Lyova Haskell Rosenthal
October 31, during the mid-1920s[a] (age 95–97).
New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre|
|Occupation(s)||Actress and director|
|Children||2, including Dinah Manoff|
Lee Grant (born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal; October 31, during the mid-1920s)[a] is an American actress, documentarian, and director. For her film debut in 1951 as a young shoplifter in William Wyler's Detective Story, Grant earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and won the Best Actress Award at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival. Grant won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Warren Beatty's older lover in Shampoo (1975).
Grant was one of many entertainment industry professionals blacklisted in the 1950s. Starting in 1952, Grant was largely prevented from finding employment in acting for 12 years, although did occasionally get work onstage and as a teacher during this period. She started to rebuild her screen acting career after she was removed from the blacklist in 1963.
Grant starred in 71 TV episodes of Peyton Place (1965–1966), followed by lead roles in films such as Valley of the Dolls and In the Heat of the Night in 1967. In 1964, she won the Obie Award for Distinguished Performance by an Actress for her performance in The Maids. During her career, she won two Emmy Awards and was nominated seven times.
Grant later turned her focus to directing. In 1986, she won a Directors Guild of America Award for Nobody's Child. In 1987, the documentary she directed, Down and Out in America, tied for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Lee Grant was born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal in Manhattan, the only child of Witia (née Haskell), a child care worker, and Abraham W. Rosenthal, a realtor and educator. Her father was born in New York City, to Polish Jewish immigrants, and her mother was a Russian Jewish immigrant. The family resided at 706 Riverside Drive in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Her date of birth is October 31, but the year is disputed, with all years ranging from 1925 to 1931 having been given as her year of birth at some point; however, census data, travel manifests, and testimony suggest that she was born in 1925 or 1926, while Grant's stated ages at the time of her professional debut and Oscar nomination indicate she was born in 1927.[a]
Grant made her stage debut in L'Oracolo at the Metropolitan Opera in 1931 and later joined the American Ballet as an adolescent. She attended 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. Grant graduated from high school, and won a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, where she studied under Sanford Meisner. Grant undertook further study with Uta Hagen at the HB Studio. She later enrolled in the Actors Studio in New York.
Grant had her first stage ballet performance in 1933 at the Metropolitan Opera House. In 1938, in her early teens, she was made a member of the American Ballet under George Balanchine. As an actress, Grant had her professional stage debut as understudy in Oklahoma in 1944. In 1948, she had her Broadway acting debut in Joy to the World. Grant established herself as a dramatic method actress on and off Broadway, earning praise for her first major role as a shoplifter in Detective Story in 1949.
She made her film debut two years later in the 1951 film version (Detective Story), starring Kirk Douglas, receiving her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination, and winning the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. She said she enjoyed working under director William Wyler, who helped guide her.
But as quickly as that dream unfolded, her life soon turned into a nightmare... So right when her career should have been blooming, she was banned from working in Hollywood. And that ban lasted for twelve years, a lifetime for an actor.
In 1951, she gave an impassioned eulogy at the memorial service for actor J. Edward Bromberg, whose early death, she implied, was caused by the stress of being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Her name soon after appeared in the publication Red Channels, and as a result, for the next twelve years, her "prime years" as she put it, she was blacklisted and her work in television and movies was limited.
Kirk Douglas, who acted with her in Detective Story, recalled that director Edward Dmytryk, a blacklistee, had first named her husband at the HUAC:
Lee was only a kid, a beautiful young girl with extraordinary talent and a big future. You could see it. She was so good that she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her very first film role. But because Eddie Dmytryk named her husband, Lee Grant was blacklisted before her film career even had a chance to begin. Of course, she refused to testify about the man to whom she was married, and it took years before anyone would hire her for another picture.
Grant appeared in a number of plays and in a few small television roles during her blacklisted years. In 1953, she played Rose Peabody in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. On stage, Grant starred in the Broadway production of Two for the Seesaw in 1959, she succeeded Anne Bancroft in the lead female role. That same year, she had a supporting role in the romantic drama Middle of the Night.
By the time Grant's name was removed from the blacklist in the mid-1960s, she was the divorced mother of a daughter, Dinah. Grant began re-establishing her television and movie career. In her autobiography, she writes:
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.: 250
Her experience with the blacklist scarred her to such an extent that as late as 2002, she would freeze and go into a "near trance" when anyone asked her about her experiences during the McCarthy period.
Grant's first major achievement, after HUAC officially cleared her, was in the 1960s television series Peyton Place as Stella Chernak, for which she won an Emmy in 1966. In 1963, she won acclaim for her stage performance in the off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Maids. In 1967, she played the distraught widow of a murder victim in the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night. In 1968, Grant appeared in an episode of Mission Impossible, portraying the wife of a U.S. diplomat who goes undercover to discredit a rogue diplomat. In 1969, she had supporting roles in the crime drama The Big Bounce and science fiction drama Marooned, but they were not successful.
Grant received three Academy Award nominations in the 1970s for The Landlord (1970), Shampoo (1975), and Voyage of the Damned (1976). In Plaza Suite (1971), a successful comedy directed by Arthur Hiller and written by Neil Simon; she played the harried mother of a bride, with Walter Matthau as the father.
In March 1971, Grant played the murderer in the Columbo episode "Ransom for a Dead Man", playing opposite Peter Falk's Lieutenant Columbo. For that role, she was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie. That same year, she also received a second Emmy nomination in the same category of Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the television film The Neon Ceiling, which she won.
Grant reunited with Peter Falk on Broadway in the original production of The Prisoner of Second Avenue, written by Neil Simon; the playwright said that his "first and only choice" for the part was Grant, who he said was equally at home with dramatists such as Chekhov or Sidney Kingsley, yet could also be "hilariously funny" when the script called for it, for she was able to portray essential honesty in her acting.
Grant won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress playing Warren Beatty's older lover in Shampoo (1975). The film was Columbia's biggest hit in the studio's 50-year history. Shampoo was the second film in which Grant acted under director Hal Ashby. Critic Pauline Kael, comparing her in both films, noted Grant "is such a cool-style comedienne that she's in danger of having people say that she's good, as usual." During the filming, however, she did have some serious disagreements with Beatty, who was also the producer, and nearly quit. During one scene, she wanted to play it in a way she felt was more realistic from a woman's perspective, but Beatty disagreed. After thinking about the scene for a few days, she told director Ashby that she could not do it Beatty's way and was quitting. As she was walking out, Beatty stopped her, and asked what was wrong. "I sat down and told him," she said. "He threw up his hands and said, 'Play it your way. What do I know? I'm a man.'"
Despite the success of the film and her career, Grant was feeling less secure in Hollywood, as she was then around 50 years old. She writes:
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.: 213
During the 1975-76 television season, she starred in the sitcom Fay, which, to her chagrin, was canceled after eight episodes. In 1977, she starred in the ensemble disaster movie Airport '77 and in 1978, she was the lead actress in the horror film Damien: Omen II, also starring William Holden. Both films drew negative reviews, though they were financially successful. She made a guest appearance in Empty Nest, in which her daughter Dinah Manoff co-starred.
In the late 1970s, Grant was asked by the American Film Institute to participate in the first AFI Directing Workshop for Women. During the workshop, Grant successfully moved into directing when she adapted the play The Stronger in 1976, written by August Strindberg.
In 1980, Grant directed her first feature film, Tell Me a Riddle, a story about an aging Jewish couple. That debut narrative film was followed by a widely distributed documentary film titled The Willmar 8, which profiled eight female employees of a bank in Willmar, Minnesota who went on strike to protest pay inequities between male and female bank tellers. Grant went on to direct many documentaries on a variety of social issues: women in prison with When Women Kill (1983), transgender individuals with What Sex Am I? (1985), women experiencing domestic abuse with Battered (1989), and women trying to keep custody of their children in court in Women on Trial (1992).
In 1986, Grant directed Down and Out in America (1986) which won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The film was about farm workers losing their farms, homelessness, and unemployment in America. 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.
She starred in an HBO remake of Plaza Suite in 1982, co-starring with Jerry Orbach, both playing three different characters in three acts. It was filmed before a live audience. Actor Bruce Dern, who acted with her in The Big Town (1987), recalls working with her: "Lee Grant is a fabulous actress. Anytime she works it's a blessing you have her in your movie."
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.
Admiring her directing and acting skill, actress Sissy Spacek agreed to act in the romantic comedy Hard Promises (1991) "only to work with Grant", although Grant was later replaced as its director. 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 1994, she directed the television film Seasons of the Heart, starring Carol Burnett and George Segal.
In 2001, Lee Grant portrayed Louise Bonner in David Lynch's critically acclaimed Mulholland Drive. From 2004 to 2007, Carlin Glynn, Stephen Lang, and Grant served as co-artistic directors for the Actors Studio. In the early 2000s, Grant directed a series of Intimate Portrait episodes for Lifetime Television, that celebrated a diverse range of accomplished women.
In 2013, Grant briefly returned to the stage, after a nearly forty-year absence, to star in one performance of The Gin Game, part of a benefit for improvement programs at the Island Music Guild, in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Grant played Fonsia Dorsey opposite Frank Buxton as Weller Martin; her daughter Dinah Manoff directed the production.
After a fourteen-year hiatus, Lee Grant played a small part in the film Killian & the Comeback Kids (2020), directed by Taylor A. Purdee.
Grant's career making documentaries in the 1980s and 1990s was honored with an appearance on the American Film Institute's AFI Docs at its Guggenheim Symposium and with a program, "20th Century Woman: The Documentary Films of Lee Grant", on AFI Silver and other virtual cinemas in mid-2020. This became the first virtual repertory film series in America.
As of 2022, she is still the only Academy Award-winning actor to also direct an Academy Award-winning documentary.
|1953–1954||Search for Tomorrow||Rose Peabody #1|
|1955||Storm Fear||Edna Rogers|
|1959||Middle of the Night||Marilyn|
|An Affair of the Skin||Katherine McCleod|
|1964||Pie in the Sky||Suzy||Filmed in 1962, released 1964. Retitled "Terror in the City".|
|The Fugitive||Millie Hallop||Episode: "Taps for a Dead War"|
|1965–1966||Peyton Place||Stella Chernak||71 episodes (August 19, 1965 – March 28, 1966)|
|1967||Divorce American Style||Dede Murphy|
|In the Heat of the Night||Mrs. Leslie Colbert|
|Valley of the Dolls||Miriam|
|The Big Valley||Rosemary Williams||Episode: "The Lady from Mesa"|
|1968||Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell||Fritzie Braddock|
|Judd, for the Defense||Kay Gould|
|1969||The Big Bounce||Joanne|
|1970||The Landlord||Joyce Enders|
|There Was a Crooked Man...||Mrs. Bullard|
|1971||Columbo||Leslie Williams||Episode: "Ransom for a Dead Man"|
|The Neon Ceiling||Carrie Miller|
|The Last Generation||archive footage|
|Plaza Suite||Norma Hubley|
|1972||Portnoy's Complaint||Sophie Portnoy|
|1973||The Shape of Things||Performer (and co-director)|
|1974||The Internecine Project||Jean Robertson|
|1976||Voyage of the Damned||Lillian Rosen|
|1977||Airport '77||Karen Wallace|
|The Spell||Marilyn Matchett|
|1978||Damien: Omen II||Ann Thorn|
|The Swarm||Anne MacGregor|
|The Mafu Cage||Ellen|
|1979||Backstairs at the White House||Grace Coolidge||TV miniseries|
|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|
|The Million Dollar Face||Evalyna||TV film|
|For Ladies Only||Anne Holt||TV film|
|1982||Thou Shalt Not Kill||Maxine Lochman||TV film|
|Visiting Hours||Deborah Ballin|
|Bare Essence||Ava Marshall||TV film|
|1984||Billions for Boris||Sascha Harris|
|Teachers||Dr. Donna Burke|
|1985||Sanford Meisner: The American Theatre's Best Kept Secret||Herself||Documentary|
|1987||The Big Town||Ferguson Edwards|
|1990||She Said No||D.A. Doris Cantore||TV film|
|1991||Defending Your Life||Lena Foster|
|1992||Something to Live for: The Alison Gertz Story||Carol Gertz||TV film|
|Earth and the American Dream||Narrator|
|Citizen Cohn||Dora Marcus Cohn|
|1996||It's My Party||Amalia Stark|
|The Substance of Fire||Cora Cahn|
|2000||Dr. T & the Women||Dr. Harper|
|The Amati Girls||Aunt Spendora|
|2001||Mulholland Drive||Louise Bonner|
|2005||The Needs of Kim Stanley||Herself|
|1973||The Shape of Things||TV special|
|1975||For the Use of the Hall||TV film|
|1976||The Stronger||Short film|
|1980||Tell Me a Riddle||Feature film|
|1981||The Willmar 8||Documentary film|
|1983||When Women Kill||Documentary film (also narrator)|
|1984||A Matter of Sex||TV film|
|1985||What Sex Am I?||Documentary film (also narrator)|
|ABC Afterschool Special||Episode: "Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale"|
|1986||Nobody's Child||TV film|
|Down and Out in America||Documentary film (also narrator)|
|1989||Battered||Documentary film (also narrator)|
|Staying Together||Feature film|
|No Place Like Home||TV film|
|1992||Women on Trial||Documentary film (also narrator)|
|1994||Seasons of the Heart||TV film|
|Following Her Heart||TV film|
|1997||Say It, Fight It, Cure It||TV film|
|Broadway Brawler||unfinished film|
|1999||Confronting the Crisis: Childcare in America||TV film|
|2000||American Masters||Episode: "Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light"|
|The Loretta Claiborne Story||TV film|
|2001||The Gun Deadlock||TV film|
|2004||Biography||Episode: "Melanie Griffith"|
|2000–2004||Intimate Portrait||43 episodes|
|2005||... A Father... A Son... Once Upon a Time in Hollywood||TV film|
|1952||Cannes Film Festival||Best Supporting Actress||Detective Story||Won|
|Academy Awards||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|1964||Obie Award||Distinguished Performance by an Actress||The Maids||Won|
|1966||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series||Peyton Place||Won|
|1967||Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture||In the Heat of the Night||Nominated|
|1968||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie||Judd, for the Defense||Nominated|
|1970||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||The Landlord||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1971||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie||The Neon Ceiling||Won|
|1975||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Shampoo||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||Fay||Nominated|
|1976||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Voyage of the Damned||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1993||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie||Citizen Cohn||Nominated|
Lyova Rosenthal was born in the mid-1920s. The granddaughter of Polish and Russian immigrants is famously inexact about her age. From her mid-20s to her mid-30s, the blacklist left her unemployable in TV and film, so she lied about her years, whatever they were, to remain viable as an actress.
Lee Grant was born in New York City, New York, on October 31, 1931. (The date is so listed in Who's Who in America. Other sources give every year from 1926 through 1930.)
Grant: I was nominated and I was given the Best Actress Award in Cannes in 1952; Gottfried: So here you are and I think you were 24 at the time so this is like your career is exploding and then what happens then?
By that time I was twenty-four when I was nominated for an Academy Award and I won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress... for this little teeny part in 1952