“The dichotomy of my genius status at home and my slightly below par status in the outside world gave me a sense of instability and unreality throughout all of my life about exactly who I was and what I was capable of. Could that be why I grabbed so ferociously at acting? Grounding myself in a structure that worked for me, the observant child?”
— And excerpt from I Said Yes to Everything -Lee Grant talking about Sandy Meisner and The Neighborhood Playhouse.
How do you start out a biography about someone who is a virtual legend?
When I attended the Chiller Theatre Expo I had the exciting opportunity to meet one of my favorite actors, Academy Award winner Lee Grant. This meeting turned out to be one of the great highlights of my life. While I’ve followed her work my entire life, after connecting with her, I began my exploration into Lee Grant’s life by immersing myself first in her incredibly honest and potent autobiography. “I Said Yes to Everything” is an expository journey written long-hand by Lee herself in classic black and white note books. It’s a well-written intimate portrait of a courageous and brilliant actor.
“Lee Grant’s I Said Yes to Everything is heart-stopping. More than just a show-business memoir or chronicle of the Hollywood blacklist era, it is a terrifying account of a gifted artist’s tumultuous journey—both personal and professional. You will feel every jolt of terror that Grant endured, wondering if you would have been as brave. Her triumph becomes our own. Readers of this gripping book will surely reach the final page shouting a victorious “Yes! To everything that is Lee Grant.” -Marlo Thomas
With every role Lee Grant undertakes —from stage to early dramatic teleplays, to television series and onto the big screen— she transports an inner truth and an understanding of the world’s pleasures, and too, it’s miseries. Never afraid to take risks, she turned a career that was at one time silenced, into a great triumph by reclaiming her place in Hollywood. She then forged her own road into directing, where her voice and compassionate vision helped marginalized people have their say as well.
This is the spirit of Lee Grant, a woman who kicked down the door, prevailed the madness of the blacklist and without settling. She become a formidable actress, director, a legend, and friend.
Reading about her incredible life story, I Said Yes to Everything, brought me closer to the actress whom I already admired and loved for so many years. It’s a reflexive reminiscence, at times brutal and at other times it evokes laughter. Lee Grant has a primal and candid sense of humor that is so invigorating to experience. And hearing it from Lee herself is life-altering and beyond meaningful.
I also reexamined a lot of her great work so I could surround myself with the essence of her talent. It not only fortified what I had already felt about her capacity to engage each role, I met several characters that I hadn’t seen before. And was completely knocked over by Lee Grant’s awe-inspiring performances. To have the opportunity to talk to someone you’ve known as an acting legend can make you quite star struck as you try to find your own voice without sounding like a fool. But Lee Grant is a real and raw person. She’s one of those people you meet by chance in life, striking up a wonderful connection as if you’ve known them for years. This is just another layer of greatness to an already great actor.
Lee Grant is one of the most expository of actors. She uses her distinctive voice, that moves along the walls of your mind like an elegant cat, with an expressiveness that brings to bear even the most subtle of gestures. She has an attentiveness to detail, and her extraordinary sensuality is deep-rooted with a swift and clever sense of humor.
As an actor, she brings and intimacy to her roles, complex, passionate sensual dynamic versatile, and authentic. A talent caught up in the net of the HUAC insanity that ruined lives, and literally took her act of belonging away in Hollywood and from an industry where time is essential in order to obtain recognition and primacy.
I suspected that Lee always put a little of her real self in each role. It turns out I was right as you’ll learn from our conversation about her performances. There is no one quite like Lee. Absolutely no other actor like her.
Lee with one of her original oil paintings.
Like David fighting Goliath, she kept her resilience during those dark years of the blacklist. She’s an actor who is truthful enough to bare her vulnerabilities, machinations, fears, fancies, the quirks and chinks in the armor— it’s all out there, and wonderfully bold and ballsy an individualist and unfailingly frank. She is fragile and fierce, honest, courageous and unwilling to be shut off or out.
The insanity of the McCarthy Era and fanatics like Vincent Hartnett tried to steal 12 years from Lee Grant. But she refused to be silenced. To this day she speaks truth to the powers that be. She has earned the right to be seen and heard. She’s a woman who has become a firebrand with her socially conscious lens as a filmmaker, documentarian, director, activist, writer and a mother to yet another gifted soul, Dinah Manoff. Talent and fierceness—it runs in the blood.
Lee Grant to me, is someone I’ll always regard with a sense of awe and respect. I’m incredibly honored that she allowed me a glimpse into her life and shared that sense of humor and her determination to be heard. And what a story she has to tell!
Lee Grant was born in Manhattan. Her mother was a Russian-Jewish Immigrant and her father was born to Polish-Jewish immigrants. Lyova Haskell Rosenthal was a feisty little imaginative child who was looking for a place to communicate her hungering for expression. She was purposefully surrounded by music and the arts. Her mother and Aunt Fremo were obsessed with the men and women of the silver screen.
“They spoke all the way up here like this, like rich ladies talked,” Lee tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers, elevating her voice. “And so my voice was like that too. I was a bird imitating the birds. And so it was their kind of imaginary world that I was raised in, and it was part delicious and part confusing.”
I relate so much to the following statements. I was my own Jewish mother’s golden girl, put on display at the piano for the entire neighborhood, members of her theatre company, and anyone who passed by the house on Warren Drive on Long Island in the 1960s and 70s before I took flight and decided to fly solo as a singer-songwriter without the urging of my glowing mother’s braggadocio.
“Well, my mother was one of those mothers at the time whose child was a genius. There was a period when every Jewish child was a genius and so she had put me through the Art League, she had had me at the Metropolitan Ballet/Opera when I was 4 til I was 9 and she had me at Juilliard. I went to Julliard after High School for a year. And that didn’t work out. And so when I was about 16, we found The Neighborhood Playhouse. And it was Sandy Meisner’s class– who had been one of the members of The Group Theatre and the purveyors of The Method along with Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg– that I had found my fit. I was home. And I was learning the things that I needed to learn for the first time. I could put everything into acting.” – Lee Grant
She debuted when she was 4 years old at the Metropolitan Opera House in L’Oracolo starring tenor Atonio Scotti at the Metropolitan Opera in 1931. Lee played a little girl Hu-CÎ a Chinese princess. Little Lyova commanded plenty of laughs when urged by her Uncle Joe to save the Tenor who was about to be knifed in the back on stage. The New York Times wrote, “Little Lyova Haskell Rosenthal is precocious.”
She joined the American Ballet in 1938 under George Balanchine. She attended the Art Students League of New York, Juilliard School of Music, The High School of Music & Art, and George Washington High School, all in New York City. Her spirit was too untamed for the constructs of school. She was seeking a bigger dream lying in wait to be released.
Lee won a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse School, where she studied under Sanford Meisner. When she entered the Neighborhood Playhouse, Lee Grant knew she had found her place. She began appearing on stage at the Tamiment Playhouse and then at the off-Broadway Neighborhood Playhouse founded by Meisner.
Meisner embraced the new “method acting” that became the quintessential symbol of the Group Theatre. For Lee, Meisner imparted much wisdom and sparked her unique vision. It was an atmosphere of a new brand of artistic expression and a less conventional perspective on acting, based on the great Russian director of the Moscow Art Theatre, Constantin Stanislavski.
“It was incredibly vibrant and important,” Grant told CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller. “And it changed the way you saw theater, totally. The way that [Meisner] taught us gave you a kind of focus that made you understand acting for the first time.”
She was then asked to join and enrolled in the Actor’s Studio in New York City.
“Well I was working with Sidney Lumet and he put on a couple of plays and Henry Fonda was in the audience and he spoke to Sidney Kingsley who wrote and directed Detective Story (on Broadway) And so I went to read for Sidney Kingsley and it was for the part of the ingenue. And the lines were so silly to me, that I asked if I could read for the old lady. The shoplifter was described as 40 And so I had these characters that I had explored for the neighborhood Playhouse And I brought one of those characters to Sidney Kingsley and he said yeah, you’ve got the part. It was a little part. And so I never expected that it would have the kind of impact that it did.” — From the Interview with Scott Feinberg Nov 2012—about how she got started in Detective Story on Broadway…
When she was a teenager, she established herself as a Broadway star when she won ‘The Critics’ Circle Award’ for her portrayal of the shoplifter in Sidney Kingley’s ‘Detective Story’ on Broadway in 1949. Lee turned down the part as the ingénue, and asked to read for the part of the old lady shoplifter. “I said, ‘Can I play the old lady?’” The 22 year old Lee Grant regarded the old lady, who was really a role intended for a forty-something woman shoplifter. Though it was a small part it would prove to be a pivotal one. Using her powers of observation and imagination, she developed a quirky but rich New York accent she acquired by listening to the conversations of some young girls on the crosstown bus. Then she went through the costume department and found the size 18 brown jumper that had been worn by the wonderful Irish character actress Sara Allgood, well known for her heart wrenching performance as the mother in John Ford’s masterpiece How Green Was My Valley (1941).
“You know, every other woman’s part in that [play] was … boring,” Grant says, rolling her eyes. “I pretty much always stuck to the most interesting part I could play.”
The role she performed on stage was transported onto screen for the film noir adaptation of the same, two years later, making her film debut in 1951 as a young shoplifter in William Wyler’s Detective Story, co-starring Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker. Three of the original cast members went to Hollywood to make the film.
Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the 1951 movie version, as well as earning the Best Actress Award at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival.
“And out of that film, that little part in that film, I was nominated in 1952 for the Academy Award And in 1952 I won the Cannes Festival Award for Best Actress. YOU know neither of them had an impact on me because I was a New Yorker and I didn’t even know what the Cannes Film Festival was I was a kid you know. I didn’t really know what it was. And the things that Walter said to me, you know in New York you didn’t have a connection to Hollywood you went to the movies and you saw other actor’s movies. But your concept of ever being a part of movies just had no reality for me.”
In those early days of television Lee recalls:
“In those days, before my phobias started and this was before. My phobias started As I said when I went to this strange city to do Oklahoma I would have walked on that night without any rehearsal. I had such fearlessness All I wanted to do if somebody like Anaiis Nin’s friend Caresse Crosby say yes to everything That was me. What ever it was I was there and couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait. To be on stage or to act just to get my focus.”
But Lee Grant’s burgeoning career soon become a nightmare when she was suddenly banned from working in Hollywood at age 24. From 1952 to 1964 she was blacklisted from radio, film and most of the television work by the House Committee on Un-American Activities as she refused to testify against her husband. This was at a time when the anti-communism paranoia in Congress and the red scare was at its height in the U.S. She made the list of artistic “subversives” in the publication Red Channels.
Lee was not a member of the Communist Party. Lee tells how there were all these old bumpkins who knew nothing about the theatre or what she did on television or in films. They asked her “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this.?” “Do you have an agent?” “Yes” “What are they?” “The William Morris Agency” “Are they Communists?” As Lee says, “That was the lunacy, they didn’t have a clue.”
She was working on Detective Story when she decided to leave and take a chance on One Good Break, a stage play written by her soon-to-be husband Arnold Manoff and co-starring Sam Wanamaker (they would act together again in Voyage of the Damned). That’s where she met actor J. Edward Bromberg. In 1951 Lee gave an emotional eulogy at J. Edward Bromberg’s memorial service held by Bromberg’s Broadway colleagues, she suggested that it was the House Un-American Committee’s harassment that caused his heart attack. For this brief and honest commentary about her friend it landed her in Red Channels. The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television was an anti-Communist piece published in the United States at the start of the 1950’s written by Vincent Harnett.
“I said that I felt that he had his heart attack because of the House Un-American Activities Committee,” Grant recalls. “And two days later, I was in an Actors Equity meeting, and the actor in front of me said, ‘I see you’ve made the list.’ And I said, ‘What list?’ ‘Red Channels.’ My name was in it — Lee Grant with the words that I’d said at his memorial. And so from that day, for 12 years, I couldn’t work again in film or television.”
“And two days later, I was at an actors’ equity meeting, and the actor in front of me turned to me and said, ‘Well, I see you made the list,’ ” Grant says. “He handed me this copy of Red Channels, which had all the blacklisted people in it, and there I was. And they had quoted my remarks. It was like, one day you were an actress who could do anything, and the very next day, you could not work in film or television again. And that was the temper of the times.”—NPR interview 2014
Then she refused to testify against her then-husband, playwright Arnold Manoff at the HUAC hearings. Lee has referred to the members of HUAC in other interviews as “incredibly, laughably ignorant about everything show business.” Actors Equity was protected against blacklisting so Lee was still able to work onstage. There were also very courageous actors and directors who still gave Lee limited visibility and an outlet for her supreme acting talent. Lee also taught Method and Improvisation at Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagan’s HB Studio. In her first class, Lee remembers with great pleasure that one of the students was the sublime Sandy Dennis.
In 1953 she played Rose Peabody on the soap opera Procter & Gamble-sponsored soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Don Knotts had played Lee’s brother who was mute. And she was a cook who was always poisoning the soup at the end of the show! Something she finds fun, hilarious and silly. She was fired from the CBS show once they saw that she was labelled a ‘red’.
“Ira Cirker was the director on that. I don’t know how it happened it was like something opened up and I got this little part and I was a cook in their house and it always ended the segment with my poisoning the soup. I was always reaching to poison the soup. I was always stirring the soup. And then I’d reach for the can of salt which had the poison in it. And then they’d see me start to poison. Would I poison the soup or would I? […] And then they got a postcard from Johnson who had the supermarket in Syracuse saying that you are employing, I don’t know how he described it a ‘leftist’ or something, somebody who’s signed petitions or is associated with Communism, or however he described it, on your show. And I don’t know, some toothpaste, some advertiser on the show said, we will put a placard next to the toothpaste saying ‘this company employs somebody who is sympathetic to communism.’ And so I got fired.” -from the interview by Henry Coleman for Television Academy Foundation Archives, 2000
As a result her prime years were wasted. In 1964, she was removed from the blacklist.
It’s impressive that Grant, who continued to work sporadically in the theater during the blacklist crisis, not only survived the witch hunt but also turned her career into such a thriving one when it was all over.
In a way, Grant’s life actually broke into two pieces: the one that existed before she was ostracized during the madness of 1950s-era McCarthyism, and the one that unfolded after she prevailed. It’s remarkable that Lee Grant had the fortitude and tenacity to continue working in the theater during those dark days of the blacklist crisis, and not only survived the witch hunt and years of isolation from Hollywood only to prevail on the other end of it by becoming an Academy Award winning star. The TV shows and films for which she’s best known — Peyton Place, In the Heat of the Night, Valley of the Dolls, Shampoo, Voyage of the Damned, Airport ’77 — all came to her after her years of Hollywood alienation.
During her blacklisted years, Lee could be seen on early dramatic anthology television series like The Plays the Thing, The Plymouth Playhouse and Broadway Television Theatre in 1953. In 1955 she appeared in four different episodes of the television series that ran between 1950-1955. The show Danger she appeared in “Death to the Lonely”, directed by Sidney Lumet and co-starred Richard Kiley, and “Death of a Spanish Dancer.” That same year she appeared in an episode of Ponds Theatre working with producer Fred Coe and Repertory Theatre. In 1955 she appeared in the play Wedding Breakfast with Tony Franciosa.
Because the blacklist kept Lee from getting hired by major Hollywood film studio, there were those who took risks and cast her in their films or television roles. Usually these were independently-financed movies like Cornel Wilde’s Storm Fear (1955) written by Horton Foote. Lee co-starred with Dan Duryea, Steven Hill and Cornel Wilde who directed this little obscure film noir heist picture she inhabits the screen with a brilliant flare as Edna a sassy jewel with broken edges.
Edna “I hate you you creep! I hate you!!!!!!”
In 1956 Lee Grant worked on The Alcoa Theatre’s episode entitled ‘Even the Weariest River’ in which she plays Lennie Converse co-starring with the great Boris Karloff. Lee is interviewed for the upcoming documentary The Man Behind the Monster still in production. Also in 1956 Lee appeared in Playwrights ’56 in an episode called “Keyhole” with E.G. Marshall where she plays an American on trial in a British court for murdering her English husband.
In 1957 she appeared on Broadway in A Hole in the Head directed by Garson Kanin. Lee Grant herself was three months pregnant when she completed her run of the Broadway play A Hole in the Head.
In 1958 Lee appeared in Kraft Television Theatre where she performed in three different plays by Tennessee Williams. And another episode called Look What’s Going On co-starring Ed Begley and Harry Townes.
In 1959 Lee Grant started out as Anne Bancroft’s understudy in the Broadway production directed by Arthur Penn, Two for the Seesaw, eventually succeeding that actress to star as Gittel Mosca with Henry Fonda, then Jeffrey Lynn.
In 1959 Lee gave a stirring performance in writer Paddy Chayesfsky and director Delbert Mann’s Middle of the Night as Marilyn, the hard edged neighbor and friend to Kim Novak having a relationship with the older Frederick March.
“Fredric March, was oh, he was so beautiful in that, and so was Kim Novak. It was the only picture in which I felt she was absolutely present, that there was that shyness in her, that I’m not really this big tall glamour girl, I’m really a shy typist, yearning for a father. I just thought, such a lovely film. And the director [Delbert Mann], whose name escapes me, as a lot of names do, this was during the blacklist. He gave me a part in a movie. Small part, but it was a part in a movie, during the blacklist. And so I’m just so grateful for those guys who put themselves in jeopardy to hire me.”- from Farran Nehme’s (Self Styled Siren) interview dec 2017
Lee appeared in an incredible production of the 1960 Play of the Week, “The House of Bernarda Alba” written by Federico Garcia Lorca co-starring Eileen Heckart, Suzanne Pleshette. Cathleen Nesbitt and Ann Revere.
In 1963, she won an Obie Award for Distinguished Performance by an Actress for her stage performance in the off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Maids. And she starred as the sensual libertine Carmen in the film adaptation of Jean Genet’s The Balcony along side Shelley Winters, Peter Falk, Leonard Nimoy, Ruby Dee, Jeff Corey and Joyce Jameson.
Also in 1963 Lee appeared in an episode called “Not Bad for Openers” of East Side/West Side starring George C. Scott. Lee plays wife Nora Best weighed down by her husband, a cab driver (Norman Fell) with a gambling addiction. While the underrated show was short lived, I’ve seen some of the most powerful performances come out of this groundbreaking series that dealt with relevant issues that were provocative for an early 60s television audience. Lee’s performance as Nora shows Lee’s incredible depth and understanding of human nature and the different degrees of our relationship to each other.
Lee Grant starred in the film An Affair of the Skin (1963) along side Viveca Lindfors, Diana Sands and Kevin McCarthy.
She also appeared in 3 episodes of the ground breaking television series The Doctors and The Nurses 1963-1965. And in 2 episodes of The Defenders 1961-1965 starring E.G. Marshall. “The Empty Heart” (1963) “Nobody Asks What Side You’re On” (1965) which led to another tv appearance she did in Satre’s the Respectful Prostitute for BBC television.
In 1964, Lee Grant appeared in Herb Brodkin’s production The ABC Hour and The Alcoa Hour. Broken was very helpful in getting her work after the blacklist. She considers her role also in another production of his, The Doctors and the Nurses called A Couple of Dozen Tiny Pills directed by David Greene, in which Lee is in bed with mink coat.
“David Greene decided that since this was a woman who checked into a hotel who was going to commit suicide. And he decided to do it in one day in one light So that we went in in the morning and shot all day and I don’t remember when we stopped if it was 4 O’Clock in the morning or not. By the time we were finished I had gone so through that experience in terms of taking my life and I was so exhausted that he had exactly the kind of reality that he wanted. It was a great choice Very original he was really marvelous.”
She appeared in another episode of The Doctors and the Nurses called To Spend, to Give, to Want, and The Gift co-starring Robert Webber directed by Alex March.
Also in 1964 Lee appeared as Electra at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park directed by Joseph Papp.
Lee Grant: “First in Electra. [That would be the 1964 New York Shakespeare Festival production of Sophocles’ Electra, directed by Joseph Papp and performed at the opening of the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.] I say it because the whole focus was on me. I wasn’t doing a character part… And so the rage that I had that was stored up in me for 12 years was given the kind of— I mean, this is Greek tragedy, and it was me in rags and barefoot on the stage in Central Park, where all of the things that were suppressed were let loose. It was the Greek catharsis.” From Self Styled Siren interview Farran Nehme
In “Terror in the City” (1964), a.k.a. “Pie in the Sky,” Lee Grant plays a New York City prostitute who looks after a young (Richard Bray) who has hitchhiked to the city. Perhaps this was the inspiration for the film Gloria (1980) starring Gena Rowlands.
Another of Lee’s notable roles— in 1964 was a powerful episode “Taps for a Dead War of The Fugitive where Lee gives an impassioned portrayal as diner owner/widow Millie Hallop the sister-in-law of Tim O’Connor who’s face has been disfigured during the war. Following up with another extraordinary performance in an episode of Ben Casey “For Jimmy, The Best of Everything” co-starring once again with actor Peter Falk. Then in the television law drama Slattery’s People starring Richard Crenna, Lee plays Vera Donlon in the episode called “Question: Where Vanished the Tragic Piper?”
Lee Grant was nominated for the Emmy Award seven times between 1966 and 1993. She won the award twice, first for Peyton Place and then for her portrayal of Carrie Miller in The Neon Ceiling 1971. Her documentary film Down and Out in America also tied for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1986.
By the time her name was removed from the blacklist in the early 1960s, she had been divorced (even afterwards the blacklisting continued for a while), remarried, and had a young daughter, Dinah. She began re-establishing her television and movie career.
In Lee Grant’s autobiography I Said Yes to Everything, she writes about potently and poignantly about her nightmare years of oblivion during the blacklist, her eventual bitter divorce, finding new love and marriage and the beloved inspiration that was her daughter Dinah.
“Dinah was my grail, my constant; nothing and no one could get between us. Dinah and my need to support her financially, morally, viscerally, and my rage at those who had taken twelve working, acting years from my life, were what motivated me.”
Her re-emergence into the spotlight after HUAC officially cleared her was when Lee co-starred in 71 episodes on the very popular television show Peyton Place. Her intense and complex performance as Stella Chernak won Lee Grant and Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1966.
As I re-watch Lee Grant’s performance as the complex Stella Chernak, I am astounded by her personal enigmatic synergy with her character. Understanding how cathartic it must have been to express her frustrations and forestalled desires, emerging from that silence of 12 years.
Stella was the conduit for all the emotions, the blood letting of which spilled out onto each scene. I say this with such honesty… I shake my head at how incredibly gifted Lee Grant is at pulling out every inch of feeling there exists in her performances. Stella Chernak is an emblem of women’s courage, audacity and yet intricate vulnerability all in one single gesture or declaration, Lee Grant reveals layer upon layer of raw instinct.
Lee brought this powerful spirit of Stella Chernak’s identity to life, and even earned her own musical motif written by composers Arthur Morton and Cyril Mockridge that underscored her languid walks along the lonely streets, interiors and interactions of Peyton Place.
“‘Peyton Place,’ at that time, was so popular that it was on three times a week. So getting that work and landing in Malibu – from the darkness of the blacklist to the lightness of the beach and the sand – it was like, you know, ‘Pinch me. Am I here? Is this sun? Is that ocean?’ I jumped into the pool with my clothes on just to see if it was real or not. […] And the work just came. I was offered one thing after another, all the things that I didn’t have for 12 years.” —From CBS interview
“Ted Post had been my old friend from the Workshop days, and I was appearing in the Park for the public theater. I was in some Shakespeare comedy at the time, for Joe Papp. And my Agent Phyllis called me and she said don’t be angry at me. You have to go to California you have to do Peyton Place. You have to do this. I said Phyllis, you know I’m opening in two weeks in the Park, I can’t walk out on Joe Papp. I had done Electra for him the season before and it was, you know, a gift it was probably the best work I’d ever done in my life… I said I had to go I had to do Peyton Place. And it was, of course, a jump from such obscurity to a show that was being seen 3 times a week by all of America. All of America is so addicted to Peyton Place. So I went from just being off the blacklist for a year and half or two, what ever it was, to suddenly being plunged into the middle of American consciousness.” —Television Academy Foundation
Lee describes Stella Chernak …
“And during that time her brother died, and coming from where I came from there were so many emotional places that tapped into Stella Chernak for me that my emotions were so open and so ready to move into those places that Stella moved into that it was like orgiastic. It was like everything… the romance the loss the feeling. Everything that was tamped down for 12 years that couldn’t be let loose suddenly. I had this chance through this character to just let everything run through me and let it come out it was like the most wonderful gift that I could possible have had… I am so grateful for this job, and I’m so grateful for all the things that it’s leading me to, and all the acting that I can get out of it. So it was a great gift.” — Television Academy Foundation
About her confronting producer Paul Monash about getting her credits put on the show.
“When I first got there there were two major altercations. The first one was after the first show that I did. My name wasn’t on the list of credits or it was so far down that it was negligible.And I went to him. Just he and I sat in a room, I didn’t have my agent involved for this at all and I said ‘My name hasn’t been on a television screen for 12 years. And I’m gonna fight to have my name up there.’ Having a name finally. Having Lee Grant -blacklisted actress- up on those screens taking credit is very important to me and I’m gonna have it or I won’t do the show. And really, he was lovely. He was really lovely. I know he was worried about using me and using my name and what would happen then, and nothing happened. I mean, it was over. It was way over.” — Television Academy Foundation
On winning the Emmy for playing Stella:
“It was very big, a very big night for me. It was astonishing really. I remember walking through the place before I got on the stage waiting for somebody to touch me on the shoulder and to say ‘this is a mistake’ you know ‘you can’t have this’ Aren’t you Lee Grant? Uh you’re blacklisted get out.’ You know it was really, hard for me, very hard for me to believe. And I remember Sinatra came up to me, or maybe he was there with me, I don’t know, but he gave me a hug and he said ‘You deserve it kid.’ And I had no idea that so many people had known that I had been out of the business that long. And I think that the Emmy came from people who were saying you know welcome, welcome home. You know, not just for the acting.” — Television Academy Foundation
After the success of Peyton Place, she appeared in lead roles— memorably in Jacqueline Susann’s potholing best seller adapted to film Valley of the Dolls (1967), directed by Mark Robson. While not a masterpiece, it is undeniably a guilty pleasure and a pop cultural iconic film enjoyed by still-new generations of fans.
On the set of Valley of the Dolls-Patty Duke, Lee Grant, director Mark Robson, writer Jacqueline Suzanne and Barbara Parkins.
In it, Lee Grant plays the over-protective sister Miriam Polar to Tony Scotti married to porn star Sharon Tate. Tony has a degenerative disease, just one of the melodramatic tidbits in this film that so many of us remember the dialogue to! Lee Grant is forever ingrained in the eternal cultural fixation on the sensational camp mosaic of delicious luridness that is Valley of the Dolls. With its memorable theme song written by André and Dory Previn and sung by torch and pop siren Dionne Warwick. And co-starring the wonderful Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, and Susan Hayward. Lee Grant recalls that one of its pleasurable benefits was meeting and working with the tragic Sharon Tate.
“Actors come to a film with a kind of delusion that it’s going to be the making of their career,” Grant said. “And when [‘Valley’] did come out, it was just killed. But of course, it is now a cult film. Everybody knows every line of ‘Valley of the Dolls.’”– Lee Grant interview CBS
Lee appeared in several television series in 1967. She appeared in an episode of Mission Impossible, portraying the wife of a U.S. diplomat who goes undercover to discredit a rogue diplomat. The Big Valley and Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre, Ironside, and then in the film Divorce, American Style directed by Bud Yorkin co-starring Dick Van Dyke, Debbie Reynolds and Jason Robards. And Stage 67 with an episode called The People Trap with Estelle Winwood, Vera Miles, Connie Stevens. A brilliant cast with Pearl Bailey Mercedes McAmbridge and Lew Ayres.
“I stayed friends with Pearl Bailey and I love Lew Ayres. I did a movie with Lew Ayres The Omen II, I did with Lew Ayres and I loved him so much.” — Television Academy Foundation
The same year, she played the widow of a murder victim in the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night. Lee Grant’s role as the distraught widow of murder victim in a small Mississippi town who demands that Virgil Tibbs (played by Sidney Poitier), a black police detective from Philadelphia be in charge of the investigation. Lee plays Leslie Colbert who manifests an intense and resolute strength in director Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night (1967). Friend Hal Ashby was the editor on the picture, and their relationship would play a part in her future appearance in Ashby’s brilliant The Landlord (1970).
“I knew that part.” Director Jewison and editor Hal Ashby “knew about me, they knew about the blacklist,” she says. “They were very political people. [But] we never discussed it.” So in the scene where Poitier, as the investigating cop, discloses her husband’s death, Grant says, “I just went into that place of loss.” She calls it a “dance” with fellow Method actor Poitier and recalls that some dialogue was improvised. When Poitier leaves Grant in the room, sobbing comes from behind the closed door.Was that still her? “Yeah,” says Lee Grant -from LA Times interview 2017
“I met with Norman Jewison who has stayed a very very good friend. I met with him and with Hal Ashby And I had everything everything that they could possibly need for In the Heat of the Night. I had lost a husband.. It was nothing that we talked about. Nothing that we ever ever talked about. But it was something that I know they saw in me. That was so usable. Because my whole part In the Heat of the Night was being told by Sidney Poitier that my husband was murdered. And so that the very occurrence of what happened when I was told that Arnie was gone, was something that I just kept and help and went right into the scene and I was so grateful that I was able to get it out of the inside of me … “
“My first movie with Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier and Norman Jewison. We entered into a kind of closeness that you never get any place. And it was a really, really important film.”-Lee Grant
“It was more than a triumph. That film was life-changing. Nobody saw a Mr. Tibbs before, like Sidney. Sidney broke ground for black actors, for romantic leads, forever. Sidney did that. I did a documentary on Sidney when I was doing docs for HBO and American Masters. And I saw where that strength in himself and that vitality and the humor came from. Cat Island [Poitier’s childhood home in the Bahamas]. He came from a place of freedom, where the people in charge were black. It wasn’t white on black, it was black. And he brought that to the United States and he brought that to film. He brought that sense of dignity and rage at inequity. It was a natural thing for Sidney.
“And then we improvised that scene. And I remember Haskell Wexler following me with the camera. And Sidney and I had this dance. This kind of Strindberg dance. And then it was over. But that sense of that bubble, of allowing an actor to go into that place that unfortunately I knew only too well, and to see where it took us both, was something that very few directors would do. You know, “It’s the line, it’s the line, it’s the line.” This was not. I didn’t know what would happen. And Sidney didn’t know what would happen. And so it’s that exploration.” —Farran Nehme
In 1968, Lee Grant receives her second Emmy nomination for her role on the legal drama Judd for the Defense starring Carl Betz, Then she appeared in an episode of the television series Mission Impossible, playing Susan Buchanan the wife of a U.S. diplomat who goes undercover to discredit a rogue diplomat.
The same year she co-starred with Telly Savalas in the 1968 comedy, “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell,” about an Italian woman (Gina Lolabrigida) who tries to learn which of three men is the father of her daughter. The film’s plot became the basis of the long-running ABBA musical, “Mamma Mia!”
In 1969 Lee co-starred in director Alex March’s The Big Bounce with Peyton Place co-star Ryan O’Neal. As Richard Crenna’s wife Celia Pruett in Marooned, and in a poignantly layered performance in television’s Medical Center episode “The Loner” where Lee plays a Karen Harper giving a palpable performance as a woman who struggles with agoraphobia, loneliness and loss.
From Marooned (1969)
In 1970 she stars in television’s Bracken’s World “Whatever Happened to Happy Endings? And in the popular tv series The Mod Squad episode “Mother of Sorrow” (1970).
In 1970 Lee Grant starred as Beau Bridges mother Mrs. Enders in Hal Ashby’s The Landlord receiving another Academy Award nomination. It’s the story of an affluent boy from a waspy Long Island family who inherits a tenement building in Harlem and plans to evict the residents and gentrify it until he becomes emotionally involved with the tenants. Lee’s performance in Ashby’s black comedy translates into how diverse Lee’s range with an incredibly memorable scene with co-star the marvelous Pearl Baily and the incredible Diana Sands.
Grant: “‘The Landlord ‘is not seen very much [today]. But that’s a Hal Ashby movie that is certainly one of my favorites.”
In it, Lee Grant visits a fortune teller (Pearl Bailey) and the two spend the afternoon drinking together in her son’s building. As Lee’s character says quietly in a whisper to Pearl Bailey, “I never eat lunch” and then proceeds to get drunk on pot liquor. Lee remarks in her interview with Farran Nehme how it was inspired by her mother and aunt. It wasn’t the skipping lunch. It was the [trills] “daaaarling.” It was that whole rich-lady-when-they-weren’t-rich. You know, rich lady, a persona, that they took on. There was wonderful, ridiculous part to them that I was dying to explore.”
“Norman knew me from In the Heat of the Night. He said I couldn’t possibly play this part, it was the mother of Beau Bridges and she was like in her early fifties in film. I just couldn’t play the age. And so I found this fur hat kind of a yellowish color and I went down. He told me this wonderful older actress who he wanted for the part. (Jessica Tandy) And I said she can’t do it. She can’t do it the way I can do it. She can’t and I adore her and I think she wonderful but I have a line on this character. I know how to do this. And I put the fur hat on and I stood under neon lights that were in his office and I said this is the way you gotta light me. Overhead light will put 20 years on me. And you guys know that. Go into any elevator or any butcher shop and you know that. If you put the overhead light on me it will work. And that with the make up. And oh I was so excited about doing it and I had it, I had… it was a part of my mother too. You know, the vanity and the kind of thinking that was not thinking that would go all the way around you could see everything it was just thinking that stayed here (She puts her fingers pointing to the inside of her head). And it was hilarious. The scene with Pearl Bailey where I go up to her apartment because I want to redecorate my son’s house and I end up getting drunk with her is just, you know it’s a classic scene.” -from Henry Coleman’s interview Television Academy Foundation Archives 2000
“I saw it recently, and I loved it,” confesses Grant. “I loved myself, I loved Pearl” (Bailey, with whom Grant shares an unforgettable ham hock and pot liquor lunch). Lee Grant wound up with another Oscar nomination, for another role where she played older than she actually was. LA Times interview 2017 ‘The Landlord ‘is not seen very much [today]. But that’s a Hal Ashby movie that is certainly one of my favorites.”
Also in 1970 she co-starred as Mrs Bullard in director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s There Was a Crooked Man… along side Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda.
Lee Grant as Mrs. Bullard in There Was a Crooked Man… (1970)
And between major motion pictures Lee maintained outstanding performances in several popular television shows like The Name of the Game.
And in interesting and offbeat made science fiction/thriller made for TV movie Night Slaves co-starring James Franciscus and the incredible thought-provoking drama The Neon Ceiling written by Peyton Place writer Carol Sobieski. Lee Grant plays mother/wife Carrie Miller who breaks away from her stifling life and travels to the desert with her daughter (Denise Nickerson). She is transformed by the openness of the landscape and her romantic encounter with the diner owner, a man, played by actor Gig Young, living in self imposed exile from the rat race. For it, she won a much deserved Emmy Award for Best Leading Actress in a limited series or movie. Lee Grant’s portrayal as Carrie Miller is one of the most un-selfconscious and evocative performances of a woman in search of her identity and quietly navigating her rage at being shut off all while raising a spirited daughter.
The only other nominee for the Emmy Award at the time was Colleen Dewhurst; in Grant’s acceptance speech Lee Grant graciously extols the other great actor, “I must thank Colleen Dewhurst since it takes two of me to equal one of her.”
Lee Grant showcases maneuvering between the most in fierce emotional performances to exceptional comedic flair as the beleaguered wife and mother in writer Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite (1971) directed by Arthur Hiller. It’s a brilliant bit of acting playing off another the comedic genius of Walter Matthau, while their daughter refuses to leave the bathroom the day of her wedding.
One of my favorite performances Lee brings to life is that of the merciless murderess Leslie Williams the lady lawyer who plays cat and mouse with the underestimated rumpled raincoat cigar smoking chili eating Detective Columbo, superbly delivered by Peter Falk.
In “Ransom for a Dead Man” (1971), Lee plays as a high powered attorney with a dull older husband and an exceedingly irritating young stepdaughter. Grant’s character Leslie Williams designs an almost perfect crime. She shoots her stuffy husband and then tries to make it look like a kidnapping gone wrong. Of course, Columbo uncovers all the little clues, that any other detective might miss. In order to throw the staunch sleuth off, she takes him up in her private plane, throwing him into a panic. It’s a deliciously wicked scene, Lee Grant and Peter Falk sustain a wonderful chemistry with Leslie’s strategy to disorient her pursuer by nearly crashing the plane into the side of a mountain.
As second episode in the series “Ransom for a Dead Man” is in my estimation one of the BEST in the series, due in part to Lee Grant’s superior elevation of a beautiful yet cold-blooded killer who torments Columbo during the heart racing scene up in her private airplane. Lee was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie.
Lee Grant then appeared on Broadway co-starring with actor Peter Falk in Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue directed by Mike Nichols (Nov 11, 1971 – Sep 29, 1973). Playwright Neil Simon said that his “first and only choice” for the part was Grant who could be “hilariously funny” when the script called for it, as she was able to portray essential honesty in her acting.
In 1972, Lee once again portrays the trope of the Jewish mother in writer Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and then co-stars with James Coburn in the action/thriller The Internecine Project (1974).
Lee is then one of the distinctive highlights of Hal Ashby’s black comedy and social satire, Shampoo (1975), as the wealthy and sexually hungry Felicia Karpf who is trapped in a bad marriage, it earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
“Well the first thing I heard and the winner is Lily Tomlin. So she was sitting in front of me wearing a silver crown so I bent forward and I said congratulations and she said Lee he said your name he didn’t say mine. I said what I did and I would see people kinda looking at me and I said, you know really? Me!!! Well it was like I was the bride. I was the bride. I was going down. I was wearing my wedding dress and my little flower, (in her hair) And I realized I had no more enemies. And I felt that this whole big room was like raising me up and saying ‘you made it. We’re behind you’. We love you more than your mother does. You know, it was a great feeling.” — Scott Feinberg Nov 2012
“I would like to thank the artistic community for sustaining me in my wins and losses and sitting on the curb.” — Lee’s acceptance speech at The Oscars.
Shampoo was Columbia Pictures Studio’s biggest hit in its history. It was also the second time Lee Grant worked with director and friend Hal Ashby. It’s a film about a hairdresser that has the incessant need to satisfy women and never quite gets to become successful enough to get his own salon. It exemplifies the financial and moral struggles during the Nixonian era.
“Shampoo’ was a great movie,” Grant told Miller during an interview with CBS. “The script was absolutely amazing. The whole sense of the movie [was of] things that had to do with money and not principle, and marriages falling apart, things falling apart.”
While filming Lee had an artistic conflict with actor/producer Warren Beatty and almost quit the film. Before going on camera he sat her down and tried what her character should feel by telling her anecdotes of other women who choose to block out men’s infidelity. Lee tried to tell Beatty that “Maybe she knows what comes along with the territory” and went home that day with a raging migraine.
She told Hal Ashby “I can’t work with an actor who gives me direction.” As she told Beatty before walking off the set, “You’re my hairdresser. My hairdresser doesn’t tell me how to think. And you’re not my director. Hal would never tell me what I think about anything.” Finally he told her, “What do I know? This is my sixth movie. Do what you want. I’m crazy about you, you know that?” “You mean that you’ll stop pushing your dumb theories about women on me?” – From I Said Yes to Everything.
During the 1975-76 television season, she starred in her own sitcom Fay, about a divorced single mother. But after ten episodes before NBC cancelled the series. Lee was still nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Leading Actress in a Comedy Series.
She made a guest appearance on Empty Nest a spin-off of the hit series The Golden Girls, in which her daughter Dinah Manoff co-starred. Lee was originally approached to play Dorothy a role that famously went to Bea Arthur, the iconically snarky substitute teacher from Brooklyn now living in Miami.
In 1976, she took a break from acting and directed the stage play, ‘The Stronger’, which was written by August Strindberg. She also appeared in one of her critically-acclaimed films, Voyage of the Damned the same year.
In 1976 Lee portrays Lili Rosen in a tour de force role in Voyage of the Damned where once again she was nominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. It is the true story based on the ill-fated ocean liner, the St. Louis filled with Jewish refugees which was turned away in 1939 by Cuba and refused entry into the U.S. under direct orders by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They were damned to head back to Nazi occupied Germany. Inevitably most of the passengers were sent back to concentration camps. “That was a good reflection of today,” she says. “Where so many people are being turned away.”
Lee started to have a sense of time running out on her viability as an actor in a business that worshipped youth. She knew it was time to shift gears,
“I was becoming my own worst enemy as an actor, traumatized onstage and fixated on staying young so I could keep working in film. A woman of a certain age does not play in movies or TV; we’re kicked to the side or out. And I was a woman of a certain age, terrified I’d be found out and unemployed again.”-Lee Grant
Grant began moving into directing with the stage play The Stronger in 1976, written by August Strindberg.
1977 was a year that found Lee appearing in the blockbuster disaster movie hit Airport ’77 which boasts a cast of great fellow actors Jack Lemmon and Olivia de Havilland. Lee plays the discontented and disagreeable wife of Christopher Lee aboard a doomed airliner. Lee always brings her masterful touch even to commercial endeavors like Airport ’77. Lee’s character panics and tries to open the door—while the plane is underwater! The rest is delicious disaster at it’s winning worst.
“There’s a point when I go crazy and I try to open up the airplane door when we’re at the bottom of the ocean,” Grant told Miller in her CBS interview “And so Brenda Vaccaro comes over and she socks me! And we just fell to the floor laughing. I couldn’t get up, I was laughing so hard.”
Lee decided to forgo her stunt woman for the water tank scene after she watched costar Olivia De Havilland — then 60 — enthusiastically asking to do the stunt herself as tons of water is poured on top of her.
In 1978, she was the lead actress co-starring with William Holden in the sequel to the iconic horror film Damien: Omen II. She co-starred with Carol Kane as they play sisters in the psychological thriller that presents like a stage play The Mafu Cage directed by Karen Arthur. While disturbing, the performances and interplay between Grant and Kane is visually and emotionally arresting. It remains in your psyche for some time, and it’s hard for me to imagine any other actors who could pull off such an interpretation of primal rage, captivity, longing and irrational dependency.
Also in 1978 Lee appeared in another big budget disaster movie The Swarm with a swarm of stars like Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, and Patty Duke.
Ending the decade was her performance as Clarisse Ethridge in the thriller Lee Grant stars in the 1979 film version of Mark Madoff’s play set in a backwater roadside cafe., When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? (1979) directed by Milton Katselas (Butterflies Are Free 1972, 40 Karats 1973, Report to the Commissioner 1975)
What is remarkable about Lee Grant’s extensive career is how skillfully she adapted to the other side of the camera within a world dominated by men. Beginning in the 1970s and ‘80s she forged as name for herself as a hard hitting director, making feature films, tv movies and socially relevant documentaries, that dealt with groundbreaking and controversial subject matter.
In 1980, Grant directed her first film Tell Me a Riddle, telling the heartbreaking story about an aging Jewish couple. The film stars two of the greatest actors, Melvyn Douglas and Lila Kedrova.
Through the 1980s she appeared in a string of small-budget films including, Little Miss Marker, Visiting Hours (We won’t talk about Visiting Hours. It is best forgotten by everyone, and particularly by Lee herself), Constance, Teachers, and The Big Town. In 1981 she appeared with a fun cast of characters in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen.
In the 1984 satire Teachers, Lee plays a school superintendent trying to shield her burned-out high school teacher from a lawsuit over awarding a diploma to an illiterate student.
“[The Stronger] was an absolute gift,” she said of becoming a director, which began with television projects in the early ’70s and an American Film Institute short, “The Stronger.” “It was so delicious. And I had such a good time. It was like going from one rock over the rapids to the next. It was some place I really wanted to go. And so that opened up a whole area of compulsion of some — not being compulsed to be an actor, but being compulsed to go in another place, a new obsession.”
The Willmar 8 profiled eight female employees of a bank in Willmar, Minnesota who went on longest bank strike in American history to protest pay inequities between male and female bank tellers. She also directed A Matter of Sex, Nobody’s Child, Staying Together, and No Place Like Home.
As a director, Lee commands the other side of the camera with projects she always speaks about and reflects upon with grace, reverence and utter humility for the people whose lives she came in contact with no pretense but the utmost humanity. In 1986 directed a hard-hitting HBO film about hungry and homelessness during the Reagan years, “Down and Out in America,” which won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
“Well maybe the people in Down and Out in knowing that we cared about them and encouraged them. Maybe that even made them march on the bank. You know the farmers. I’m sure that our being there gave them the courage to say, take that camera, see us march on the bank. Expose those shits and they were! Taking their money, taking those farmer’s money. Yeah and it heartened the people to say Thank You, the way I would have been heartened during the blacklist period if somebody had done a documentary and shown what we were going through Yeah, to say finally. And it can’t be scrapped and it can’t be erased it’s all on film. It’s gonna be there forever. I exist. I exist (BK says that’s right quietly ) And in that sense out ability to say you exist you are important What you need to say when that woman says in the end of Down and Out in America “What kind of country is this? How could this be going on in the United States of America?” She’s validated. And what can you ask of yourself more than to validate people who are swept under the rug.” — Interview with Barbara Kopple
The same year, she directed Nobody’s Child, a television movie starring Marlo Thomas about a woman confined to a mental institution for 20 years. Grant became the first female director to win the Directors Guild of America Award.
“Documentaries give you the arrogant privilege of opening someone’s door and exposing the real person. The people in my films were involved with issues so important to them that they decided (a documentary) was the only way they could reach out and tell the world what was happening to them.”
In 1988, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who through their endurance and the excellence of their work have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.
Lee Grant is a woman who used her experiences and the necessity to exorcise the demons of being shut out, to break ground with her directing and documentaries. Working in a world that is dominated by men, she recalls a time when a male producer yelled at her on the set of one of her directing projects “ ‘That’s not the way to shoot it!’ he barked. . . . ‘You don’t know how to direct it!’
In 1992, Grant played Dora Cohn, the mother of Roy Cohn in the biographical made-for-TV film Citizen Cohn, which garnered her another Primetime Emmy Award nomination.
In 1996 Lee Grant appeared in It’s My Party that dealt with the sensitive issue of AIDS. Co-starring Eric Roberts as her son.
In the period from 1997 to 1999 she also directed a number of television films including Seasons of the Heart, Say It, Fight It, and Cure It, The Gun Deadlock, and Confronting the Crisis: Childcare in America.
In 2000, she directed the TV film, The Loretta Claiborne Story and was seen in the movies The Amati Girls and ‘Dr. T & the Women’. In 2001, Lee Grant portrayed Louise Bonner in David Lynch’s critically acclaimed Mullholland Drive.
“Someone is in trouble; something bad is happening!” Lee Grant (right, with Ann Miller) shares a warning with Naomi Watts in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001).
From 2000 to 2004, she directed 43 episodes of Intimate Portrait a biographical television series made for Lifetime Television celebrating a diverse range of accomplished women such as Gloria Steinem, Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood, and Jackie Kennedy.
From 2004 to 2007, Carlin Glynn, Stephen Lang, and Grant served as co-artistic directors for the Actors Studio.
In 2005, she appeared in the documentary, The Needs of Kim Stanley and the Henry Jaglom film, Going Shopping.
In 2013 Lee Grant returned to the stage in to play Fonsia Dorsey in The Gin Game, directed by daughter Dinah Manoff.
Grant is still directing, and newest work is on YouTube. “I’ve made a five-minute video on ‘The Battering of Hillary Clinton,’” she says. It’s a montage of the seething animus Grant saw Clinton endure during the presidential campaign. “That’s a battered woman,” she says, simply.
Lee Grant continues to speak out loud and will not be silenced.
AWARDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
In 1951, she won the ‘Best Actress Award’ at the Cannes Film Festival for her role as the shoplifter in ‘Detective Story’.
She won a Primetime Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama’ for ‘Peyton Palace’, in 1966.
In 1971, she won a Primetime Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role’ for ‘The Neon Ceiling’.
In 1975, she was honored with an Academy Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for ‘Shampoo’.
Her TV film, ‘Nobody’s Child’ earned her a DGA Award, in 1986.
In 1988, she was presented the ‘Women in Film Crystal Award’ for her contributions to film.
“Many of the things I accomplished in life are because I was dead set on proving somebody wrong.”
Detective Story (1951) as the shoplifter
Storm Fear (1955) as Edna Rogers
Middle of the Night (1959) as Marilyn
Jean Genet’s The Balcony (1963) as Carmen
East Side/West Side (1963) “Not Bad for Openers as Nora Best
The Fugitive (1964) “Taps for a Dead War” as Millie Hallop
Ben Casey (1964) “For Jimmy, The Best of Everything” as Anita Johnson
Peyton Place (1966) 71 episodes as Stella Chernak
In the Heat of the Night (1967) as Mrs. Leslie Colbert
Valley of the Dolls (1967) as Miriam
Judd for the Defense (1968) “The Gates of Cerberus as Kay Gould
The Big Bounce (1969) as Joanne
Medical Center (1969) “The Loner” as Karen Harper
The Name of the Game (1970) “A Love to Remember”
The Landlord (1970) as Joyce Enders
Columbo (1971) “Ransom for a Dead Man” as Leslie Williams
The Neon Ceiling (1971) as Carrie Miller
Plaza Suite (1971) as Norma Hubley
Portnoy’s Complaint (1972) as Sophie Portnoy
The Internecine Project (1974) as Jean Robertson
Shampoo (1974) as Felicia Karpf
Voyage of the Damned (1976) as Lily Rosen
The Spell (1977) tv movie
Airport ’77 (1977) as Karen Wallace
The Mafu Cage (1978) as Ellen
Thou shalt not kill 1979 TV-Movie
Tell Me a Riddle 1980
Nobody’s Child 1986
The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro -1989
Citizen Cohn (1992)
It’s My Party (1996)
*1951 Detective Story -shoplifter won Best Supporting Actress at the Cannes Film Festival 1952 Nominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress—Mary Vandyke, her speech teacher taught her how to listen to conversation for voice. She studied the voice of the girl sitting behind her on the bus for her character in detective story
1952 Studio One in Hollywood “The Blonde Comes First”
1953-1954 Search for Tomorrow-Rose Peabody -something happened with the blacklisting and the sponsors made them pull her off of the show.?
1953- Kraft Theatre – 2 episodes
1953 The Plymouth Playhouse -“Justice”
1953- Broadway Television Theatre “The Noose”
1955- Repertory Theatre “Shadow of the Champ”
1955 -Ponds Theatre- “Death is a Spanish Dancer”
*1955 Storm Fear -Edna Rogers
1956 The Alcoa Theatre “Even the Weariest River” with Boris Karloff
1956- Playwrights ’56 “ “Keyhole”
1958 Kraft Theatre -3 plays by Tennessee Williams
1958 Where is thy Brother? Tv movie
*1959 Middle of the Night -Marilyn
1959 Play of the Week- “The World of Sholom Aleichem” directed by Don Richardson and with Jack Gilford
1960 Play of the Week- “The House of Bernarda Alba” written by Federico Garcia Lorca
1962 Golden Showcase as Florrie Sands in “Saturday’s Children”
1963 An Affair of the Skin -Katherine McCleod
*1963 The Balcony – Carmen—Joyce Jamison was also Skippy the fun girl on Andy Griffith. She plays a very dippy girl on that show, yet in The Balcony she possesses quite a sophisticated swagger. It shows how versatile the cast was
1963-1965 The Doctors and The Nurses “To Spend, to give, to want” as Cleo Tanner (1963), “The Gift as Doris Kelly (1963), “A Couple a dozen tiny pills” (1965) as Lillian Carroll -a woman who is trying to kill herself.
1963-1965 The Defenders— “The Empty Heart” as Norma Burgess (1963), “Nobody Asks what side you’re on as Maria Edwards (1965)
*1963 East Side/West Side “Not Bad for Openers” as Nora Best
1964 Pie in the Sky released in 1966 as Terror in the City- Suzy
*1964 The Fugitive: Taps for a Dead War – Millie Hallop
1964 Slattery’s People “Question: Where Vanished the tragic Piper” as Vera Donlon
*1964 Ben Casey —“For Jimmy, The Best of Everything” as Anita Johnson, “For a just man Falleth Seven Times” as Diedre Bassett
*1965-1966 Peyton Place – Stella Chernak- Won Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series 1966 Family loyalty her brother was like a ‘dumb animal’ loyalty, revenge, brutal anger, conflict of ethics and that anger. “People close their eyes when they kiss, because it’s a sharp world outside.” -Stella Chernak
1967 Divorce American Style -Dede Murphy
1967 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre “Deadlock”
1967 Stage 67 -“The People Trap”
*1967 In the Heat of the Night -Mrs Leslie Colbert—Hal Ashby edited In the Heat of the Night. He helped her shop for wardrobe— big hippie.
Prepped for the role by keeping herself in a wounded place— she knew about loss.
*1967 Valley of the Dolls -Miriam
1967 The Big Valley- Rosie Williams
1967 Ironside “Eat Drink and be Buried” as Francesca Kirby
1968 Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell- Fritzie Braddock
1968 Judd, for the Defense – Kay Gould- “The Gates of Cerberus” Nominated Best Supporting actress in a limited series or Movie
1968 Mission: Impossible “The Diplomat”
1969 The Big Bounce – Joanne
1969 Marooned -Celia Pruett
*1969 Medical Center “The Loner” as Karen Harper
1970 Bracken’s World “Whatever Happened to Happy Endings?”
1970 Mod Squad “Mother of Sorrow”
1970 Night Slaves tv movie as Marjorie Howard
*1970 The Landlord- Joyce Enders- Nominated Best Supporting Actress — She brings the curtain fabric and meets Pearl Baily’s character… Pearl Baily “Try this it’ll tear your head off” about the pot liquor. “I did something very naughty this morning” (laughs) she forgets.
1970 There Was a Crooked Man -Mrs. Bullard
1970 The Name of the Game “A Love to Remember” as Edwina Booker
*1971 Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man – Leslie Williams- Nominated Emmy Award Best Leading Actress in a limited series or Movie
*1971 The Neon Ceiling -Carrie Miller won Emmy Award for Best Leading Actress in a limited series or movie—A mother who runs away with her kid in the Neon Ceiling. She’s so natural in these roles. “I don’t know how old you have to be too have an iced coffee.” Denise Nickerson is the perfect person to play her daughter bc she’s snarky and can spar intellectually with her.
Frank Pierce (who wrote Dog Day Afternoon) wrote the script for the Neon Ceiling. And Everett Chambers (camera) also worked on Peyton Place. And did the TV movie version of the Willmar Eight.
*1971 Plaza Suite -Norma Hubley
1972 Portnoy’s Complaint -Sophie Portnoy to convey her aged mother she wore a wig and loaded her bra with bird seed so it seemed like her breasts were falling to each side. Shed seen heavy breasted older women like that.
1972 Lieutenant’s Schuster’s Wife tv movie as Ellie Schuster
1973 The Shape of Things -Performer and director -nominated Emmy Award for Best Supporting actress in a Variety Program
1973 Partners in Crime tv movie as Judge Meredith Leland
*1974 The Internecine Project -Jean Robertson dir Ken Hughes sexy role as Spy with James Coburn.
*1975 Shampoo- Felicia Karpf Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1975 Fay -Fay Stewart Nominated Emmy Award for Best Leading Actress in a Comedy Series
1975-1978 Great Performances “The Seagull” (1975), “The Good Doctor” (1978)
*1976 Voyage of the Damned -Lillian Rosen Nominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress—page 305— very good friends with Kim Stanley, having a hard time on voyage of the damned. She asked Kim to do it instead but sadly Kim’s manager said she had been drinking again.
Kim agreed to do it, she loved the script, but then lee got a call from Lucy Kroll (kim’s agent, and her agent for a few years). Lee you can’t use Kim, she’s an alcoholic.
*1977 Airport ’77-Karen Wallace
1977 The Spell -Marilyn Matchett–The Spell was about the awkwardness of being a teenager— more of a breakthrough story about motherhood. The Spell — you elevated it to be more than a TV film. Did you take some of Lee Grant “stirring the brew” of an ordinary made for TV film to turn it into a story about the power of motherhood and a strained mother/daughter relationship?
1978 Damien:The Omen II-Ann Thorn
1978 The Swarm- Anne MacGregor
*1978 The Mafu Cage- Ellen
1979 When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? -Clarisse Ethridge
1980 Little Miss Marker -The Judge
1981 Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen – Mrs. Lupowitz
1982 Visiting Hours- Deborah Ballin
1982 Thou Shall Not Kill
1984 Billions for Boris -Sascha Harris
1984 Constance -Mrs Barr
*1984 Teachers – Dr. Donna Burke
1985 Sanford Meisner: The American Theatre’s Best kept Secret -Herself -documentary
1987 The Big Town – Ferguson Edwards
*1989 The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro tv movie —Marilyn Klinghoffer
1990 She Said No as D.A. Doris Cantore
1991 Defending Your Life- Lena Foster
1992 Something to Live for: The Allison Gertz Story Tv Film -Carol Gertz
*1992 Citizen Cohn -Dora Marcus Cohn Nominated Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a limited series or movie
*1996 Its My Party- Amalia Stark -about AIDS
1996 Under Heat
1996 The Substance of Fire- as Cora Cahn
2000 Dr. T & the Women – Dr. Harper
2000 The Amati Girls- Aunt Spendora
2000 American Masters -documentary series Narrator -Sidney Poitier “One Bright Light”
2001 Mulholland Drive – Louise Bonner
2005 Going Shopping as Winnie
1990-2007 American Masters (TV Series Documentary) narrator -herself -Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character, None Without Sin, Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval
2014 Reel Herstory: The Real Story of Reel Women (Documentary) Herself Interviewee
2015 Battered: Behind the Lens (Video Short)
2015 Lee Grant: 30 Years Later (Video Short)
2016 TCM Spotlight: Trailblazing Women (TV Series) Herself as Special Guest
2017 20/20 (TV Series documentary) Truth and Lies: The Family Manson -Herself
2018 Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct (Documentary)
2018 Scandal: The Trial of Mary Astor (Documentary)
2019 The Needs of Kim Stanley -(Documentary) Herself in production
2019 Female Brando: The Enigmatic Legacy of Kim Stanley (Documentary) Herself in production
2019 Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster (Documentary) post production Herself
“Age would always be against me” Lee saw it as the end, so she became a movie director”
“From 12 years of to expressing your opinion unless you were punished fro it, it was being able to explore all of the social problems that were happening it was the Reagan years. It was the first time that I’d seen homeless people” -Lee Grant
1975 For the Use of the Hall tv film
1976 The Stronger -short subject
*1980 Tell Me a Riddle
1981 The Willmar 8 -documentary
1983 A Private View— off broadway at the Joseph Papp Theatre
1984 A Matter of Sex tv film
1985 What Sex Am I? Documentary also Narrator
1985 ABC Afterschool Special -Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale
*1986 Nobody’s Child Tv Film -Directors Guild Award
1989 Down and Out in America -Documentary also Narrator
1989 No Place Like Home tv film
1989 America Undercover “Battered”
1989 Staying Together
1994 America Undercover “When Women Kill” -documentary
1994 Seasons of the Heart tv film
1994 Following your Heart tv film
1994 Reunion tv film
1997 Say it, Fight it, Cure it tv film
1999 Confronting the Crisis: Childcare in America tv film
2000 American Masters -Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light
2000 The Loretta Claiborn Story tv film
2001 The Gun Deadlock tv film
2004 Biography Melanie Griffith
2000-20004 Intimate Portrait 43 episodes
2005 …A Father… A Son… Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tv film
Female Brando: The Enigmatic Legacy of Kim Stanley (Documentary) filming
The Needs of Kim Stanley (Documentary) filming
Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster (Documentary) post production
Seeing Is Believing: WOmen Direct (Documentary) 2018
Scandal: The Trial of Mary Astor (Documentary) 2018
Hal (Documentary) 2018
20/20 (TV Series Documentary) Truth and Lies: The Family Manson 2017
TCM Spotlight: Trailblazing Women (TV Series) Fighting the Blacklist 2016
Battered: Behind the Lens (video short) 2015
Lee Grant: 30 Years Later (Video short) 2015
Reel Herstory: The Real Story of Reel Women (Documentary) 2014
CBS News Sunday Morning (TV Series) 2014
HuffPost Live Conversations (TV Series) 2014
American Masters (TV Series Documentary) 1990-2007-Narrator
*Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light interviewed by Lee Grant *Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character 2007 -herself *None Without Sin-herself *Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval (1995) herself/narrator