Barbara Loden

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Barbara Loden
Barbara Loden in 1964.jpg
Loden in 1964
Born
Barbara Ann Loden

(1932-07-08)July 8, 1932 or 1934 (sources differ)
Died(1980-09-05)September 5, 1980 (aged 46–48)
Occupation
  • Actress
  • director
Years active1957–1980
Spouse(s)
  • Laurence Joachim (m. 1954; divorced)
  • Elia Kazan (m. 1967)
Children2

Barbara Ann Loden (July 8, 1932 or 1934 – September 5, 1980) was an American stage and film actress, as well as a director of film and off-Broadway theater.[1][2] Richard Brody of The New Yorker described Loden as the "female counterpart to John Cassavetes".[3]

Born and raised in North Carolina, Loden began her career at an early age in New York City as a commercial model and chorus-line dancer. Loden became a regular sidekick on the irreverent Ernie Kovacs Television Show in the mid-1950s and was a lifetime member of the famed Actors Studio. She appeared in several projects directed by her second husband, Elia Kazan, including Splendor in the Grass (1961). Her subsequent performance in a 1964 Broadway production of After the Fall earned her a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress.

In 1970, Loden wrote, directed, and starred in Wanda, a groundbreaking independent film that won the International Critics Award at the 1970 Venice Film Festival. Throughout the 1970s, she continued to work directing Off-Broadway and regional theater productions, as well as direct two short films. In 1978, Loden was diagnosed with breast cancer, of which she died two years later.

Life and career[edit]

1932–1954: Childhood and early years[edit]

Loden was born on July 8 of either 1932 or 1934 (sources differ)[a] in Asheville, North Carolina.[8] Her father was a barber, and she described herself as a "hill-billy's daughter."[4] Upon her parents' divorce in her early childhood, Loden was raised by her religious maternal grandparents in the Appalachian Mountains in rural Marion, North Carolina.[4] She described her childhood as emotionally impoverished. Loden was described as a shy, humble, statuesque and soft-spoken loner[9][10][11] At age 16, she moved to New York City where she began working as a model for detective and romance magazines. Loden found minor success as a pin-up girl, model, and dancer at the famed Copacabana nightclub before studying at the famed Actors Studio, intending to become an actress.[9] At the time, she professed to hate film, saying, "People on the screen were perfect and they made me feel inferior.[12]

1955–1959: Early theater and television work[edit]

Loden made her New York theater debut in 1957 in Compulsion and also appeared on stage in The Highest Tree with Robert Redford as well as Night Circus with Ben Gazzara.[2] She joined the cast of 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 attain.[9] She said she owed a lot to Kovacs, as another producer on the show had initially vetoed Kovacs's decision to hire her. In interviews, Loden said, "Ernie felt sorry for me" and gave her another job as a stunt sidekick, rolling around in a rug or getting hit in the face with a pie.[10]

1960–1966: Film; marriage to Elia Kazan[edit]

Loden in Splendor in the Grass (1961)

In 1960, Loden appeared in Elia Kazan's film Wild River as Montgomery Clift's secretary. She was perhaps better known for her role in Splendor in the Grass (1961), in which she played Warren Beatty's sister.[13]

She 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.[14] 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.[1] After the Fall reviews touted that Loden was the "new Jean Harlow" and a "blonde bombshell."

Loden married her first husband, film and television producer and film distributor Larry Joachim, in the 1950s, and they had a son, Marco.[15] After an affair while they were both married to other people, Loden married film director Elia Kazan, who was 23 years her senior, in 1966. [16] She had another son, Leo, with Kazan, and though estranged and considering divorce, they were still married at the time of her death from breast cancer at the age of 48.[9]

Kazan could be contemptuous when describing his relationship with Loden. In his autobiography, Elia Kazan: A Life, he revealed his desire and lack of ability to control her. Kazan wrote about Loden "with a mix of affection and patronization, emphasizing her sexuality and her backcountry feistiness."[9] 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."[17] But Kazan was also, in his words, "protective" of Loden.[9]

Her acting career on film had a troubled history. Her first major screen role was to be in the Frank Perry-directed film The Swimmer starring Burt Lancaster. 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.[18] Kazan was a major film director who had great influence. He 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.[18] Perry was ultimately fired from the film. Several of the film's scenes were recast and reshot by Sydney Pollack, who was hired to replace Perry, with Lancaster reportedly paying for some of the reshoots himself.[18][19] Among the scenes that were entirely recast and reshot was the notorious Loden scene, with Broadway stage actress Janice Rule replacing Loden. Neither Loden nor Sydney Pollack was 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.[19]

1967–1980: Film and theater directing[edit]

While on safari with Kazan in 1966, a mutual friend, Harry Schuster, offered Loden $100,000 to make her own movie.[16] Encouraged, she wrote the screenplay for Wanda. The story, an existential rumination on a poverty-stricken woman adrift in Pennsylvania coal country, did not attract any potential directors to the project, including Kazan.[20] So Loden directed it herself, made in collaboration with cinematographer and editor Nicholas T. Proferes, on a meager budget of $115,000.[9]

Wanda is a semi-autobiographical portrait of a "passive, disconnected coal miner's wife who attaches herself to a petty crook."[9] Innovative in its cinéma vérité and improvisational 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 by, and which won the International Critics' Prize at, the Venice Film Festival in 1970, and which was presented at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.[9][21] 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.[9]

Although Wanda never received proper distribution, screening briefly in New York and at universities but never nationally on the theater circuit,[22] it was noted for its groundbreaking anti-Hollywood view of a woman adrift in the American underworld. Loden said of her title character, "She's trying to get out of this very ugly type of existence, but she doesn't have the equipment"—an independent-minded idea for a cinematic heroine at the time, making Wanda an anti-heroine.[23]

Death[edit]

In 1978, Loden was diagnosed with breast cancer.[24] At the time, she had completed several other screenplays with Proferes that Kazan described as "devoted to the neglected side of American life." She and Kazan had been estranged at the time of her cancer diagnosis, and were planning on divorcing; however, her illness precluded their planned separation.[24]

At the time of her diagnosis, Loden was prepared to direct a feature about Kate Chopin's The Awakening, but her cancer treatments prevented her from beginning the production.[12] She died at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City from the disease after a two-year battle on September 5, 1980.[1][9]

Legacy[edit]

Experimental filmmaker Marguerite Duras cited Wanda as an inspiration, particularly Loden's ability to inhabit her character onscreen, saying in an interview with Kazan, "I think that there is a miracle in Wanda. Usually there is a distance between the visual representation and the text, as well as the subject and the action. Here this distance is completely nullified; there is an instant and permanent continuity between Barbara Loden and Wanda." Duras described Loden's performance of Wanda's "demoralization" as "sacred, powerful, violent and profound."[22]

Kazan compared Loden's acting technique to Marlon Brando: "There was always an element of improvisation, a surprise, in what she was doing. The only one, a far as I know, who was like that is Brando when he was young. He never knew exactly what he was going to say, therefore everything would come out of his mouth very alive."[22]

Wanda never aspired to be a romanticized crime-spree vision, such as Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Loden purposefully favored a gritty documentary approach:

I really hate slick pictures... They're too perfect to be believable. I don't mean just in the look. I mean in the rhythm, in the cutting, the music—everything. The slicker the technique is the slicker the content becomes, until everything turns into Formica, including the people.[25]

With its hand-held camera, anonymous locations, available lighting on 16mm (blown up to 35mm), and improvisation by a mostly amateur cast, critic Richard Brody considers Wanda to be not so much in the tone of the concurrent French New Wave, but more like the improvisational directorial work of John Cassavetes.[25]

Although Loden was one of the very few women directors of the late '60s/early '70s, she didn't consider Wanda a feminist film at the time she was working on it, saying:

When I made Wanda, I didn't know anything about consciousness raising or women's liberation. That had just started when the film was finished. The picture was not about women's liberation. It was really about the oppression of women, of people... Being a woman is unexplored territory, and we're pioneers of a sort, discovering what it means to be a woman.[12]

In 2012, Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden by acclaimed French author Nathalie Léger was published. The book, taking Wanda and Loden's biography as its inspiration, combines fact and fiction to examine the nature of lived truth. It was translated into English and published as Suite for Barbara Loden in 2016.[26]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1955–1957 The Ernie Kovacs Show Series regular
1960 Wild River Betty Jackson
1961 Splendor in the Grass Ginny Stamper
1962 Alcoa Premiere Betty Johnson Episode: "The Boy Who Wasn't Wanted"
1962 Naked City Penny Sonners Episode: "Torment Him Much and Hold Him Long"
1966 CBS Playhouse: The Glass Menagerie Her Daughter
1968 The Swimmer Scenes deleted
1968 Fade In Jean Television film
1970 Wanda Wanda Goronski Also writer and director
1975 The Frontier Experience Delilah Fowler Short film; also director and producer
1975 The Boy Who Liked Deer Short film; director and producer

Stage credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1957 Compulsion Bit part Broadway [5]
1958 Night Circus Co-starring with Ben Gazzara [27]
1959 Look After Lulu! Gaby Broadway; directed by Noël Coward [28]
1959 The Highest Tree Broadway; co-starring Robert Redford [29]
1960 The Long Dream White Girl Broadway [30]
1964–1965 After the Fall Maggie Broadway; Tony Award for Best Featured Actress [5]
1964 But for Whom Charlie Sheila Maloney Broadway [31]
1964 The Changeling Beatrice Broadway [32]
1968 Winter Journey Broadway [33]
1968 The Country Girl Broadway [34]
1969 Home is the Hero N/A Off-Broadway; director [33]
1975 The Love Death Plays of William Inge N/A Off-Broadway; director [35]
1976 Berchtesgaden N/A Regional performances; director [36]
1980 Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean Mona Off-Broadway [6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Some bibliographic sources state Loden's birth year as 1932,[4][5] but her obituary by the Associated Press states that she was 48 at the time of her death, which would make her birth year 1934.[6] A 1964 article on Loden notes that "she's 30 now," supporting her birth year as 1934.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The Hollywood Reporter, Barbara Loden obituary, September 8, 1980.
  2. ^ a b "Actress dies of cancer". The Star News. September 6, 1980. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  3. ^ "Movies". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. July 30, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Uglow & Hendry 2005, p. 354.
  5. ^ a b c Turner & Podell 1980, p. 511.
  6. ^ a b "Barbara Loden, Actress, Dies". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Connecticut: Associated Press. September 6, 1980 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ Wilson, Earl (March 21, 1964). "It Happened Last Night". Reno Gazette. Reno, Nevada. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  8. ^ Commire & Klezmer 1999, p. 595.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Taylor, Kate (August 29, 2010). "Driven by Fierce Visions of Independence". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Wilson, Earl (March 20, 1964). "13 Years of Plodding Turns Barbara Loden Into Star". The Toledo Blade. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  11. ^ Burt A. Folkart, "'Dumb Blonde' Made One Brilliant Film", Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1980.
  12. ^ a b c Acker 1991, pp. 78–81.
  13. ^ Garfield 1980, p. 279.
  14. ^ Wilson, Earl (March 23, 1964). "Barbara Loden Shows Some Humility". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sarasota, Florida – via Google News.
  15. ^ Profile, imdb.com; accessed October 7, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Longworth, Karina. (April 17, 2017). "Barbara Loden (Dead Blondes, episode 12)," You Must Remember This podcast. Retrieved on July 30, 2017.
  17. ^ Kazan 1988, pp. 794–814.
  18. ^ a b c Chris Innis, "The Story of the Swimmer" documentary; available on the 2014 Grindhouse Releasing release of The Swimmer on Blu-ray/DVD
  19. ^ a b "She's at Home", The Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1966.
  20. ^ Longworth, Karina. (March 17, 2011). "One-Hit Wanda", LA Weekly. Retrieved on July 30, 2017.
  21. ^ Wilson, Earl (February 2, 1971). "Actress Raises $100,000". Beaver Country Times. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  22. ^ a b c Duras, Marguerite and Kazan, Elia. (June–August, 2003). "Conversation on Wanda, Cahiers du Cinéma (excerpts from an interview in Cahiers du Cinéma, December, 1980). Retrieved on July 30, 2017.
  23. ^ McCourt, Kate. "Who was Barbara Loden?", Propeller Magazine. Retrieved on July 30, 2017.
  24. ^ a b Kazan 2015, p. 581.
  25. ^ a b Brody, Richard. (January 26, 2010). Wanda, The New Yorker. Retrieved on July 30, 2017.
  26. ^ Léger, Nathalie (2016). Suite for Barbara Loden (First U.S. ed.). Dorothy Project. ISBN 978-0-9973666-0-0.
  27. ^ "World Premiere: "The Night Circus"". On Stage. Chicago: Shubert Theatre. October 1958.
  28. ^ Hischak 2012, p. 3119.
  29. ^ Spada 1984, p. 202.
  30. ^ "The Long Dream". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  31. ^ "But for Whom Charlie". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  32. ^ "The Changeling". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  33. ^ a b Jewell & Howard 1977, p. 130.
  34. ^ Guerney 1968, p. 403.
  35. ^ Leeson 1994, p. 68.
  36. ^ "New Drama Set For Tryout At White Barn This Weekend". The Bridgeport Post. Bridgeport, Connecticut. August 13, 1976. p. 23 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read

Works cited[edit]

  • Acker, Ally (1991). Reel Women - Pioneers of the Cinema, 1896 to the Present. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-826-40499-2.
  • Commire, Anne; Klezmer, Deborah (1999). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. 9. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin. ISBN 978-0-787-64068-2.
  • Garfield, David (1980). A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-025-42650-4.
  • Guernsey, Otis L. et al. (1968). The Best Plays of 1967–1968. Burns Mantle Yearbook. 49. New York: Dodd, Mead. OCLC 990510372.
  • Hischak, Thomas (2012). Broadway Plays and Musicals: Descriptions and Essential Facts of More Than 14,000 Shows through 2007. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-45309-2.
  • Jewell, James C.; Howard, Thomas E. (1977). Broadway and the Tony Awards: The First Three Decades, 1947-1977. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-819-10339-0.
  • Kazan, Elia (1988). Elia Kazan: A Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-394-55953-7.
  • Kazan, Elia (2015). Devlin, Albert J.; Devlin, Marlene J., eds. The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-101-91139-6.
  • Leeson, Richard M. (1994). William Inge: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-27407-7.
  • Spada, James (1984). The Films of Robert Redford. London: Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0-806-50898-6.
  • Turner, Roland; Podell, Janet (1980). The Annual Obituary. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-333-32502-5.
  • Uglow, Jenny; Hendry, Maggy (2005). The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Women's Biography (Fourth ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-50577-3.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • Léger, Nathalie, Suite for Barbara Loden

External links[edit]