Stanley, Kim (1925–2001)
Stanley, Kim (1925–2001)
American actress who was nominated for three Academy Awards. Born Patricia Kimberley Reid on February 11, 1925, in Tularosa, New Mexico; died from cancer on August 20, 2001, in Santa Fe, New Mexico; daughter of J.T. Reid (a professor of philosophy) and Ann (Miller) Reid (a painter and interior decorator); attended the University of New Mexico; University of Texas, B.A. in psychology, 1945; studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, 1945–46; studied acting at the Actors Studio; married Bruce Franklin Hall (an actor), in 1948 (divorced); married Curt Conway (an actor-director, divorced 1956); married Alfred Ryder (an actor-director), in August 1958; children: (second marriage) a daughter and a son; (third marriage) a daughter.
New York debut as Iris in The Dog Beneath the Skin (Carnegie Recital Hall, 1948); title role in Saint Joan (Equity Library, 1949); Broadway debut as replacement for Julie Harris in the role of Elisa in Montserrat (Fulton Theater, 1949); appeared as Adela in The House of Bernarda Alba (ANTA, 1951), Anna Reeves in The Chase (Playhouse, 1952), Millie Owens in Picnic (Music Box, 1953), Georgette Thomas in The Traveling Lady (Playhouse, 1954, and repeated role on television); appeared as Cherie in Bus Stop (Music Box, 1955), Virginia in A Clearing in the Woods (Belasco, 1947); London debut as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Comedy Theater, London, 1958); appeared as Sara
Melody in A Touch of the Poet (Helen Hayes, New York, 1958), Lea de Lonval in Cheri (Morosco, 1959), Elizabeth von Ritter in A Far Country (Music Box, 1961), Sue Barker in Natural Affection (Booth, 1963), Masha in The Three Sisters (Morosco, 1964, and repeated role at London's Aldwych Theater in 1965).
The Goddess (1958); Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964); The Three Sisters (1977); Frances (1982); The Right Stuff (1983).
A product of the Actors Studio and a proponent of the psychological approach to characterization known as the Method, Kim Stanley reached the peak of her acting career in the 1950s, with such award-winning performances as Millie in Picnic (1953), and Cherie in Bus Stop (1955), and with her highly acclaimed London debut as Maggie in the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). In the 1960s, the actress left the stage to teach, after which she made only occasional appearances on screen and television.
Stanley was born Patricia Kimberley Reid in 1925 in Tularosa, New Mexico, where her father was a professor at the University of New Mexico and where Stanley briefly attended college and also made her stage debut in 1942 in a production of Thunder Rock. She subsequently transferred to the University of Texas and graduated in 1945, with a degree in psychology. She continued her acting studies at the Pasadena Playhouse in California, leaving after a year to go to New York in search of a job. "The first producer I saw was Russel Crowse, who ordered me to go back to Texas," she told Earl Wilson in 1955. "I don't blame him. I sat everybody down and made them listen to me do Shakespeare—very badly."
Ignoring Crowse's directive, Stanley persevered, although she supported herself mainly by working as a model and a waitress. After two years, she joined the Actors Studio where she studied with Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. In 1948, she made her New York debut in the avantgarde production The Dog Beneath the Skin by W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood. She subsequently appeared in him, by e.e. cummings, and in Yes Is For a Very Young Man, by Gertrude Stein . Her work in the latter play was praised by Brooks Atkinson who called her "a talented actress with temperament, craft, and, if there is any justice on Broadway, a future."
Stanley made her Broadway debut in 1949, replacing Julie Harris as Elisa in Montserrat. After subsequent Broadway engagements in The House of Bernarda Alba and The Chase, Stanley was offered the role of Millie in William Inge's Picnic, a play that takes place in a small Kansas town. Once again, Brooks Atkinson sang her praises. "As a tom-boy sister with brains and artistic gifts, Kim Stanley gives a penetrating performance that conveys the distinction as well as the gaucheries of a disarming young lady," he wrote. Walter Kerr found her performance promising, but was put off by her nervous-tic mannerisms, "the lolling tongue, and the sing-song rhythms, cuts across and falsifies the independent vision of her performance; it also makes her seem more a cretin than a class intellectual." Kerr's comments aside, the play received the Pulitzer Prize and Stanley was awarded the Drama Critics' Award for Best Supporting Actress of the year.
Following another acclaimed performance as Georgette Thomas in The Traveling Lady, a role she later reprised on television, Stanley was cast in a second Inge play, Bus Stop, in the role of Cherie, an Ozark girl who becomes a nightclub singer. In what Brooks Atkinson termed a "glowing performance that is full of amusing detail," Stanley stopped the show each night with her parody of a chanteuse crooning "That Old Black Magic." The actress, claiming to be completely tone deaf, said she patterned her singing on that of a vocalist she once heard in a honky-tonk. For her performance in Bus Stop, Stanley received the Donaldson Award and the New York Drama Critics Award as Best Actress.
In January 1958, Stanley made her London debut as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Critic Richard Buckle, in Plays and Players, called her performance "a triumph of subtlety and vitality. Her first-act duel with Brick is almost a monologue, and it is wonderful to watch her, obsessed by the sole idea of becoming his wife again, going at him with her drill of nervous energy, charged by love and will power, only to retreat and crumble miserably before the laconic implacability of his replies. … The way she switches from catty defensiveness in brushes with her brother-in-law and his wife to a consoling warmth with which to envelop the moaning Big Mama is magical too."
In addition to her stage work, Stanley appeared in five films during her career, winning Academy Award nominations for three of them: The Goddess (1958), Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), and Frances (1982), in which she played the mother of actress Frances Farmer . She preferred television over the big screen, however, and by 1955 had appeared in some 75 different television roles. She once said that she found the medium very relaxing. "I never think anybody's watching," she said in an interview with the New York World-Telegram and Sun in 1954, "until I go home to Texas, and find out they see everything." Many of Stanley's small screen roles were in dramatic specials, but she also made guest appearances on various series. In 1963, she received an Emmy for her performance in "A Cardinal Act of Mercy," an episode on "Ben Casey."
In 1959, following performances as Sara Melody in A Touch of the Poet and Lea de Lonval in Cheri, Stanley received the ANTA Award for her outstanding contribution to the art of living theater. She continued to perform through 1965, after which she began to teach drama at the College of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her last stage appearance was as Masha in a 1964 revival of The Three Sisters. She died from cancer on August 20, 2001, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts