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Overview for Diane Ladd
Diane Ladd

Diane Ladd



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Also Known As: Rose Diane Ladner Died:
Born: November 29, 1932 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Meridian, Mississippi, USA Profession: Cast ... actor nightclub dancer model singer secretary


Oscar-nominated character actress Diane Ladd achieved notoriety as the wisecracking waitress Flo in the feature classic "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974), only to later reestablish herself with an unhinged portrayal as an obsessed mother opposite her real-life daughter Laura Dern in "Wild at Heart" (1990). After receiving her training on the stages of New York, Ladd became a fixture on episodic television prior to landing roles in low-budget films such as "The Wild Angels" (1966), alongside her actor husband, Bruce Dern. The same year as "Alice," Ladd also appeared in the masterful "Chinatown" (1974), directed by Roman Polanski. In 1980, she revisited the gang at Mel's diner when she joined the cast of the spin-off sitcom "Alice" (CBS, 1976-1985), as the replacement for Flo, the character she had created in the original Martin Scorsese film. Ladd followed her Academy Award-nominated turn in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" with another Oscar nod for her performance in "Rambling Rose" (1991), also alongside daughter Laura. Ladd teamed with her daughter several more times, most notably in Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth" (1996) and again with Lynch for "Inland Empire" (2006). Boasting an incredibly diverse array of onscreen characterizations over a career that spanned more than 50 years, Ladd remained a vibrant presence in film and television well into the 21st Century.

Born Rose Diane Ladner on Nov. 29, 1935 in Meridian, MS, she was the only child of Mary Bernadette and Preston Paul Ladner, and was related to both playwright Tennessee Williams and poet Sidney Lanier. After attending finishing school, she was noticed by actor John Carradine while she was performing in a stage performance; he promptly cast her in a production of "Tobacco Road" for the touring show's San Francisco leg. Later, the Mississippi native moved to New York City where she enrolled at the famed The Actors Studio and supported herself as a model and dancer at the famed Copacabana for a short time. Ladd landed her first major stage role in an off-Broadway production of her cousin Tennessee Williams' "Orpheus Descending" in 1959. Also in the cast was actor Bruce Dern, who she would marry the following year. Following a run of guest spots on several television series and her feature debut in "Something Wild" (1961), Ladd had her first significant role alongside her husband in Roger Corman's landmark biker exploitation movie "The Wild Angels" (1966), co-starring Peter Fonda. Shortly after the birth of her daughter Laura in 1967, she made her Broadway debut in "Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights" (1968). Although there was the occasional prestige cinematic effort, such as the Steve McQueen vehicle "The Reivers" (1969), she spent most of her early movie career in low-to-medium budget genre fodder like "Rebel Rousers" (1970), another biker picture with by then ex-husband Dern and rising star Jack Nicholson.

A few years later, Ladd would appear alongside Nicholson once again in one of cinema's all-time classic noir mysteries, Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" (1974). It was a watershed year for the actress, when she also co-starred in director Martin Scorsese's critically-acclaimed comedy drama "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974), starring Ellen Burstyn as a widow starting her life anew while waitressing at an Arizona diner. For her supporting role as tough-talking, world-wise waitress Flo, Ladd was nominated for an Oscar. Capitalizing on her newfound recognition, she returned to Broadway in one-third of the three-part "A Texas Trilogy: Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander" in 1976. That same year, Ladd co-starred with Rock Hudson and Barbara Carrera in the substandard mad scientist movie, "Embryo" (1976). As quality film roles became harder to come by, she turned to the small screen and landed a substantial role in the riveting made-for-television docudrama "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones" (CBS, 1980), as the mother of the infamous cult leader (Powers Boothe). That same year, in a bit of déjà vu, Ladd joined the cast of the sitcom "Alice" (CBS, 1976-1985) - a hit TV adaptation of "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" - for two seasons as Belle Dupree, a toned-downed version of Flo, after actress Polly Holliday moved on to her own spin-off.

Nonetheless, Ladd continued to make appearances in feature films throughout the 1980s. She co-starred with Gene Hackman and Barbara Streisand in the oddball comedy "All Night Long" (1981), played the mother of Jim Nightshade in "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1983), took a role in the psychological thriller "Black Widow" (1987), and played Clark Griswold's (Chevy Chase) mother in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989). Maternal roles of various stripes soon became a staple for Ladd, in such projects as the TV biopic "Rock Hudson" (ABC, 1990), in which she played the mother of the closeted film icon. Ladd earned her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination playing mother to her real-life daughter Laura Dern in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" (1990). As the murderous, witchlike Marietta, she was completely over-the-top in the midst of a nightmarish Lynchian dreamscape. She and her daughter reteamed the following year for the modest "Rambling Rose" (1991), with Ladd as a Southern matron and Dern as a boarder who disrupts the genteel lives of her hosts. Both received Academy Award nominations, making them the first mother-daughter acting team to be nominated in the same film.

After starring opposite Mark Harmon in a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" remake of "Shadow of a Doubt" (CBS, 1991), Ladd began her run as recurring character Charlotte Cooper on "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" (CBS, 1992-98) before appearing in her daughter's directorial debut, "The Gift" (Showtime, 1994), which aired as a part of the cable network's "Directed By" series. Again she played Dern's mother in the acclaimed miniseries "Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy" (CBS, 1996) as well as with a raunchy, unbilled cameo in Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth" (1996), a scathing satire of both sides of the abortion issue. Working from her own script, Ladd made her directorial debut with "Mrs. Munck" (Showtime, 1996), acting opposite ex-husband Bruce Dern. She also had a small role as Mamma Stanton, mother to the Clinton-esque presidential candidate played by John Travolta, in Mike Nichols' "Primary Colors" (1998), and also appeared in Betty Thomas' rehab drama "28 Days" (2000), featuring Sandra Bullock. Shortly thereafter, in what was becoming a sort of cottage industry for the actress, Ladd played Dern's mother in Billy Bob Thornton's "Daddy and Them" (2001). Other notable roles included a turn as a psychic in the miniseries "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital" (ABC, 2003-04), and a rare role opposite Dern in which she did not play her mother in Lynch's "Inland Empire" (2006), as well as member of the ensemble cast in the independent comedy "American Cowslip" (2009). After receiving her star on Hollywood Boulevard alongside ex-husband Bruce Dern, Ladd returned to series television opposite daughter Laura on "Enlightened" (HBO, 2011-13), where she played the semi-estranged mother of a self-destructive executive (Laura Dern) who returns home and to piece her life back together following a mental breakdown.

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