Rowlands in 1968
Virginia Cathryn Rowlands
June 19, 1930
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Alma mater||American Academy of Dramatic Arts|
(m. 1954; died 1989)
|Parent(s)||Edwin Myrwyn Rowlands|
Virginia "Gena" Cathryn Rowlands (born June 19, 1930) is an American actress, whose career in film, stage, and television has spanned over six decades. A four-time Emmy and two-time Golden Globe winner, she is known for her collaborations with her late actor-director husband John Cassavetes in ten films, including A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980), which earned her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won the Silver Bear for Best Actress for Opening Night (1977). She is also known for her performances in Woody Allen's Another Woman (1988), and her son, Nick Cassavetes' film, The Notebook (2004). In November 2015, Rowlands received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of her unique screen performances.
Rowlands was born on June 19, 1930, in Madison, Wisconsin. Her mother, Mary Allen (Neal), was a housewife who later worked as an actress under the stage name Lady Rowlands. Her father, Edwin Myrwyn Rowlands, was a banker and state legislator. He was a member of the Wisconsin Progressive Party, and was of Welsh descent. She had a brother, David Rowlands.
Her family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1939, when Edwin was appointed to a position in the United States Department of Agriculture; moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1942, when he was appointed as branch manager of the Office of Price Administration; and later moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. From 1947–50, she attended the University of Wisconsin, where she was a popular student already renowned for her beauty. While in college, she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She left for New York City to study drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Early roles (1952–1967)
In the early 1950s, Rowlands performed with repertory theatre companies and at the Provincetown Playhouse. She made her Broadway debut in The Seven Year Itch and toured in a national production of the play. In 1956, she starred in the Broadway play Middle of the Night opposite Edward G. Robinson.
Rowlands costarred with Paul Stewart in the 26-episode syndicated TV series Top Secret (1954–55). She guest-starred on such anthology television series as Robert Montgomery Presents, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Studio One, Appointment with Adventure, The United States Steel Hour and Goodyear Television Playhouse, all in 1955. In 1959, Rowlands appeared in the western series Laramie, alongside her husband John Cassavetes in the detective series Johnny Staccato, and in the western series Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin. In 1961, she appeared in the adventure series The Islanders, set in the South Pacific, and in Target: The Corruptors!, starring Stephen McNally. She guest-starred in The Lloyd Bridges Show, the detective series 77 Sunset Strip, the westerns Bonanza and The Virginian, and Breaking Point, all in 1963. In 1964, she guest-starred in the medical drama Dr. Kildare and in two episodes of Burke's Law. She appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, three of which were after the series had been renamed The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. In 1967, she was cast as socialite Adrienne Van Leyden in the prime-time ABC soap opera Peyton Place.
Rowlands made her film debut in The High Cost of Loving in 1958. In 1962, she starred in director David Miller's Lonely Are the Brave, with Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau. She played the former lover of the Kirk Douglas character, now the wife of the Douglas character's best friend.
Cassavetes era (1963–1984)
Rowlands and Cassavetes made ten films together: A Child Is Waiting (1963), Faces (1968), Machine Gun McCain (1969), Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), A Woman Under the Influence (1974; nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress), Two-Minute Warning (1976), Opening Night (1977), Gloria (1980; nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress), Tempest (1982), and Love Streams (1984).
According to Boston University film scholar Ray Carney, Rowlands sought to suppress an early version of Cassavetes' first film, Shadows, that Carney says he rediscovered after decades of searching. Rowlands also became involved in the screenings of Husbands and Love Streams, according to Carney. The UCLA Film and Television Archive mounted a restoration of Husbands, as it was pruned down (without Cassavetes' consent, and in violation of his contract) by Columbia Pictures several months after its release, in an attempt to restore as much of the removed content as possible. At Rowlands' request, UCLA created an alternative print with almost ten minutes of content edited out, as Rowlands felt that these scenes were in poor taste. The alternative print is the only one that has been made available for rental.
Late career (1985–present)
In 1985, Rowlands played the mother in the critically acclaimed made-for-TV movie An Early Frost. She won an Emmy for her portrayal of former First Lady of the United States Betty Ford in the 1987 made-for-TV movie The Betty Ford Story.
In 1988, Rowlands starred in Woody Allen's dramatic film Another Woman. She played Marion Post, a middle-aged professor who is prompted to a journey of self-discovery when she overhears the therapy sessions of another woman (Mia Farrow). The review in Time Out described the character's trajectory: "Marion gets to thinking, and is appalled to realise that so many assumptions about her own life and marriage are largely unfounded: in her desire for a controlled existence, she has evaded the emotional truth about relationships with her best friend (Sandy Dennis), brother (Harris Yulin) and husband (Ian Holm)." Time Out praised the "marvellous" performances in the film, adding, "Rowlands' perfectly pitched approach to a demanding role is particularly stunning." Film4 called her performance "sublime", while Roger Ebert noted that it marked a considerable change in tone from her work with Cassavetes, thus showing "how good an actress Rowlands has been all along."
In 2002, Rowlands appeared in Mira Nair's HBO movie Hysterical Blindness, for which she won her third Emmy. Next year she appeared as Mrs. Hellman an episode from the third season of Numb3rs. She played a Nazi survivor whose whole family was killed. The family owned a painting that the Nazis confiscated. Later on the painting reappeared. The new owner lent the painting to an art gallery in Los Angeles but while on display it was stolen. The F.B.I. agent, played by Don Eppes, tries to figure out what really happened. Rowlands received rave reviews for this role. She has been a spokesperson for people who were persecuted by the Nazis so this role was a perfect match for her.
She was later seen in The Notebook (2004), which was directed by her son Nick Cassavetes. The same year, she won her first Daytime Emmy for her role as Mrs. Evelyn Ritchie in The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie. In 2005, she appeared opposite Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Hurt in the gothic thriller The Skeleton Key.
In 2007, she played a supporting role opposite Parker Posey and Melvil Poupaud in Broken English, an independent American feature written and directed by her daughter Zoe Cassavetes. In 2009, she appeared on an episode of Monk ("Mr. Monk and the Lady Next Door"). On March 2, 2010, she appeared on an episode of NCIS as lead character Leroy Jethro Gibbs's former mother-in-law, who is embroiled in a murder investigation. In 2014, she starred in the film adaptation of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.
Rowlands was married to John Cassavetes from April 9, 1954, until his death on February 3, 1989. They met at the American Academy at Carnegie Hall where they were both students. They had three children, all actor-directors: Nick, Alexandra, and Zoe. Rowlands married retired businessman Robert Forrest in 2012.
|1954||Top Secret||Powell||Episode: This Man is Death|
|1955||The Way of the World||Paula Graves|
|1955||Robert Montgomery Presents||Myrtle Wilson||Episode: The Great Gatsby|
|1955||Ponds Theater||Janet||Episode: The Ways of Courage|
|1955||Armstrong Circle Theatre||Lugene||Episode: Time for Love|
|1955||Studio One on Hollywood||Betty||Episode: A Chance of Love|
|1955||Appointment with Adventure||Performer||2 episodes|
|1955||The United States Steel Hour||Lily||Episode: Ashton Buys a Horse|
|1955||Goodyear Television Playhouse||Betty/Eve||2 episodes|
|1958||General Electric Theater||Dorothy Dickenson||Episode: The Girl with the Flaxen Hair|
|1959||Laramie||Laurel DeWalt||Episode: The Run to Tumavaca|
|1959||Johnny Staccato||Nina Van Ness||Episode: Fly Baby, Fly|
|1959||Markham||Rita Evans||Episode: The Altar|
|1959||Riverboat||Rose Traynor||Episode: Guns for Empire|
|1960||Adventures in Paradise||Dr. Abigail Brent||Episode: The Death-Divers|
|1960||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Lucille Jones||Episode: The Doubtful Doctor|
|1960||The Tab Hunter Show||Barbara/Penelope||Episode: Double Trouble|
|1961||The Islanders||Pepper Mint||Episode: Island Witness|
|1961||Target: The Corruptors!||Marian Praisewater||Episode: The Poppy Vendor|
|1961-62||87th Precinct||Teddy Carella||4 episodes|
|1963||The Dick Powell Theatre||Mrs. Canfield||Episode: Project X|
|1963||The Lloyd Bridges Show||Leslie Kaufman||Episode: A Personal Matter|
|1963||77 Sunset Strip||Barbara Adams||Episode: Flight 307|
|1963||Bonanza||Ragan Miller||Episode: She Walks in Beauty|
|1963||The Virginian||Savannah||Episode: No Tears for Fears|
|1963||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||June||Episode: It's Mental Work|
|1963||Breaking Point||Shelley Peters||Episode: Heart of Marble, Body of Shame|
|1962-64||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Performer||3 episodes|
|1963-64||Kraft Suspense Theatre||Performer||2 episodes|
|1964||Dr. Kildare||Helen Scott||Episode: To Walk in Grace|
|1964||Burke's Law||Mitzie/Paulette||2 episodes|
|1966||Run for Your Life||Charlotte Hyde||Episode: The Rediscovery of Charlotte Hyde|
|1966||The Long, Hot Summer||Karen Roberts||Episode: From This Day Forward|
|1967||The Road West||Karen Collier||Episode: Beyond the Hill|
|1967||The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.||Baroness Ingrid||Episode: The Fountain of Youth Affair|
|1967||Peyton Place||Adrienne Van Leyden||39 episodes|
|1968||Garrison's Gorillas||Duchess||Episode: The Frame-Up|
|1971-73||Medical Center||Karen/Frances||2 episodes|
|1972||Circle of Fear||Kate Lucas||Episode: The Concrete Captain|
|1974||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Lorrain Denby||Episode: The 266 Days|
|1975||Columbo||Elizabeth Van Wyck||Episode: Playback|
|1978||A Question of Love||Linda Ray Guettner||Television Movie|
The Story of a Mother and Daughter
|Abigail Mason||Television Movie|
|1983||Thursday's Child||Victoria Alden||Television Movie|
|1983||Faerie Tale Theatre||Witch||Episode: Rapunzel|
|1985||An Early Frost||Katherine Pierson||Television Movie|
|1987||The Betty Ford Story||Betty Ford||Television Movie|
|1990||Montana||Bess Guthrie||Television Movie|
|1991||Face of a Stranger||Pat Foster||Television Movie|
|1992||Crazy in Love||Honora Swift||Television Movie|
|1993||Anything for John||Herself||Television Documentary|
|1994||Parallel Lives||Francie Pomerantz||Television Movie|
|1998||Grace & Glorie||Grace Stiles||Television Movie|
|1998||Best Friends for Life||Mrs. Harriet Cahill||Television Movie|
|2000||The Color of Love: Jacey's Story||Georgia Porter||Television Movie|
|2001||Wild Iris||Minnie Brinn||Television Movie|
|2002||Charms for the Easy Life||Ms. Charlie Kate||Television Movie|
|2003||Broadway: The Golden Age||Herself||Documentary series|
|2003||Hysterical Blindness||Virginia Miller||Television Movie|
|2004||The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie||Evelyn Ritchie||Television Movie|
|2006||Numb3rs||Mrs. Hellman||Episode: Provenance|
|2007||What If God Were the Sun?||Melissa Eisenbloom||Television Movie|
|2009||Monk||Marge Johnson||Episode: Mr. Monk & the Lady Next Door|
|2010||NCIS||Joann Fielding||Episode: Mother's Day|
Awards and Nominations
Rowlands has been nominated for two Academy Awards, eight Primetime Emmy Awards, one Daytime Emmy Award, eight Golden Globe Awards, three Satellite Awards, and two SAG Awards. Some of her notable wins are a Silver Bear for Best Actress, three Primetime Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, two National Board of Review Awards, and two Satellite Awards.
In January 2015, Rowlands was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. She was also chosen by the Academy Awards board of governors to receive an Honorary Academy Award that same year. At the Governors Awards ceremony, she was honored by Laura Linney and Cate Blanchett who offered up tributes; and Rowland's son Nick Cassavettes presented the award to her. The press release described Rowland as "an original talent" whose "devotion to her craft has earned her worldwide recognition as an independent film icon".
|1974||Best Actress||A Woman Under the Influence||Nominated|
|2015||Honorary Academy Award||N/A||Won|
Primetime Emmy Award
|1986||Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie||An Early Frost||Nominated|
|1987||The Betty Ford Story||Won|
|1992||Face of a Stranger||Won|
|2000||The Color of Love: Jacey's Story||Nominated|
|2003||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie||Hysterical Blindness||Won|
|2007||Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or Movie||What If God Were the Sun?||Nominated|
|2009||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series||Monk||Nominated|
Golden Globe Awards
|1974||Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama||A Woman Under the Influence||Won|
|1983||Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film||Thursday's Child||Nominated|
|1985||An Early Frost||Nominated|
|1987||The Betty Ford Story||Won|
|1992||Best Supporting Actress - Television||Crazy in Love||Nominated|
- Tim Gray. "Gena Rowlands, Spike Lee, Debbie Reynolds to Receive Governors Awards Oscars". Variety.
- Dane County Register of Deeds, Madison, Wisconsin.
- U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, state of Wisconsin, county of Columbia, village of Cambria, enumeration district 3, page 4-B, family 130
- "Gena Rowlands Biography (1930?-)".
- Assembly, 1927–1935; Senate, 1935–1939. Members of the Wisconsin Legislature 1848–1999, Informational Bulletin 99-1, Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, 1999.
- Lane, Lydia (November 21, 1980). "Beauty".
- "OPA Directed by Merwyn [sic] Rowlands," The Sheboygan Press, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, April 2, 1942, p. 4
- Registrar's Office, University of Wisconsin–Madison.
- "Six U.W. Co-eds 'Badger Beauties", The Sheboygan Press, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, November 14, 1949, p. 2
- University of Wisconsin Badger, 1950
- "Top Secret". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- "Gena Rowlands, a miraculous actress"
- "Who Owns an Improvised Work?". The John Cassavetes Pages. Retrieved December 17, 2006.
- Carney, Ray "On Your Relationship with Criterion", The John Cassavetes Pages; accessed December 17, 2006
- "Another Woman". Time Out. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
- "Another Woman". Film4. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
- Ebert, Roger (November 18, 1988). "Another Woman". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
- Ausiello, Michael (January 16, 2010). "'NCIS' exclusive: Gena Rowlands unlocks Gibbs' past". ew.com. The Meredith Corporation. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
- Chang, Justin (December 16, 2014). "Film Review: 'Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks'". Variety. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
- "The Hollywood Reporter Interview with Gena Rowlands". March 29, 2015.
- "LAFCA Lifetime Achievement Award". March 29, 2015. Archived from the original on December 30, 2014. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- "Spike Lee, Debbie Reynolds And Gena Rowlands To Receive Academy's 2015 Governors Awards". AMPAS. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
- Gallagher, John Andrew; Caminer, Sylvia (August 24, 2017). "The Grande Dame of American Indie Cinema: A Lost Interview with Gena Rowlands."". MovieMaker.
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