Friday, April 19, 2024

Dixie Carter: One Degree to Sean Penn


Sad, sad news on Saturday night that Dixie Carter has passed away. The 70 year old actress, famous for starring in “Designing Women,” was elegant, eloquent, and fun. She will be missed.

There’s no word yet on how she died, but it is interesting that there are no pictures of Dixie on WireImage or Getty Images after her appearance at the 2008 Academy Awards. Her husband, Hal Holbrook, was nominated for his role in “Into the Wild.”

Carter and Holbrook recently appeared together in “That Evening Sun,” an independent movie that got nice notices last year. There is scant sign of them having done any publicity for it.

But Carter was very much behind Holbrook when he was nominated for “Into the Wild.” And they told me a great story. When they met in 1981, it was on a film called “The Killing of Randy Webster,” in 1981. Sean Penn was a 21 year old actor on the film.

“It was just about his first job ever,” Holbrook told me. “We loved him. He was always watching what everyone was doing, studying it. When we got home, he sent us a letter, thanking us and telling us how much the experience meant to him. No one does that!

“So when the script for ‘Into the Wild’ came, he just sent a note and said, ‘It would be great if you’re not busy. I hope you can do this.’ I called him right away and said, ‘Even if I were busy with something, I’d cancel it.’ I reminded him about the letter. And he said he’d been waiting all this time to find the right thing.’”

Carter was there, telling me the story along with Holbrook. Her eyes sparkled as she remembered it. A great lady, a great couple.

PS Not to take anything away from Hal Holbrook, to whom Carter was married for 26 years. But her first husband was multi millionaire Arthur Carter, who went on to own the New York Observer. They had two daughters. Her second husband, for two years, was Broadway star George Hearn. What a life!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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