Barbara Loden in 1958.
July 8, 1932|
Marion, North Carolina, U.S.
|Died||September 5, 1980
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
|Spouse(s)||Elia Kazan (1968-1980; her death)
Laurence Joachim (divorced)
Barbara Loden (July 8, 1932 – September 5, 1980) was a Broadway Tony award-winning American stage and film actress, model, and stage/film director. She was the first woman to write, direct and star in her own feature film, Wanda, which won the International Critics Award at the 1970 Venice Film Festival. Loden also directed several off-Broadway plays.
Loden was a life member of the famed The Actors Studio and appeared in several projects directed by second husband, noted film director, Elia Kazan, including Splendor in the Grass. Loden appeared as a regular sidekick on the irreverent The Ernie Kovacs Television Show, where she would get pies thrown in her face or pretend to be “sawed in half”.
Barbara Loden made her New York theater debut in 1947 in Compulsion and also appeared on stage in The Highest Tree with Robert Redford as well as Night Circus with Ben Gazzara and in the stage version of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
She made her television debut on The Ernie Kovacs Show as a “scantily clad” sidekick to Kovacs, a job that her first husband television producer and film distributor, Larry Joachim helped her to attain. According to Loden, she owed a lot to Ernie Kovacs, as another producer on the show had initially vetoed Kovacs' decision to hire her. In interviews, Loden said he had “felt sorry” for her and said, “You can be on the show anyway.” He gave her the job of stunt sidekick, rolling around in a rug or getting hit in the face with a pie.
In 1960, Loden appeared in Elia Kazan's film Wild River as Montgomery Clift’s secretary. Loden was perhaps better known for her role in Splendor in the Grass (1961), in which she played Warren Beatty's sister. Loden famously portrayed “Maggie”, a fictionalized version of Marilyn Monroe in Kazan's Lincoln Center Repertory Company stage production of After the Fall (1964), which was written by Monroe's former husband, playwright Arthur Miller. Loden received a Tony award for best actress for her performance in After the Fall, as well as an annual award of the Outer Circle, an organization of writers who covered Broadway for national magazines. After the Fall reviews touted that Loden was the “new Jean Harlow” a “blonde bombshell”. Loden would marry director Kazan, her second husband.
Loden was originally cast in the Frank Perry-directed film The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster. It was to be Loden’s first major screen role, following smaller parts in other films such as Splendor in the Grass and Wild River. However, during post-production there was a dispute about the scene between producer Sam Spiegel and the film’s writer/director team, the Perrys. According to notes by screenwriter Eleanor Perry, Spiegel began showing the troubled rough cut of the film around Hollywood, polling several of his famous film director friends about what he should do with it. Kazan was still a major film director who still had great influence. Kazan had also secretly been shown a private screening of the film by his friend and producer Spiegel (producer of Kazan’s On the Waterfront), and had reportedly interfered with the final cut. Perry was ultimately fired from the film. Several of the film's scenes were re-cast and re-shot by Sidney Pollack who was hired to replace Perry and with Lancaster reportedly paying for some of the reshoots himself. Among the scenes that were entirely re-cast and re-shot was the notorious Loden scene, with Broadway stage actress Janice Rule replacing Loden. Neither Loden nor Sidney Pollack were credited on the film. All that remains of the lost scene are still photos taken on the set, which appear in the 2014 documentary, The Story of The Swimmer, by Chris Innis.
In Kazan’s autobiography, Elia Kazan: A Life, he revealed his desire and lack of ability to control Loden. As the New York Times reported, Kazan wrote about Loden, “with a mix of affection and patronization, emphasizing her sexuality and her backcountry feistiness.” In a “condescending” way, Kazan bemoaned that Loden had depended on her “sexual appeal” to get ahead, and that he was afraid of “losing her”. Kazan was, in his words, “protective” of Loden.
In spite of this, in 1970 Loden wrote, produced, directed, and starred in her own independent film, Wanda, made with the collaboration of cinematographer and editor Nicholas T. Proferes, on a meager budget of $115,000. Wanda is an semi-autobiographical portrait of a “passive, disconnected coal miner’s wife who attaches herself to a petty crook.” Innovative in its cinéma vérité style, it was one of the few American films directed by a woman to be theatrically released at that time. Film critic David Thomson wrote, "Wanda is full of unexpected moments and raw atmosphere, never settling for cliché in situation or character." The film was the only American film accepted to, and which won, the International Critics' Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1970, and was presented at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. In 2010, with support from Gucci, the film was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and screened at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
Loden had received a lot of interest at the Cannes Festival for this first directing venture. “I realized I was losing her”, Kazan wrote about the attention she was receiving. Kazan went so far as to state that she had then irritated him by dressing in a more masculine fashion in boots and trousers, as her new role of film director might have required. Although the two remained married, Kazan and Loden reportedly grew apart emotionally, even through Loden's later breast cancer crisis. According to Kazan, Loden blamed him for the “negativity” that she thought had caused her stress, and thus her cancer. Despite her work in several monumental films and stage plays and her relationship with Kazan (or perhaps because of it), Loden “found most doors closed to her” in the film business and like her character in Wanda, was not embraced by society.
Loden was described as shy, humble, statuesque and soft-spoken loner who was born in a small town in North Carolina. She was raised by her religious maternal grandparents, after her own parents had divorced and her mother went to another town to find work. Loden moved to New York at the age of 16 and worked her way up as a pin-up girl, model, and dancer at the famed Copacabana nightclub, before studying at the famed Actor’s Studio and becoming an actor.
Loden was married to film director Elia Kazan, her second husband, who was twenty-three years her senior. Though the couple had become estranged and had previously considered divorce, they were still married at the time of her death from breast cancer at the age of 48. She had one child, Leo, with Kazan. Loden had another child, Marco, by her first husband, film and television producer and film distributor, Larry Joachim, whom she had married in the 1950s.
- Look After Lulu! by Noël Coward
- Night Circus with Ben Gazzara
- The Highest Tree with Robert Redford
- The Long Dream
- After the Fall – as Maggie – written by Arthur Miller, directed by Elia Kazan (*Tony award)
- Winter Journey
- The Country Girl by Clifford Odets
- Home is the Hero
- The Love Death Plays of William Inge
- Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
- But for Whom Charlie
- The Ernie Kovacs Show (1956–57) TV series, regular
- Wild River (1960) as Betty Jackson, directed by Elia Kazan
- Splendor in the Grass (1961) as Ginny Stamper, directed by Elia Kazan
- The Boy Who Wasn’t Wanted (1962) Alcoa Premiere TV Series, as Betty Johnson
- Naked City (1962) TV series episode “Torment Him Much and Hold Him Long” as Penny Sonners
- The Glass Menagerie (1966) CBS Playhouse television production
- The Swimmer directed by Frank Perry (omitted from final cut)
- Fade in (1968) TV movie with Burt Reynolds
- Wanda (1970) wrote, directed and starred in
- The Mike Douglas Show as herself (1971)
- The David Frost Show as herself (1971)
- The Frontier Experience (aka ‘’The Boy Who Liked Deer’’) (1975) short film, director, producer
- Cinema cinemas (TV series documentary filmed before her death) “Kazan Barbara Loden”
Awards and nominations
- After the Fall – Tony Award – Best Actress
- Wanda - International Critics Award – Venice Film Festival
- The Hollywood Reporter, Barbara Loden obituary, September 8, 1980.
- “Barbara Loden, award-winning stage, film actress, dies”, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, September 6, 1980.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- The New York Times “Driven by Fierce Visions of Independence” by Kate Taylor, Sunday August 29, 2010
- Earl Wilson, ”Thirteen Was Lucky For Broadway Star”, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, March 21, 1964.
- Wilson, Earl (March 23, 1964). "Barbara Loden Shows Some Humility". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- Chris Innis, "The Story of the Swimmer” documentary; available on the 2014 Grindhouse Releasing release of The Swimmer on Blu-ray/DVD
- “She's at Home”, The Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1966.
- ”Elia Kazan: A Life” by Elia Kazan, Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 794-814 (1988); ISBN 9780394559537.
- Wilson, Earl (February 2, 1971). "Earl Wilson". Beaver Country Times. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- Burt A. Folkart, “'Dumb Blonde' Made One Brilliant Film”, The Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1980.
- Profile, imdb.com; accessed October 7, 2014.
- Variety, Barbara Loden obituary, September 8, 1980.
- Reynaud, Bérénice, “For Wanda”, in The Last Great American Picture Show, Thomas Elsaesser, Alexander Horwath and Noel King, eds, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004, pp. 223–47.