Page, Geraldine (1924–1987)

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Page, Geraldine (1924–1987)

American actress who won an Academy Award for her performance in The Trip to Bountiful. Born on November 22, 1924, in Kirksville, Missouri; died on June 13, 1987, in New York City; only daughter and eldest of two children of Leon Page (a osteopathic doctor) and Pearl (Maize) Page; attended the University of Chicago and the Herbert Berghof School, New York; graduated from the Goodman Theater Dramatic School, Chicago, 1945; married Alexander Schneider (a violinist), in 1954 (divorced 1957); married Rip Torn (an actor and director), in 1958; children: (second marriage)Angelica Torn ; (twins) Anthony and Jonathan Torn.

Selected theater:

made New York debut as the Sophomore in Seven Mirrors (Blackfriars Guild, 1945); appeared as Pagan Crone in Yerma (Circle in the Square, 1951), Alma in Summer and Smoke (Circle in the Square, 1952), Lily Barton in Midsummer (Vanderbilt, January 1953), Marcelline in The Immoralist (Royale, February 1954), Lizzie Curry in The Rainmaker (Cort, October 1954, and on tour), Amy McGregor in The Innkeepers (John Golden, February 1956); made London debut as Lizzie Curry in The Rainmaker (St. Martin's, May 1956); appeared as Abbie Putnam in Desire Under the Elms and Natalia Islaev in A Month in The Country (Studebaker, Chicago, 1956), Mrs. Shankland and Miss Railton-Bell in Separate Tables (Music Box, July 1957), Alexandra del Lago in Sweet Bird of Youth (Martin Beck, March 1959), Sister Bonaventure in The Umbrella (Locust, Philadelphia, January 1962), Nina Leeds in a revival of Strange Interlude (Hudson, March 1963), Olga in The Three Sisters (Morosco, June 1964), Julie Cunningham in P.S. I Love You (Henry Miller, November 1964), Oriane Brice in The Great Indoors (Eugene O'Neill, February 1966), Baroness Lemberg in White Lies and Clea in Black Comedy (Ethel Barrymore, February 1967), Angela Palmer in Angela (The Music Box, October 1969); toured in Marriage and Money (1971); appeared in The Marriage Proposal and The Boor (Playhouse in the Park, Philadelphia, July 1971); appeared as Mary Todd Lincoln in Look Away (Playhouse, January 1973), and Regina Giddons in The Little Foxes (Academy Festival in Lake Forest, Illinois); appeared in Absurd Person Singular (Music Box, October 1974); appeared as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit (1987).

Selected filmography:

Out of the Night (1947); Taxi (1953); Hondo (1953); Summer and Smoke (1961); Sweet Bird of Youth (1962); Toys in the Attic (1963); Dear Heart (1965); The Three Sisters (videotape of Actors Studio presentation, 1966); Monday's Child (filmed theater production, 1967); You're a Big Boy Now (1967); The Happiest Millionaire (1967); What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969); Trilogy (including "A Christmas Memory" and "The Thanksgiving Visitor" episodes, which originally aired on television); The Beguiled (1971); J.W. Coop (1972); Pete 'n' Tillie (1972); Happy as the Grass Was Green (Hazel's People, 1973); The Day of the Locust (1975); Nasty Habits (UK, 1976); The Rescuers (voice only, 1977); The Three Sisters (1977); Interiors (1978); Harry's War (1981); Honky Tonk Freeway (1981); I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982); The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984); The Bride (1985); Flanagan (1985); White Night (1985); The Trip to Bountiful (1985); My Little Girl (1986); Native Son (1986).

Geraldine Page achieved instant stardom for her portrayal of the lovelorn spinster Alma Winemiller in the 1953 off-Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke. She went on to become one of the icons of stage, screen, and television, winning particular acclaim for her performances in several subsequent Williams plays. Despite her star power, Page remained a student of her craft throughout her career, and was one of the leading proponents of the Method. "Acting isn't simply a matter of going to the theater from 8 to 11," she said in an 1985 interview. "It's a day-to-day process of collecting details … choosing from experience…. I have a passionate curiosity about people and … things. I guess you could say I'm nosy."

Page was born in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1924, the daughter of an osteopathic physician who had once dreamed of being a writer. She had first wanted to become a pianist, and then a painter, but zeroed in on acting as a teenager. "It was after seeing Laurette Taylor doing nothing and making it everything that I decided to be an actress," she recalled. "Father wanted me to be a writer instead." She studied for the stage at the Goodman Theater School in Chicago and then formed an acting group which played for four summer seasons at Lake Zurich, 35 miles outside

the city. During the winters, Page made the rounds in New York, supporting herself with every manner of work, from selling books to wrapping thread cones at the International Thread Company. After working intermittently with the Blackfriars and with a group at the Hotel Des Artistes, she was recognized by director Jose Quintero, who cast her in Summer and Smoke. The critics heaped praise on the newcomer, calling her "great," "astounding," and "sheer magic," and audiences flocked to the small Circle-in-the-Square theater in Greenwich Village to see the production. For her performance, Page won her first New York Drama Critics award.

The role led to a seven-year contract with independent film producer Charles K. Feldman, as well as to her Broadway debut as the idealistic but uneducated heroine Lily in Vina Delmar 's Mid-Summer (January 1953). Writing for The New Yorker, Wolcott Gibbs called Lily possibly "the noblest woman put on the stage in my generation … who might be completely insufferable if the role were in any other hands than those of Geraldine Page, an actress of great charm and pathos and almost matchless technique." Page next played Marcelline, the wife of a homosexual, in The Immoralist (1954), then had a successful run as another lonely spinster, Lizzie Curry, in The Rainmaker (1954), a role in which she had an opportunity to display her comedic talent. "As a comedienne, Miss Page has some unexpected qualities," wrote Brooks Atkinson. "She is fresher than the play and equally funny." Page subsequently toured with the production and made her London debut as Lizzie in May 1956.

Page's next American triumph was as the aging movie queen in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), a role for which she received her second New York Drama Critics Award for Best Actress. "Loose-jointed, gangling, raucous of voice, crumpled, shrewd, abandoned yet sensitive about some things that live in the heart, Miss Page is at the peak of form in the raffish characterization," reported Atkinson. Kenneth Tynan concurred, calling the performance "a display of knockdown flamboyance and drag-out authority that triumphantly quells all doubts about this actress' ability to transcend her mannerisms."

Once established in her career, Page was selective about her roles, turning down as many parts as she accepted. Among her Broadway roles were Nina Leeds in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude (1963) and Olga in The Three Sisters (1964). Although best known for her stage work, she also made several widely acclaimed movies, some of which were film versions of her stage hits. She was nominated for Academy Awards as Best Actress for Summer and Smoke (1961), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), and Interiors (1978), and as Best Supporting Actress for Hondo (1953), You're a Big Boy Now (1967), Pete 'n' Tillie (1972), and The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984). She finally won the coveted statue for Best Actress for her performance in The Trip to Bountiful (1985). Page also won Emmy Awards for her performances in the teleplays of Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" (1967) and "The Thanksgiving Visitor" (1969). The actress was appearing as Madame Arcadi in Blithe Spirit when she died in 1987, following a heart attack.


Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1953.

Gareffa, Peter M., ed. Contemporary Newsmakers, 1987. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1987.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Morley, Sheridan. The Great Stage Stars. Australia: Angus & Robertson, 1986.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Page, Geraldine (1924–1987)

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