Lee Remick’s life may have come to an untimely end, but throughout her life and career, she proved time and time again that she had what it took to be a prolific Hollywood actress – and along the way, she earned a great deal of respect from her peers as well. For one thing, how often do you hear about Bette Davis gushing about another performer?
And The Oscar Goes To….
Bette Davis was honored with her last Best Actress Oscar nod in 1962 for her role in the delightfully campy film Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. After learning of the nomination, she decided that she needed to size up her competition a bit. After seeing Lee Remick’s remarkable portrayal of a young, seemingly put-together woman who tumbled into alcoholism in Days of Wine And Roses, Davis reportedly was heard saying that Remick’s performance astounded her. Apparently, she even went as far as to say that if she ended up losing the Oscar, it would be okay with her
As history tells us, though, Anne Bancroft ended up taking home the Oscar for Best Actress for her incredible performance in The Miracle Worker. The competition was intense that year, but Remick arguably still deserved the coveted prize. Her work in Days of Wine and Roses is still to this day simply heartbreaking. Lee Remick was, in fact, pretty experienced at breaking hearts. Just like her contemporary, Bette Davis, she had the most mesmerizing eyes and the talent the go along with it.
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And don’t even think about going anywhere just yet. Keep watching to see how Lee Remmick landed her first big breaks and where exactly her acting career eventually took her.
Born to a wealthy family in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1935, Lee’s father owned a department store while her mother was an actress. She had one older brother, Bruce, and her maternal great-grandmother, Eliza Duffield, was a preacher from England. Remick attended the Swoboda School of Dance and Manhattan’s prestigious Hewitt School before enrolling at Barnard. She also honed her skills at the Actors Studio in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.
Remick was the quintessential all-American WASPy beauty queen Her wholesome ‘girl next door’ persona made her a natural at modeling, which she did on the side while studying acting and dance in college.
Remick’s First Big Breaks
In 1953, Remick made her Broadway debut in a production of Be Your Age. After making a bit of name for herself doing some television work appearing in shows like Armstrong Circle Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, and Playhouse 90, Remick finally landed her big breakthrough role in film at 21 when she played a precocious yet sexy cheerleader in the 1957 drama film A Face In The Crowd alongside the film’s lead Andy Griffith.
Seemingly overnight, Remick had become a star, and she rapidly moved on to starring in other high-profile movies. In 1959, she played a victim of sexual assault in Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder. A year later, she appeared in the film Wild River co-starring with Montgomery Clift and Jo Van Fleet. That same year, she portrayed Miranda in a television production of The Tempest alongside Richard Burton.
In 1961, Remick received the top-billing in Sanctuary alongside Yves Montand. On the small screen, she appeared in 1962s The Farmers Daughter. Later that year, she starred in Blake Edward’s suspense-thriller Experiment in Terror.
When Marilyn Monroe was fired during the production of the 1962 comedy film Something’s Got to Give, the studio announced their intentions of signing on Remick to replace her. Dean Martin, Monroe’s co-star, however, refused to continue unless Monroe was hired back on. Eventually, the studio yielded to his demands, and Monroe was brought back on to complete the film. Remick ended up doing a thriller instead, 1963s The Running Man with Laurence Harvey as her co-star. Also, in 1963, Remick appeared In the comedy The Wheeler Dealers starring James Garner in the lead role.
Back To Broadway
In 1964, Remick appeared in the Broadway musical Anyone Can Whistle, which only ran for a week. Remick’s performance is immortalized on the original cast recording. This began a lifelong friendship with the musical’s songwriter and composer Stephen Sondheim. She later appeared in the 1985 concert version of his musical, Follies.
In 1965, Remick returned to film and starred in the drama film Baby the Rain Must Fall with Steve McQueen as her co-star. A year later, she starred in the Broadway production of Wait Until Dark which was directed by Arthur Penn and co-starred Robert Duvall. The play was enormously successful and Remick ended up being nominated for a Tony award for Best Actress in a Drama. The play was later adapted into a hugely successful film starring Audrey Hepburn.
In 1967, Remick performed in Damn Yankees on TV and starred in the film No Way To Treat a Lady in 1968. She teamed up with Frank Sinatra and appeared in The Detective that year as well, and in 1969, she joined forces with James Coburn in the mystery film Hard Contract.
Over the next several years, Remick delivered some of her most notable and career-defining performances on television. Perhaps her most significant TV role during this decade was portraying Jennie Churchhill in the 1974 miniseries Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill. For her turn on this project, she took home a Golden Globe and was nominated for a primetime Emmy.
Two years later, Remick portrayed the role that most people remember her for as the very unfortunate mother who unbeknownst to her raises the son of the Devil in 1976s The Omen. Although the film is somewhat cheesy by today’s standards, it still has its moments and remains a campy cult classic.
Remick followed that performance up with leading roles in films like 1977s Telefon, 1978s The Medusa Touch, and in the 1979 mini-series Wheels.
Remick’s Latter Years Were Just As Active
During the later years of her acting career, Remick primarily worked in television. She loved keeping busy and treasured acting as a craft over being a celebrity. Being a star was never something that she actively sought. She simply loved her work and always put the full weight of her heart and soul into her work.
In 1980, Remick played Margaret Sullavan in Haywire. That must have been some year, because she also landed the lead role in Women’s Room, and supporting roles in The Competition and Tribute. The latter co-starring with Jack Lemmon.
In 1982, Remick appeared in The Letter. A year later, she starred in The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story. In 1984, she had a turn in the miniseries Mistral’s Daughter, which was adapted from a novel written by Judith Krantz.
The remainder of the 80s proved to be quite fruitful for Remick’s career as well. Remick appeared in Rearview Mirror in 1984, Toughlove in 1985, Of Pure Blood in 1986, and Nutcracker: Money, Madness & Murder in 1987.
Remick’s last performances were in 1987s The Vision, 1988s Jesse, 1989s Bridge to Silence and Around the World in 80 days, and in the 1989 television film Dark Holiday.
Lee Remick’s Death And Lasting Legacy
In 1989, Remick learned that she had kidney cancer. After briefly going into remission, her cancer came back with a vengence and in 1991, she died from the disease at the age of 55. She was survived by her loving family consisting of her devoted second husband, British filmmaker Kip Gowans, and her two loving children from her first marriage, Kate and Matt Colleran.
At her funeral, two of her favorite co-stars, Jack Lemmon, and Gregory Peck, delivered emotional eulogies. Virtually nobody could quite come to grips with the fact that this vibrant and iconic actress had actually passed on. It seemed much too soon for her to be gone – and that’s because it was. 55 is far too young for anyone to meet their end.
Her legacy, of course, lives on. Regarding her chosen career path, Remick was once quoted as saying that on many occasions as an actress, she felt crazy, but the truth of the matter was that she would have felt a lot crazier if she wasn’t an actress.
Lee Remick wasn’t just another face in the crowd as her 1957 film debut might seem to suggest, rather she was a highly celebrated and sought-after actress who for many years seemed to be incapable of doing wrong. Pretty much everything that she touched turned to gold, and along the way, she made a whole bunch of famous friends.
Sadly, the universe took her much too soon. One can only imagine where her acting career would have taken her if she hadn’t died at such a relatively young age. Who knows, she might even be pumping out hit films to this day if she were still with us.
Anyway, you’ve heard enough of me rambling on, now’s your turn to let your voice be heard. Which one of Lee Remick’s films is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.
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