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Also Known As: Sandra Dale Dennis Died: March 2, 1992
Born: April 27, 1937 Cause of Death: ovarian cancer
Birth Place: Hastings, Nebraska, USA Profession: actor, acting teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Method-trained critics' darling of the 1960s who first made her name on Broadway with Tony Award-winning performances in "A Thousand Clowns" (1962) and "Any Wednesday" (1964). Dennis' high-pitched, neurotic style lent itself to quirky, eccentric roles in films such as "Splendor in the Grass" (1961, her debut). Her memorable performance as the irritating yet vulnerable young faculty wife in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1967) earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and her portrayal of an idealistic teacher in an inner-city school in "Up the Down Staircase" (1967) won her a Best Actress accolade from the Moscow Film Festival. Dennis turned in some fine performances in later films, notably "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (1982) and, in a hilarious cameo, Bob Balaban's overlooked "Parents" (1989). She made her final onscreen cameo as the wife of Charles Bronson in Sean Penn's directorial debut, "The Indian Runner" (1991), before her death the following year from ovarian cancer at age 54.

Method-trained critics' darling of the 1960s who first made her name on Broadway with Tony Award-winning performances in "A Thousand Clowns" (1962) and "Any Wednesday" (1964). Dennis' high-pitched, neurotic style lent itself to quirky, eccentric roles in films such as "Splendor in the Grass" (1961, her debut). Her memorable performance as the irritating yet vulnerable young faculty wife in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1967) earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and her portrayal of an idealistic teacher in an inner-city school in "Up the Down Staircase" (1967) won her a Best Actress accolade from the Moscow Film Festival.

Dennis turned in some fine performances in later films, notably "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (1982) and, in a hilarious cameo, Bob Balaban's overlooked "Parents" (1989). She made her final onscreen cameo as the wife of Charles Bronson in Sean Penn's directorial debut, "The Indian Runner" (1991), before her death the following year from ovarian cancer at age 54.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Indian Runner, The (1991) Mother
2.
 Parents (1989) Millie Drew
3.
 976-Evil (1989) Aunt Lucy
4.
 Another Woman (1988) Claire
5.
 Execution, The (1985) Elsa Spahn
7.
8.
 The Four Seasons (1981) Anne Callan
9.
 Perfect Gentlemen (1978) Sophie Rosenman
10.
 Nasty Habits (1977) Sister Winifred
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Grew up in Kenesaw and Lincoln, Nebraska
:
Began acting in high school
:
Joined Lincoln Community Theater Group
1956:
Stage debut, "Bus Stop" at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, Palm Beach, Florida
:
Moved to New York City at age 19
:
First New York stage production, "The Lady From the Sea"
1960:
Broadway debut, "Face of a Hero" at the O'Neill Theater
1961:
Screen acting debut in "Splendor in the Grass"
1966:
Appeared in legendary Actors Studio production of "The Three Sisters" with Kim Stanley and Geraldine Page; production was taped for television
1968:
TV acting debut, "A Hatful of Rain"
1985:
Regular role in TV series, "The Equalizer"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Nebraska Wesleyan University: Lincoln , Nebraska -
University of Nebraska: -
Actors Studio: New York , New York -

Notes

"I think the mannerisms offended a tremendous number of people. They were due to the fact that I didn't know what I was doing." --Sandy Dennis quoted in "Earl Blackwell's Celebrity Register 1991"

"Like Geraldine Page, an Actors Studio cohort ... Dennis was an extremely mannered performer--lunging with studied reluctance into her characters--yet out of her theatrical busywork often came recognizable truths. ... She knew the trick of standing out in a crowd and still staying a part of it. It was a delicate art." --Harry Haun in Daily News, appreciation, March 5, 1992.

Once championed by Walter Kerr for her natural and sensitive stage performances in the early 1960s, Dennis had fallen out of the critic's favor by 1967 when he criticized her habit of speaking onstage as through sentences "were poor crippled things that couldn't cross a street without making three false starts from the curb." --quoted in The New York Times obituary, March 5, 1992.

"She has made an acting style out of post-nasal drip." --critic Pauline Kael on Dennis

A longtime animal lover, Dennis left 33 cats and three dogs upon her death and a Sandy Dennis Memorial Animal Care Fund was established.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Gerald O'Loughlin. Actor. Lived together seven years.
companion:
Gerry Mulligan. Jazz saxophonist. Together June 1965 until 1976.
companion:
Eric Roberts. Actor.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Jack Dennis. Postal worker. Deceased.
mother:
Yvonne Dennis.
brother:
Frank Dennis.

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Personal Memoir"

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