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Geraldine Sue Page (November 22, 1924 – June 13, 1987) was an Academy Award, a two time Emmy Award-winning and a several time Tony Award-nominated American actress. Although she starred in at least two dozen feature films, she is primarily known for her celebrated work in the American theater.

Early life

Page was born in Kirksville, Missourimarker. She attended the Goodman Theatremarker Dramatic School in Chicagomarker and studied acting with Uta Hagen in New York. She began appearing in stock at the age of seventeen.

Stage career

Page was a trained method actor and worked closely with Lee Strasberg.

Her appearance as Alma in the 1952 Off-Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke at the downtown Circle-in-the Square theatre was as earth-shattering and legendary as anything that had ever happened in the American theatre. Summer and Smoke had not been particularly well received in its Broadway incarnation. Page's performance (as the minister's daughter consumed with infinite longing) and that 1952 production, directed by Jose Quintero, gave the play a new life, and, according to common wisdom, it was that production (for its daring, for its fervor, for its being "downtown" rather than in the artistically "safe" realm of Broadway) which gave birth to the Off-Broadway movement in New York theatre. From then on, Page's name was synonymous with a kind of heart-stopping, naturalistic magic in the theatre, continuing with her work, on Broadway, as the spinster in "The Rainmaker" and as the frustrated wife whose husband becomes romantically obsessed with a young Arab, played by James Dean, in "The Immoralist."

She earned critical accolades for her performance in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth opposite Paul Newman. She originated the role of a larger-than-life, addicted, sexually voracious Hollywood legend trying to extinguish her fears about her career with a young hustler named Chance Wayne, played by Newman. Page received her first Tony Award nomination for the play. She and Newman later starred in the film adaptation and Page earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the film. In 1964, she starred in a Broadwaymarker revival of Anton Chekov's Three Sisters playing eldest sister Olga to Kim Stanley's Masha with Shelley Winters as the interloper Natasha. Both Shirley Knight and Sandy Dennis played the youngest sister Irina at different stages in this production. It was directed by Lee Strasberg (and a version of it was preserved on film). She also starred in Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy/White Lies, in 1967, which was the production in which both Michael Crawford and Lynn Redgrave made their Broadway debuts. Page received her second Tony nomination (for Best Featured Actress in a Play) for a successful production of Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular with Sandy Dennis and Richard Kiley. Page also starred as Zelda Fitzgerald in the last major Broadway production of a Tennessee Williams play, "Clothes for a Summer Hotel" in 1980. Although the New York critical establishment had turned against Williams by that point in his career (with perhaps some justification), Page, in another remarkable creative turn, played Zelda (from her young days as a ravishingly sensual Southern belle through to her dissolution into madness) with a flourish of heart and technique which defied her own age and the strictures of type-casting.

Page starred in another successful Broadway play. Agnes of God, which opened in 1982, ran for 599 performances with Page performing in nearly all of them. She received a Tony Award nomination, for Best Lead Actress in a Play, for her performance as the secretive nun Mother Miriam Ruth. The highly acclaimed production garnered co-star Amanda Plummer a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Elizabeth Ashley played the court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingstone. After winning an Academy Award in 1985, Page returned to Broadway in a revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit in the role of the psychic medium Madame Arcati. The production, which also starred Richard Chamberlain, Blythe Danner and Judith Ivey, was Page's last. Page was again nominated for a Tony Award, for Best Lead Actress in a Play, and was considered to be a favorite to win. However, she did not win, and several days after the awards ceremony she died. The show lasted several weeks more with co-star Patricia Conolly taking over Page's role.

In 1960 she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.

Film career

Page gave celebrated performances in films as well as her work on Broadwaymarker. Her film debut was in Out of the Night (1947). Her role in Hondo, opposite John Wayne, garnered her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In all, despite her relatively small filmography, Page received eight Academy Award nominations. She finally won the Oscar in 1986 for a performance in The Trip to Bountiful, which was based on a play by Horton Foote. When she won (F. Murray Abraham, upon opening the envelope, exclaimed "I consider this woman the greatest actress in the English language"), she received a standing ovation from the audience. She was surprised by her win (she openly talked about being a seven-time Oscar loser), and took a while to get to the stage to accept the award because she had taken off her shoes while sitting in the audience. She had not expected to win, and her feet were sore.

Her other notable screen roles included Academy Award-nominated performances in Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke (1961); Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) You're a Big Boy Now (1966); and Woody Allen's Interiors (1978). She also appeared in quirky and eccentric roles such as calculating murderer of old ladies in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969); a repressed schoolmistress in the Clint Eastwood film The Beguiled (1971); a charismatic evangelist (modeled after Aimee Semple McPherson) in The Day of the Locust (1975); Sister Walburga in Nasty Habits (1977) and as 'Aunt' Beverly in Harry's War (1981).

She did various television shows in the 1950s through the 1980s, including movies and series, such as Hawaii Five-0, Kojak, and several episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, including "The Sins Of The Fathers" and "Something In The Woodwork".

She also was a voice actress and voiced the villainous Madame Medusa in the Disney animated film The Rescuers.

Page has also appeared in television productions and won two Emmy Awards as Outstanding Single Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama for her roles in the classic Truman Capote stories, A Christmas Memory (1967) and The Thanksgiving Visitor (1969).

Her final film was the 1987 Mary Stuart Masterson film My Little Girl, which was the film debut of Jennifer Lopez.

Private life

Page was married to violinist Alexander Schneider from 1954 to 1957. In 1963 she married actor Rip Torn, who was 7 years her junior. They remained married until her death. Page and Torn had three children, a daughter (actress Angelica Torn) and twin sons (actor Tony Torn, and Northern Arizona University professor Jon Torn).

Page, who also suffered from kidney disease, died of a heart attack in 1987 during a run on Broadway in Sir Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Neil Simon Theatremarker. She did not arrive for either of the show's two June 13 performances, and at the end of the evening performance, the play's producer announced that she had died at the age of 62. Five days later, "an overflow crowd of colleagues, friends and fans," including Torn, Sissy Spacek, James Earl Jones, and Amanda Plummer, filled the Neil Simon Theatre to pay tribute to Page. Her achievements as a stage actress and teacher were highlighted; actress Anne Jackson stated at the tribute that "[Page] used a stage like no one else I'd ever seen. It was like playing tennis with someone who had 26 arms."

Her husband, Rip Torn, called her "Mi corazon, mi alma, mi esposa (My heart, my soul, my wife)" and said that they "never stopped being lovers, and ... never will."

Filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1953 Taxi Florence Albert uncredited
Hondo Angie Lowe Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1961 Summer and Smoke Alma Winemiller Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress

1962 Sweet Bird of Youth Alexandra Del Lago Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress

1963 Toys in the Attic Carrie Berniers Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1964 Dear Heart Ms. Evie Jackson with Glen Ford
1966 The Three Sisters Olga
You're a Big Boy Now Margery Chanticleer Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1967 Monday's Child Carol Richardson
The Happiest Millionaire Mrs. Duke
1969 What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? Claire Marrable
Trilogy Sook National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
1971 The Beguiled Martha Farnsworth
1972 J. W. Coop Mama
Pete 'n' Tillie Gertrude Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1973 Happy as the Grass Was Green Anna Witmer
1975 The Day of the Locust Big Sister
1977 Nasty Habits Sister Walburga
The Rescuers Madame Medusa voice
1978 Interiors Eve BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama


1981 Harry's War 'Aunt' Beverly
Honky Tonk Freeway Sister Maria Clarissa
1982 I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can Jean Scott Martin
1984 The Pope of Greenwich Village Mrs. Ritter Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1985 The Bride Mrs. Baumann
Walls of Glass Mama
White Nights Anne Wyatt
The Trip to Bountiful Mrs. Carrie Watts Academy Award for Best Actress
Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Female
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama

1986 Native Son Peggy
1987 Riders to the Sea
My Little Girl Molly


References

  1. Kolbert, Elizabeth. Geraldine Page, 62, Dies; A Star of Stage and Film. New York Times. 15 June 1987.
  2. Gerard, Jeremy. Tribute to Geraldine Page Fills Neil Simon Theater. New York Times. 18 June 1987.


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