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|Born||Sandra Dale Dennis
April 27, 1937
Hastings, Nebraska, U.S.
|Died||March 2, 1992
Westport, Connecticut, U.S.
|Cause of death||Ovarian cancer|
Sandra Dale “Sandy” Dennis (April 27, 1937 – March 2, 1992) was an American theater and film actress. At the height of her career in the 1960s she won two Tony Awards, as well as an Oscar for her performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Dennis was born in Hastings, Nebraska, the daughter of Yvonne (née Hudson), a secretary, and Jack Dennis, a postal clerk. She had a brother, Frank. Dennis grew up in Kenesaw, Nebraska and Lincoln, Nebraska, graduating from Lincoln High School (Lincoln, Nebraska) in 1955. She attended Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska, appearing in the Lincoln Community Theater Group before moving to New York City at the age of 19.
Dennis made her television debut in 1956 in The Guiding Light. In 1963, she appeared in The Fugitive, which starred David Janssen, in the episode "The Other Side of the Mountain." In 1964, she appeared in the television episode "Don't Mention My Name in Sheboygan" of Craig Stevens's CBS drama, Mr. Broadway. Her film debut was the role of Kay in Splendor in the Grass (1961). However, she was more committed to following a career in the theater. She won consecutive Tony Awards for her performances in A Thousand Clowns (1963) and Any Wednesday (1964). She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Honey, the fragile, neurotic young wife of George Segal's character, in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). She followed this with well-received performances in Up the Down Staircase (1967), The Fox (1967), Sweet November (1968) and The Out-of-Towners (1970), although her performance in Nasty Habits (1977) drew harsh criticism from Vincent Canby in the New York Times.
In 1963, she appeared in the Naked City episode "Carrier", as the bearer of a rare disease.
In 1967 she was voted the 18th biggest star in the US.
A life member of The Actors Studio and an advocate of method acting, Dennis was often described as neurotic and mannered in her performances; her signature style included running words together and oddly stopping and starting sentences, suddenly going up and down octaves as she spoke, and fluttering her hands. Walter Kerr famously remarked that she treated sentences as "weak, injured things" that needed to be slowly helped "across the street"; Pauline Kael said that she "has made an acting style of postnasal drip." Nonetheless, William Goldman, in his book The Season, referred to her as a quintessential "critics' darling" who got rave reviews no matter how unusual her acting and questionable her choice of material. During her stint in Any Wednesday, Kerr said the following: "Let me tell you about Sandy Dennis. There should be one in every home."
Sandy Dennis, Anne Bancroft, Zoe Caldwell, Viola Davis, Colleen Dewhurst, Maureen Stapleton, Irene Worth, and Audra McDonald are the only winners of Tony Awards for both Best Actress in a Play and Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Her last significant film roles were in Alan Alda's The Four Seasons (1981) and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). In 1991, she played a leading role in the film The Indian Runner, which marked Sean Penn's debut as a film director.
In an interview with People magazine in 1989, Dennis revealed she and Gerry Mulligan had suffered a miscarriage in 1965 and went on to say, "if I'd been a mother, I would have loved the child, but I just didn't have any connection with it when I was pregnant…I never, ever wanted children. It would have been like having an elephant."
Dennis has been identified as a lesbian by a number of Hollywood historians. According to Dennis' biographer, Peter Shelley, Eric Roberts, upon being asked if Dennis was bisexual, spoke of her telling him about her many lesbian relationships and said that she, "appreciated the beauty of women. But Sandy also liked and appreciated what a very, very young man could do to a woman, I suppose."
During Dennis' lifetime, in-depth published interviews with her, such as one with The Christian Science Monitor during her stint performing in an ensemble cast at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1981, made no mention of a close relationship with a female. That interview included the following exchange about her marital status:
At one point I say, "When you were married to Gerry Mulligan…" but she breaks in, tersely: "I was never married to anybody." I point out that "Who's Who" says she was married to Mulligan.
She says, "It's not – I'm not fussy about that – the truth is I was never married. We had a long association but we never married…"
But there it is in Current Biography: "In June, 1965, after a three-week courtship, Sandy Dennis was married to Gerry Mulligan, the jazz saxophonist and composer."She sits bolt upright and repeats: "I've never been married. And I'm not fussy about it. It's just the truth is, that I was never married. It isn't true that I was ever married, which means that I never got a divorce. The newspapers jumped to that conclusion. It's so hard to get to somebody and say…Oh, they're so funny about it."
|1961||Splendor in the Grass||Kay|
|1966||Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?||Honey||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance
Laurel Award for Top Female New Face
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
|Three Sisters, TheThe Three Sisters||Irina|
|1967||Up the Down Staircase||Sylvia Barrett||Moscow International Film Festival Best Actress Award (tied with Grynet Molvig for A Time in the Sun)|
|Fox, TheThe Fox||Jill Banford|
|1968||Sweet November||Sara Deever|
|1969||Touch of Love, AA Touch of Love||Rosamund Stacey|
|That Cold Day in the Park||Frances Austen|
|1970||The Out of Towners||Gwen Kellerman||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Laurel Award for Top Female Comedic Performance
|1975||Mr. Sycamore||Jane Gwilt|
|1976||God Told Me To||Martha Nicholas|
|1977||Nasty Habits||Sister Winifred|
|1981||Four Seasons, TheThe Four Seasons||Anne Callan|
|1982||Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean||Mona|
|1986||Laughter in the Dark|
|1991||Indian Runner, TheThe Indian Runner||Mrs. Roberts||(final film role)|
|1956||Guiding Light||Alice Holden||TV series|
|1962||Naked City||Eleanor Ann Hubber||episode: Idylls of a Running Back|
|1963||Naked City||Lorraine||episode: Carrier|
|Fugitive, TheThe Fugitive||Cassie Bolin||episode: The Other Side of the Mountain|
|1964||Arrest and Trial||Molly White||episode: Somewhat Lower Than the Angels|
|Mr. Broadway||Patricia Kelsey||episode: Don't Mention My Name in Sheboygan|
|1968||Hatful of Rain, AA Hatful of Rain||Celia Pope||(TV film)|
|1970||Only Way Out Is Dead||Dr. Enid Bingham||(TV film)|
|1972||Something Evil||Marjorie Worden||(TV film)|
|1978||Police Story||Sharon Bristol||episode: Day of Terror... Night of Fear|
|Perfect Gentlemen||Sophie Rosenman||(TV film)|
|1980||Wilson's Reward||Martha James||(TV film)|
|1985||Execution, TheThe Execution||Elsa Spahn||(TV film)|
|Love Boat, TheThe Love Boat||Gina Caldwell||episode: Roommates/Heartbreakers/Out of the Blue|
|Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Helen||episode: Arthur, or the Gigolo|
|Young People's Specials||Patricia Benson||episode: The Trouble with Mother|
|1986||Equalizer, TheThe Equalizer||Kay Wesley||episode: Out of the Past|
|Dec. 5, 1957 – Jan. 17, 1959||Dark at the Top of the Stairs, TheThe Dark at the Top of the Stairs||Reenie Flood
|Oct. 20, 1960 – Nov. 19, 1960||Face of a Hero||Millicent Bishop||Theatre World Award|
|Nov. 1, 1961 − Jan. 27, 1962||Complaisant Lover, TheThe Complaisant Lover||Ann Howard|
|Apr. 5, 1962 − Apr. 13, 1963||Thousand Clowns, AA Thousand Clowns||Sandra Markowitz||Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play|
|Feb. 18, 1964 − Jun. 26, 1966||Any Wednesday||Ellen Gordon||Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play|
|Oct. 15, 1967 – Nov. 18, 1967||Daphne in Cottage D||Daphne|
|Mar. 29, 1971 – Jun. 26, 1971||How the Other Half Loves||Teresa Phillips|
|Jan. 16, 1973||Let Me Hear You Smile||Hannah Heywood|
|Oct. 8, 1974 − Mar. 6, 1976||Absurd Person Singular||Eva|
|Mar. 14, 1975 – Sept. 3, 1978||Same Time, Next Year||Doris||Replacement|
|Aug. 6, 1981 – Sept. 5, 1981||Supporting Cast, TheThe Supporting Cast||Sally|
|Feb. 18, 1982 – Apr. 4, 1982||Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean||Mona|