingly violent mood swings and emotional outbursts. Rumors spread that Hayworth had become an out-of-control alcoholic. Still, she continued to find some film work, although primarily in Europe. Hayworth made her last film, a western titled The Wrath of God, in 1972. With her mental condition deteriorating steadily, the underlying cause of Hayworth’s instability was finally discovered when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 1980s. In her final years, she was cared for by her daughter Yasmin, who became a leading advocate for Alzheimer’s research. Hayworth died at her home in New York City on May 14, 1987.

Further Reading
Leaming, Barbara.  If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth. New York: Viking, 1989.
Ringgold, Gene. The Films of Rita Hayworth. Seacaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1991.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Gilda (1946). Columbia/Tristar, DVD, 2000.
The Lady From Shanghai (1948). Columbia/Tristar, DVD/VHS, 2000/1992.
Separate Tables (1958). MGM/UA, VHS, 1999.
You Were Never Lovelier (1942). Columbia/Tristar, VHS, 1992.


FOSTER, JODIE (Alicia Christian Foster) (1962– ) Actress, Director

Known for her subtle acting and fierce intelligence, Jodie Foster is perhaps the most widely respected actress in Hollywood. On November 19, 1962, she was born Alicia Christian Foster in Los Angeles, California. Only months before, her father had left her mother, Brandy. Raising Jodie and her three siblings alone, Brandy supported the family by working as a publicist, until Jodie’s brother Buddy began finding jobs as a child actor. With Brandy as his manager, he appeared in many commercials and as a regular on the Mayberry R.F .D. television series (1968–71).

Jodie began her own career at age three. Taken along on one of Buddy’s auditions, she was spotted and hired to appear in an ad for Coppertone suntan lotion. Over the next five years, she made 45 commercials. When she was eight, her mother considered her ready for acting. After her debut on Mayberry R.F .D., she guested on more than 50 shows and starred in two short-lived situation comedies—Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice (1973) and Paper Moon (1974–75). As Buddy’s career stalled, Jodie’s began to fiourish. She was soon her family’s primary breadwinner. At 10, Jodie started acting in feature films. She became a staple of live action Disney films, appearing in Napoleon and Samantha (1972), Freaky Friday (1977), and Candleshoe (1977). She found more challenging work playing a spirited troublemaker in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974). Two years later, Scorsese invited her to play a far grittier role—that of a teenage prostitute in his nihilistic Taxi Driver (1976). Jodie initially wanted to turn down the part. “I was the Disney kid,” she later explained. “I thought, ‘What would my friends sayfi’” Brandy Foster, however, refused to let her give up the chance to work with Scorsese and the film’s star, Robert De Niro. After undergoing a series of psychological tests to prove that she could cope with the movie’s violence, Jodie at 14 delivered one of the most lauded performances of her career. In addition to an Oscar nomination, she won the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics awards for best supporting actress.

Under Brandy’s supervision, Foster continued to choose offbeat roles. She played a vamp in the all-child musical Bugsy Malone (1976) and a murderer in the thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976). In 1980, Foster portrayed unusually complex teenagers in two well-received films, Foxes and Carny.

After 17 years in front of the camera, Foster stunned the film industry in 1980 by deciding to attend Yale University full time. Always an avid reader and brilliant student, she saw her college years as way of, at least temporarily, escaping the limelight. In a horrific twist of fate, Foster instead was thrust into the headlines when John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. Obsessed with Foster’ s character in Taxi Driver, Hinckley stated that he was in love with Foster and had shot the president as a way of winning her affection. Subsequently receiving death threats from several other deranged admirers, Foster had to be escorted around campus by armed bodyguards. While still at Yale, Foster acted occasionally, including taking a starring role in the film The Hotel New Hampshire (1984). Yet, after graduating with honors, she had difficulty finding acting jobs. Only after vigorous lobbying was she able to win the part of Sarah Tobias, a foul-mouthed gangrape victim, in The Accused (1988). Endowing her character with a powerful sense of dignity, Foster was rewarded with an Oscar for best actress.

After having minor critical successes acting in Five Corners (1988) and Stealing Home (1988), Foster took a turn at directing with Little Man Tate (1991). The story of a child prodigy raised be a single mother echoed many aspects of her own youth. In 1992, she formed her own productioncompany, Egg Pictures. Her deal with Polygram Filmed Entertainment allowed her to act, direct, or produce the films made by Egg, giving her fiexibility and power enjoyed by few movie actresses.

In 1991, Foster received her second Oscar for best actress, playing an FBI agent battling a serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs. She had less success with Sommersby (1993), a Civil War romance, and Maverick (1994), a comedy set in the Old West. In her first Egg production, Nell (1994), Foster was nominated for another best actress Oscar, but the film failed to find an audience. Her second directorial effort, Home for the Holidays (1995), met a similar fate. Even though many films in the 1990s were box-office disappointments, Foster remained one of Hollywood’s leading actresses. For her performance in Anna and the King (1999), Foster received $15 million, a pay rate higher than that of any other film actress at the time, with the exception of JULIA ROBERTS. Self-assured in both her private and professional life, the unmarried Foster gave birth to a boy, Charlie, in 1998. She had a second child in 2001, refusing to answer any questions regarding either’s paternity. With equal confidence, Foster in 2000 bowed out of Hannibal, the big-budget sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, to direct Flora Plum (2002), signaling her increasing interest in working behind the camera.

Further Reading
Kennedy, Phillipa. Jodie Foster: A Life on Screen. New York: Birch Lane Press, 1996.
Smolen, Diane. The Films of Jodie Foster. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing, 1996.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
The Accused (1988). Paramount, VHS, 1996.
Little Man Tate (1991). MGM/UA, VHS, 2000.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Image Entertainment, DVD, 1998.
Taxi Driver (1976). Columbia/Tristar, DVD/VHS, 1999.


STREEP, MERYL (Mary Louise Streep) (1949– ) Actress

Arguably Hollywood’s most respected actress, Meryl Streep was born Mary Louise Streep in Summit, New Jersey, on June 22, 1949. Her first foray into the performing arts came at 12, when she began studying with renowned singing teacher Estelle Liebling. In high school, she took on what might be called her first acting role, when she decided to transform herself into “the perfect Seventeen magazine knockout.” As she would do so many times in the future, she played her part well, becoming a popular cheerleader and the homecoming queen.

Streep became more serious about acting while attending Vassar College. Her acting teacher Clinton Atkinson, who cast her in her first lead role in Miss Julie, once described her talents as “hair-raising, absolutely mind-bog-gling.” On a scholarship, Streep continued her education at Yale Drama School, yet she had doubts about pursuing an acting career. “I still didn’t think it was a legitimate way to carry on your life,” she later recalled. By the time Streep graduated from Yale, she already had a reputation as one of the country’s best young actresses. She fulfilled her early promise first on the stage, appearing in several Shakespeare plays directed by Joseph Papp. During a production of Measure for Measure, Streep began a romantic relationship with costar John Cazale. For her performance in Tennessee Williams’s 27 Wagons of Cotton (1976), she was nominated for a Tony Award.

Streep was soon lured to Hollywood, making her first appearance on film in the television movie The Deadliest Season (1977). She made her feature film debut the same year in a small role in  Julia. The movie’s star, JANE FONDA, immediately recognized her promise and told director Sydney Pollack, “This girl is great. This girl is a genius.”In 1978, Streep won an Emmy Award for the miniseries Holocaust. That year, she also had in her first major role in The Deer Hunter. Although her character appeared on only seven pages of the script, Streep made an indelible impression, subtly playing a quiet, working-class woman with a strong sense of dignity. Streep received the first of many Academy Award nominations for her performance. The movie also starred Cazale, who became ill with bone cancer during the filming. Streep nursed him until his death in March 1978. Six months later, she married sculptor Don Gummer, with whom she has four children.

Perhaps the most pivotal year in Streep’s career was 1979. She played three high-profile supporting roles that, taken together, showcased her extraordinary range. In  Manhattan, she was a sophisticated New Yorker; in The Seduction of Joe Tynan, a sexy southerner; and in  Kramer vs. Kramer, a young mother on the verge of mental collapse. Her part in  Kramer also displayed her willingness to play complex and often unsympathetic women. Her risk-taking in this role paid off with her first Oscar for best supporting actress. After only three years of working in film, Streep had established herself as one of the leading actresses in Hollywood by the beginning of the 1980s. She became renowned for being able to disappear into nearly any role. She proved equally convincing as a working-class martyr in Silkwood (1983), a Danish aristocrat in Out of Africa (1985), and a skidrow lcoholic in  Ironweed (1987). During the decade, she received an astounding six Academy Award nominations. She had her only win with  Sophie’s Choice (1982), for which she awarded the best actress Oscar. Although almost universally hailed as a great actress, Streep had her detractors. Her flawless technique left some critics cold, while the public often had trouble warming to the serious, often depressing projects she seemed to favor. Streep’s amazing felicity at mastering accents became almost a cliché in Hollywood. She herself grew somewhat defensive: “For me, it’s the least interesting part of the discussion of my work,” she once insisted in an interview.

Perhaps responding to criticism of her downbeat roles, Streep experimented with lighter fare in the early 1990s. She appeared in the comedies Defending Your Life (1991) and Death Becomes Her (1992) and sang a country tune at the conclusion of the comedy-drama  Postcards from the Edge (1990). These films, however, were only moderately successful, and by the end of the decade Streep had returned to drama, most notably in The Bridges of Madison County (1995), Marvin’s Room (1996), and One True Thing (1998).

In 2000, Streep made film history when she was nominated for a best actress Oscar for Music From the Heart  (1999). With 12 nominations, she tied the record set by KATHARINE HEPBURN. Notably, it took 50 years for Hepburn to become the most frequently nominated actress, while Streep earned nominations in less than half that time. With Streep still in mid-career, she seems poised to become the most honored American film actress of not only her generation but perhaps of all time.

Further Reading
Harris, Mark. “Depth Becomes Her.”  Entertainment Weekly. March 24, 2000, pp. 50+.
Maychick, Diana.  Meryl Streep: The Reluctant Superstar. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Columbia/Tristar, VHS, 2000.
Out of Africa (1985). Universal, DVD/VHS, 2000/1999.
Silkwood (1983). Anchor Bay Entertainment, DVD/VHS, 1999/1998.
Sophie’s Choice (1982). Artisan Entertainment, DVD/VHS, 1998/2000.


BERGEN, CANDICE (1946– ) Actress, Talk Show Host

After an early career in film, Candice Bergen created one of television’s most intriguing characters in Murphy Brown. Born May 6, 1946, Bergen is the daughter of radio and film comedian Edgar Bergen. At her birth, the press announced that Charlie McCarthy—the dummy Edgar used in his famed ventriloquist act—now had a sister. Candice indeed had an intense case of sibling rivalry with the wooden puppet. In her autobiography, Knock Wood (1984), she recalled the haunting memory of her father placing her on one knee and Charlie on the other, using his voice to speak for both of them.

Candice was raised in Beverly Hills, California, where most of her playmates were the children of Hollywood stars. Disturbed by the effect this pampered environment was having on their daughter, the Bergens sent Candice to a finishing school in Switzerland when she was 14. After a few months, Candice greeted her visiting parents, offering them one of her cigarettes and a drink. The Bergens immediately took her back to Beverly Hills for the rest of her high school education.

In 1963, Candice Bergen enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania to study art history. However, she was more interested in her burgeoning modeling career than in her studies. After fiunking out, Bergen moved to New York City, where she attracted the attention of the director Sidney Lumet. He cast her in The Group (1966), in the daring role of Lakey, a young lesbian. Now in demand for ingenue parts, Bergen appeared in a string of undistinguished films, including The Sand Pebbles (1966), T. R. Baskin (1971), and The Wind and the Lion (1975). Critics inevitably were awed by her beauty, though most shared Bergen’s own sense that her acting was stiff and stilted.

Reviews were far kinder to her layered performance in Carnal Knowledge (1971), a black comedy in which she played a Smith College student romanced by two roommates played by Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel. In the 1970s, Bergen also developed an accomplished career as a photojournalist. With her Hollywood pedigree, she was able to interview top stars, such as Paul Newman and Lee Marvin. In addition, she won coveted international assignments, including the job of reporting on Kenya’s Masai tribe for National Geographic. Esquire, Life, and Playboy were among the other national magazines that published Bergen’s work.

As an actress, Bergen had a breakthrough in Starting Over (1979), in which she had a small role as Burt Reynolds’s self-indulgent ex-wife. Not wanting to compete with her father, she had previously shied away from comedy. The film’s showcase of her comedic fiair, however, won her some of her best reviews as well as an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. She returned to comedy in 1981 in the critically disparaged Rich and Famous. In 1979 Bergen met French film director Louis Malle, whom she married the next year. The couple split their time between homes in Los Angeles, New York, and the countryside of France. Bergen gave birth to their daughter, Chloe, in 1985.

Bergen set off on still another career path in 1988, when she lobbied for the lead role on Murphy Brown, a television situation comedy about a straight-talking journalist working on a television news magazine. Contrasting Murphy’s professional success with her personal loneliness, the show’s cre ator, Diane English, called it “a sort of cautionary tale about getting what you wished for.” From the outset, the series was a hit, and earned Bergen five Emmy Awards. It also placed her at the center of a national controversy when Vice President Dan Quayle denounced as immoral a story line that had the pregnant and unmarried Murphy deciding to have her baby and raise him on her own. During the 10-year run of Murphy Brown, Malle fell ill. He died of cancer in 1995. Five years later, Bergen married real estate mogul Marshall Rose, a longtime friend. Also in 2000, Bergen began hosting Exhale, an hour-long talk show for the cable channel Oxygen. A fitting showcase for Bergen’s intelligence and charm, the show has featured such high-profile guests as JODIE FOSTER, Hillary Clinton, and Madeleine Albright. Bergen also returned to film acting in 2001 with a supporting role in the comedy Miss Congeniality.

Further Reading
Bergen, Candice. Knock Wood. New York: Linden Press, 1984.
Ehrman, Mark. “The US Interview: Candice Bergen.” US Weekly. April 24, 2000, pp. 54–61.
Stoddard, Maynard. “Candice Bergen: Sweet Success.” Saturday Evening Post. May/June 1992, pp. 38+.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Carnal Knowledge (1971). MGM/UA, DVD/VHS, 1999.
The Group (1966). MGM/UA, VHS, 1996.
Starting Over (1979). Paramount, VHS, 1993.