Dunaway, (Dorothy) Faye

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DUNAWAY, (Dorothy) Faye

(b. 14 January 1941 in Bascom, Florida), actress, producer, and director, best known for her portrayals of intense, larger-than-life female characters, many based on such real-life personalities as Bonnie Parker, Joan Crawford, and Eva ("Evita") Peron.

Dunaway was one of two children born to John MacDowell Dunaway, a career army officer, and Grace April (Smith) Dunaway, a homemaker. Owing to her father's itinerant job in the military, Dunaway moved frequently as a child, living in Texas, Arkansas, Utah, and Mannheim, Germany. She graduated from Leon High School in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1958 and attended Florida State University and the University of Florida. In 1959 she was runner-up in the Miss University of Florida beauty contest. Dunaway graduated from the Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts in 1962 with a B.F.A. in theater arts, and she immediately began to pursue an acting career.

Dunaway made her New York debut in September 1962 at the American National Theater and Academy (ANTA) when she replaced Olga Belin as Margaret More in A Man for All Seasons. Subsequent productions for ANTA include After the Fall and But for Whom Charlie (both in 1964), and The Changeling and Tartuffe (both in 1965). She also appeared in Hogan's Goat at the American Place Theater (1965), for which she won a Theater World Award in 1966, and she joined the Lincoln Center Repertory Company and worked for the Eileen Ford Agency as a model. By the mid-1960s Dunaway was beginning to move into film. She made guest appearances in the television shows The Trials of O'Brien (1966) and The 34th Man (1967) and made her film debut in The Happening (1967). The movie, set in Miami, featured Dunaway as one of a group of beach bums who kidnap a gangster, played by Anthony Quinn, only to find that no one is willing to pay his ransom. Hurry Sundown, also released in 1967 and set in post–World War II Georgia, concerned a land dispute between a white landowner and his poor tenants.

Neither film did much to enhance Dunaway's career. That changed with her third role, when she portrayed the bank robber Bonnie Parker in Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Like the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bonnie and Clyde (which costarred Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow) humanized and romanticized its protagonists, underscoring their bank-robbing exploits with a sizable dose of social commentary. Set during the Great Depression, the film portrays Bonnie and Clyde as modern-day Robin Hoods, who, if they do not always pass along their proceeds to the poor, at least refrain from stealing from the working-class patrons who are in the banks they are robbing. The ending, which shows in graphic detail the two outlaws being shot to death by authorities, was considered shockingly explicit for the time.

In preparation for the role, Dunaway lost thirty pounds by wearing sand weights and adhering to a strict diet. She felt that this sacrifice was necessary in order to create a lean and hungry look for her character. Her Bonnie exudes a smoldering but playful sexuality, making clear why she would leave her dreary, one-horse town to join Clyde Barrow for an exciting life on the road. The film became a major hit and was one of Warner Bros.' two top-grossing films of the decade (the other being the musical My Fair Lady); it made Dunaway a star. Her 1930s costumes also sparked a fashion craze for the retro look among women, who adopted the berets and maxiskirts that Dunaway wore in the film. She received an Oscar nomination for best actress for her performance.

Dunaway's other notable film role of the decade was in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Dunaway costarred with Steve McQueen, who played the film's title character, a suave, wealthy man who commits elaborate bank robberies mostly out of boredom. Dunaway is his perfect foil as the insurance investigator hired to catch him but who instead falls in love with him. Their romance is affecting and believable, and suspense over whether Dunaway will be able to capture her prey is maintained throughout. When the film was remade in 1999 with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo as the leads, Dunaway appeared in a small role as Brosnan's psychiatrist.

Dunaway's subsequent 1960s films illustrated a recurring problem in her career, following up noteworthy performances with ones that were less than memorable. The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) was a creaky, World War II comedy about three U.S. Navy men who are stranded on an island in the Philippines and meet a strange Royal Navy officer (played by David Niven) living aboard a beached ship. Dunaway joins this motley crew as they head out to sea. Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie & Video Guide said of the film that its only high points were "clips from 1940s news-reels and Faye's eye makeup."

A Place for Lovers (released overseas as Amanti, the original name of the stage play) fared little better when it was released in 1969. Dunaway plays a fashion designer who has a passionate affair with a married engineer, played by Marcello Mastroianni, only to find that she is terminally ill. Many viewers found the location footage of Italy of more interest than the overwrought soap opera plot. Dunaway and Mastroianni embarked on a highly publicized offscreen romance as well, which did not last. The Arrangement (1969) marked a return to form. Dunaway was cast as the mistress of an advertising executive (played by Kirk Douglas) who becomes increasingly troubled over what he perceives as the meaninglessness of his own life. Elia Kazan directed the film and also wrote the screenplay, which was based on his own 1967 novel.

Dunaway has made numerous stage and film appearances since the 1960s. Some of her more notable films and characters include Little Big Man (1970); The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel, The Four Musketeers (1975); and the tantalizing femme fatale Evelyn Mulwray in Chinatown (1974), a role that garnered Dunaway another Oscar nomination as best actress. Dunaway won the best actress Oscar for playing the high-strung television executive Diane Christensen in Network (1976). She also appeared in a high-camp role as the actress Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981) and was the lead in the television film Evita Peron (1981), the first screen biography of the wife of Argentinian president Juan Peron. Dunaway was cast as Mickey Rourke's downtrodden girlfriend in Barfly (1987), based on the life of the writer Charles Bukowski. She appeared on stage in Old Times (1972), A Streetcar Named Desire (1973), and The Curse of an Aching Heart (1982).

In 1993 Dunaway starred in a short-lived situation comedy, It Had to Be You, which was cancelled after a few episodes. In 1994 she won an Emmy for best guest actress in a drama series for Columbo: It's All in the Game. She also crossed swords with the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who hired and then fired her as the lead in a Los Angeles production of his musical Sunset Boulevard. The dispute was settled out of court on 16 January 1995; no details of the settlement were made public. Dunaway has worked on the other side of the camera as well. She served as co-executive producer of the 1990 television film Silhouette (a murder mystery in which she also starred) and as writer and producer of Yellow Bird (2001), a short film in which she made her debut as a director. Dunaway's first marriage was to the rock star Peter Wolf, lead singer of the J. Geils Band, on 7 August 1974; the couple had no children and divorced in 1978. Her second marriage was to photographer Terry O'Neil in July 1983, with whom she had one son; the couple divorced in 1987.

Dunaway's autobiography is Looking for Gatsby: My Life (1995), co-written with Betsy Sharkey. A biography is Allan Hunter, Faye Dunaway (1986). Biographical information is also in Sandra Wake and Nicola Hayden, The Bonnie and Clyde Book (1967). Interviews with Dunaway are in Newsweek (4 Mar. 1968); Photoplay (London) (Sept. 1983); Films and Filming (Sept. 1986); New York Times (11 Oct. 1992); and Interview (Feb. 1993). Articles about Dunaway include "Tough Act to Follow," People Weekly (8 May 1995), and "Faye Dunaway," Entertainment Weekly (22 Sept. 1996), in which she was voted one of the "Top 100 Greatest Movie Stars" of all time.

Gillian G. Gaar