Susan Elizabeth Strasberg
May 22, 1938
New York City, U.S.
|Died||January 21, 1999 (aged 60)|
New York City, U.S.
(m. 1965; div. 1968)
|Relatives||John Strasberg (brother)|
Susan Elizabeth Strasberg (May 22, 1938 – January 21, 1999) was an American stage, film, and television actress. Imagined to be the next Hepburn-type ingenue, she was nominated for a Tony Award at age 18, playing the title role in The Diary of Anne Frank. She appeared on the covers of LIFE and Newsweek in 1955. A close friend of Marilyn Monroe and Richard Burton, she wrote two best-selling tell-all books. Her later career primarily consisted of slasher and horror films, followed by TV roles, by the 1980s.
Strasberg was born in New York City to theatre director and drama coach Lee Strasberg of the Actors Studio and former actress Paula Strasberg. Her brother, John, is an acting coach. Her father was born in what is now Ukraine, and her mother in New York City. They were both from Jewish families who emigrated from Europe.
At age 14, Strasberg appeared off-Broadway in Maya in 1953, which ran seven performances. Her TV debut was in "Catch a Falling Star", an episode of Goodyear Playhouse directed by Delbert Mann the same year.
The Diary of Anne Frank
Strasberg originated the title role in the Broadway production of The Diary of Anne Frank, directed by Garson Kanin, which ran for 717 performances from 1955 to 1957. Brooks Atkinson wrote that she was "a slender, enchanting young lady with a heart-shaped face, a pair of burning eyes, and the soul of an actress."
Strasberg was nominated for a Tony Award at the age of 18 and became the youngest actress to star on Broadway with her name above the marquee title. In 1955 she appeared twice on the cover of Life (July 11, 1955 issue; November 11, 1955 issue) and soon after on the cover of Newsweek (December 19, 1955 issue).
The success of the play led to numerous film offers. She decided on the lead in Stage Struck (1958), directed by Sidney Lumet. It was a remake of Morning Glory (1933) with Katharine Hepburn. According to one obituary, "It had seemed as if the beautiful, dark-haired actress might have an impact equal to that made by Jean Simmons and Audrey Hepburn as ingenues."
Strasberg was not cast in the George Stevens film version of Anne Frank. Several reasons have been suggested for this: that Stevens did not want to deal with the influence of Strasberg's mother, Paula, and that Stevens saw Strasberg at the end of the play's run when her performance had become tired. Strasberg did not test for the role.
Strasberg appeared in Sean O'Casey's The Shadow of a Gunman (1958–59) for Jack Garfein alongside members of the Actors Studio; it ran for 52 performances. Brooks Atkinson said she had "willowy freshness".
Strasberg based herself in Italy for the next few years. "I wanted to see what it was like when I was alone", she said.
Return to US
Strasberg returned to the US to appear on Broadway in The Lady of the Camellias (1963), directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The director said Strasberg had the qualities of being "romantic, cynical, classical, contemporary." The show only ran for 13 performances.
She made The High Bright Sun (1965) in England then went back to TV: Run for Your Life, The Legend of Jesse James (starring Christopher Jones, who became her husband), The Big Valley and The Invaders.
She made Chubasco (1967) with Jones, and did some counterculture movies: The Trip (1967) for Roger Corman, as the wife of Peter Fonda, and Psych-Out (1968) with Jack Nicholson. She also did The Name of the Game Is Kill! (1968), The Brotherhood (1968) and The Sisters (1969).
Late 1960s and 1970s
In the late 1960s & 1970s Strasberg did mostly TV: The Big Valley, The Virginian, Bonanza, Lancer, The Name of the Game, Premiere, The F.B.I., CBS Playhouse, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Streets of San Francisco, Night Gallery, McCloud, Alias Smith & Jones, The Sixth Sense, Assignment Vienna, The Wide World of Mystery, The Evil Touch, Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, The Rockford Files (twice), and Mannix. "I did mediocre things because that way I didn't have to test myself", she said later. "I had a tremendous need not to shame my father."
She did occasional TV movies like Hauser's Memory (1970), Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones (1971) and ...And Millions Die! (1973) and the occasional feature like Ternos Caçadores (1970), The Legend of Hillbilly John (1972), and Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind (ultimately released in 2018).
Strasberg had the lead in So Evil, My Sister (1974) and was in Mystery at Malibu (1976), Sammy Somebody (1976), SST: Death Flight (1977), Rollercoaster (1977), The Manitou (1977),Tre soldi e la donna di classe (1977), In Praise of Older Women (1978), The Immigrants (1978), and Beggarman, Thief (1979).
In 1980 she published a memoir, Bittersweet, because she said her career was "stalled. . . . It seemed totally untenable to me, acting for 25 years—I had played Juliet, Cleopatra, and Anne Frank—and there I was, sitting in Hollywood just waiting for somebody to want me."
In the 1980s Strasberg's credits included Bloody Birthday (1981), The Love Boat, Mazes and Monsters (1982), Sweet Sixteen (1983), The Returning (1983), The New Mike Hammer, Tales of the Unexpected, Tales from the Darkside, The Delta Force (1986), Remington Steele, Hot Shots, Murder, She Wrote, Cagney & Lacey, and The Runnin' Kind (1989).
"I love acting", she said in 1983. "I mean, I can't quite conceive of not doing it. But it's less important to me since I started writing, because I really like writing. And I really enjoy, I love lecturing and speaking and having that kind of contact with people too."
Strasberg wrote two best-selling books. Bittersweet was an autobiography in which she wrote about her tumultuous relationships with her parents and with actors Richard Burton and Christopher Jones, as well as with her own daughter's struggles with a heart defect. She received a $100,000 advance for it and sold paperback rights for $300,000.
Strasberg was working on a third book about her personal spiritual journey at the time of her death entitled Confessions of a New Age Heretic.
On September 25, 1965, Strasberg married actor Christopher Jones, with whom she had appeared in an episode of The Legend of Jesse James in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer Robin, was born six months later. The couple divorced in 1968 due to her husband's mental instability. Jennifer was born with a congenital birth defect, which Strasberg blamed on her and Jones's drug-taking.
Filmography and television
- The Cobweb (1955) as Sue Brett
- Picnic (1955) as Millie Owens
- 1955 Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (1955) (short subject)
- Stage Struck (1958) as Eva Lovelace
- Kapò (1960) as Edith, alias Nicole Niepas
- Scream of Fear (1961) as Penny Appleby
- Disorder (1962) as Isabella
- Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962) as Rosanna
- The Shortest Day (1962) (uncredited)
- The High Bright Sun (1965) as Juno Kozani
- The Invaders, "Quantity Unknown" (Season 1: Episode 8, 1967) as Diane Oberly
- The Big Valley (1967, Episode: "Night in a Small Town") as Sally
- The F.B.I. (1967, Episode: "The Executioners") as Chris Roland
- Chubasco (1968) as Bunny
- The Trip (1967) as Sally Groves
- Psych-Out (1968) as Jenny Davis
- The Name of the Game Is Kill! (1968) as Mickey Terry
- Bonanza (1968, Episode: "A Severe Case Of Matrimony") as Rosalita
- The Brotherhood (1968) as Emma Ginetta
- The Sisters (1969) as Martha
- Sweet Hunters (1969) as Lis
- McCloud (1970) as Lorraine / Annette Bardege
- Night Gallery (1971–1973, 2 episodes) as Sheila Trent / Ruth Asquith (segment "Midnight Never Ends")
- The Sixth Sense (TV series) (1972: Once Upon a Chilling")
- The Legend of Hillbilly John (1972) as Polly Wiltse
- Frankenstein (1973) as Elizabeth Lavenza
- Toma (1973) as Patty Toma (series regular; 23 episodes)
- And Millions Will Die (1973) as Heather Kessler
- The Rockford Files (1974, Episode: "The Countess") as Deborah Ryder
- So Evil, My Sister (1974) as Brenda
- McMillan and Wife (1974) as Virginia Ryan
- Sammy Somebody (1976)
- The Rockford Files (1976, Episode: "A Bad Deal In The Valley") as Karen Stiles
- The Stronger (1976, Short)
- Rollercoaster (1977) as Fran
- Tre soldi e la donna di classe (1977)
- The Manitou (1978) as Karen Tandy
- In Praise of Older Women (1978) as Bobbie
- The Immigrants (1978) as Sarah Levy
- Beggarman, Thief (1979) as Ida Cohen
- Acting: Lee Strasberg and the Actors Studio (1981, Documentary)
- Bloody Birthday (1981) as Miss Viola Davis
- Mazes and Monsters (1982) as Meg
- Sweet Sixteen (1983) as Joanne Morgan
- The Returning (1983) as Sybil Ophir
- Tales of the Unexpected (1984–1985, TV Series) as Roberta Elton / Madame Myra
- The Delta Force (1986) as Debra Levine (Passenger)
- Remembering Marilyn (1987, Documentary)
- Murder, She Wrote (1987, Episode: "The Days Dwindle Down") as Dorothy Hearn Davis
- Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend (1987, Documentary)
- The Runnin' Kind (1989) as Carol Curtis
- Prime Suspect (1989) as Dr. Celia Warren
- Schweitzer (1990) as Helene Schweitzer
- The Cherry Orchard (1992) as Livia
- Love, Marilyn (2012, Documentary)
- The Other Side of the Wind (2018; shot between 1970 and 1976) as Juliette Riche
Awards and nominations
|1956||Tony Award||Best Actress in a Play||The Diary of Anne Frank||Nominated|
|1956||Theatre World Award||The Diary of Anne Frank||Won|
|1957||BAFTA Film Award||Most Promising Newcomer to Film||Picnic||Nominated|
|1961||Mar de Plata Film Festival||Best Actress||Kapò||Won|
|1963||Golden Globe||Best Actress – Drama||Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man||Nominated|
- Vallance, Tom. "Culture: Obituary: Susan Strasberg," The Independent (24 January 1999).
- Wolters, Larry (May 27, 1954). "WHERE TO DIAL TODAY: TV Picks a Juliet of Right Age". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. c12.
- Berg, Louis (Dec 18, 1955). "Not-So-Lazy Susan". Los Angeles Times. p. J20.
- VAL ADAMS (Feb 28, 1956). "ALL-STAR CAST SET FOR 'CRADLE SONG': Evans Signs Misses Hayes, Anderson, Strasberg and McKenna for TV Offering". New York Times. p. 63.
- "Drama: 'Stagestruck' Aimed at Susan Strasberg". Los Angeles Times. June 13, 1956. p. B8.
- SAM ZOLOTOW (14 June 1957). "SUSAN STRASBERG GETS COMEDY ROLE: She Will Appear Sept. 12 in 'Time Remembered,' Play from French by Anouilh Wouk Comedy Is Due 2 Players to London". New York Times. p. 21.
- BROOKS ATKINSON (Nov 21, 1958). "Theatre: A Prologue to Greatness: ' Shadow of a Gunman' by O'Casey at Bijou". New York Times. p. 26.
- Hopper, Hedda (Feb 20, 1960). "Looking at Hollywood: Susan Strasberg to Star in Italian Movie, 'Kapo'". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. n_a1.
- William Glover. The Washington Post, Times Herald (Aug 5, 1962). "Grownup Susan Strasberg Used To Feel Old but Now Feels Young". p. G3.
- LOUIS CALTA (Nov 11, 1961). "SUSAN STRASBERG TO PLAY CAMILLE: Zeffirelli Will Stage Dumas Tragedy Here Next Fall". New York Times. p. 15.
- "Susan Strasberg Signed for Role". Los Angeles Times. Sep 24, 1965. p. C15.
- Lee, Grant (9 July 1977). "FILM CLIPS: Susan Comes Out of Her Slump". Los Angeles Times. p. b6.
- "Will success smile again on Susan Strasberg?". Chicago Tribune. Sep 30, 1973. p. j3.
- Bergan, Ronald (Jan 25, 1999). "Obituary: Susan Strasberg: Lucky star who failed to shine". The Guardian. p. 013.
- JUDY KLEMESRUD (Apr 27, 1980). "Susan Strasberg Looks Back: Scenes From a Bittersweet Life: The Book's Beginning Frank Account of Affairs Mother's Bitterness Recalled". New York Times. p. 72.
- Polak, Maralyn Lois (Dec 11, 1983). "SUSAN STRASBERG: A STAR IS REBORN". Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 11.
- "Berlinale: 1993 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
- Anderson, Jon (6 July 1980). "Scenes from a life, played by Susan Strasberg". Chicago Tribune. p. i1.
- Gussow, Mel (January 23, 1999). "ET Susan Strasberg, 60, Actress Lauded in 'Anne Frank,' Dies". New York Times. p. 2.
- Bosworth, Patricia (June 2003). "The Mentor and the Movie Star". Vanity Fair. p. 1.
- Smith, Kyle (February 8, 1999). "Frank Actress". People.
- "Susan Strasberg Wed to Actor Chris Jones". Chicago Tribune. Oct 20, 1965. p. c3.
- Strasberg, Susan (May 5, 1980). "A Child Born Under a Square". People. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
- Welkos, Robert W. (January 23, 1999). "Susan Strasberg; Stage, Film Actress, Daughter of Famed Acting Teacher". Los Angeles Times.
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