Friday, July 19, 2024

Movie Great Lee Grant Turned 95 On Saturday: Oscar Winner and Nominee Was Blacklisted During Hollywood’s Darkest Days


Happy Birthday, Lee Grant. The legendary actress and director turned 95 on Halloween. The last time I saw her she was bouncing around like a 40 year old. Amazing!

The Oscar winner and multiple nominee did not work between 1954 and 1966. Why? She was blacklisted by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the rotten, miserable Roy Cohn. She wrote all about it in her memoir, “I Said Yes to Everything,” which is must reading for film fans.

When the book was published, I pulled out a couple of anecdotes apart from the HUAC story. On Marlon Brando:

“Marlon had asked me out the year before. Picked me up on his motorcycle— thrilling— and took me to a nightclub in the Fifties on Eighth Avenue. We sat on a long leather settee, had drinks at a small black table, and silently watched a naked woman on a small black stage do artistic and lewd things with a giant cobra. Not a word exchanged. What can you say? Back on the motorcycle, holding on to his back, to my front door. I had my key out, no kiss, thanked him, opened and closed the door. Out of love.”

Winning an Emmy “Peyton Place” the TV series that brought her back to show business after 12 years:

“And I won. I won. From three nights a week Peyton Place could have gone to five. The line between the audience and the characters on the show was so fine. My character’s father died on a Friday . Saturday afternoon I drove into Santa Monica to buy shoes. I was trying them on when the clerk who was waiting on a lady nearby crept over to me. “Excuse me,” he said. “That lady wants to know, isn’t today your father’s funeral?” “Tell her,” I said, “that’s why I’m buying the shoes. I’m going to the cemetery right after I leave here.” The lady, the clerk, and I nodded conspiratorially at one another and I left.”

Lee tried to make a movie in 1997 directing Bruce Willis in “Broadway Brawler,” about a hockey player. Willis was in a bad slump at the time. He didn’t like the way the movie was going and had her fired. She was replaced, but no one would work for the new director. The $28 million feature was aborted.

Lee writes: “The problem when you are a star, when the money rests on you as an actor, is that your freedom to fail is gone. You can’t take chances. If you can’t take chances anymore, what kind of actor are you?”

PS Lee also won two Primetime Emmy Awards, and won the prestigious Directors Guild of America award for her 1986 doc “Nobody’s Child.” She won acclaim for directing the 1980 feature, “Tell Me A Riddle.” Lee also became a very busy TV doc director. She made 24 episodes of “Intimate Portrait.”

Happy Birthday, Lee!

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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