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Lee Remick’s Memorable Performances

Published: 12/14/2010
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Lee Remick (Wikimedia Commons/Allan Warren)

Lee Remick was born on this day 75 years ago. Her acting career spanned three decades and she brought a serious, understated presence to some of her best movies. In honor of her memory, we look back at five of her most memorable roles.

A Face in the Crowd
Elia Kazan’s follow-up to On the Waterfront, this film is chiefly remembered for Andy Griffith’s unhinged performance as charming sociopath Lonesome Rhodes, who transforms from a drunken drifter into a national radio personality and would-be political kingmaker. For Lee Remick’s screen debut, she played a teenage drum majorette with whom Rhodes elopes, alienating those around him and contributing to his eventual downfall. To research her role, Remick lived with a family in Arkansas and studied baton twirling. Like Kazan, Remick was also a student at the influential Actors Studio and was a practitioner of method acting.

 

 

Anatomy of a Murder
Based on a novel by a Michigan State Supreme Court Justice, Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder provided Remick’s breakout role, where she played a woman whose (maybe) rape leads her husband to commit murder. The part fell to Remick only after Lana Turner was fired from the picture for insisting on providing her own high fashion wardrobe, one not in keeping with the character of an Army wife. Anatomy of a Murder would be nominated for seven Academy Awards and prove a turning point in Remick’s career.

 

 

Days of Wine and Roses
Though director Blake Edwards would become known mostly for comedy, his Days of Wine and Roses was one of the first movies to deal seriously with the subject of alcoholism. Playing opposite Jack Lemmon, Remick gives a stunning performance as a woman who gradually succumbs to her addictions at the expense of everything else in her life. Both Lemmon and Remick were nominated for Academy Awards for their work, and, ironically, both would later seek treatment for alcoholism, as would director Blake Edwards.

 

 

Sometimes a Great Notion
Based on a 1964 novel by Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion had a troubled production history. A family drama centered around the logging industry in Oregon, both Sam Peckinpah and Budd Boetticher considered directing, but the assignment instead went to the lesser known Richard A. Colla, who dropped out five weeks into the shoot. Star Paul Newman, already contending with a broken ankle that occurred early in production, took over the directorial reins. The final product received generally favorable reviews but opened in only 22 theatres, despite having a cast that boasted not only Newman and Remick, but Henry Fonda and Richard Jaeckel. Remick played a woman trapped in the hypermasculine world of the Stamper family, a character New York Times critic Vincent Canby described as “a second-class citizen…whose only joy in life is a German yellow canary.” The movie was the very first to air on HBO, but has largely been forgotten today and is currently unavailable on DVD.

 

 

The Omen
“She was in the Omen
With Gregory Peck
She got killed
But what the heck”
- The Go-Betweens “Lee Remick” (1978)

The Omen has been lauded as one of the best horror movies ever made. Starring Remick and Gregory Peck, directed by Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon), scripted by David Seltzer (Bird on a Wire) and with an Oscar-winning score by Jerry Highsmith, the film boasted the kind of pedigree usually reserved for serious dramatic fare. For her role as the wife of a U.S. Ambassador, Remick likely drew on her own experiences interacting with America’s political elites (Remick and her husband had been friends with John F. and Jackie Kennedy and were frequent White House guests). Made on a small budget, The Omen ended up being hugely profitable for 20th Century Fox, spawning three sequels and a spin-off. And yes, as early indie band The Go-Betweens state in their song (spoiler alert!), Remick’s character dies in the end. The film also represented an end of sorts for Remick. Though she would act in a handful of additional films, this was the last to really crack into the American consciousness. During the 1980s, she for the most part appeared on the stage or in made-for-TV movies. “I make movies for grown-ups,” she said. “When Hollywood starts making them again, I’ll start acting in them again.”

 

 

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