Sandy Dennis


Actor
Sandy Dennis

About

Also Known As
Sandra Dale Dennis
Birth Place
Hastings, Nebraska, USA
Born
April 27, 1937
Died
March 02, 1992
Cause of Death
Ovarian Cancer

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 ...

Family & Companions

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

Bibliography

"A Personal Memoir"
Sandy Dennis (1997)

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.

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.

Life Events

1956

Stage debut, "Bus Stop" at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, Palm Beach, Florida

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"

Videos

Movie Clip

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966) - The Boy Who Had Shot His Mother Separated from their wives during their all-night alcoholic warfare, hard to imagine an actor better than Richard Burton, as professor George, to relating this tale to new colleague Nick (George Segal), Mike Nichols directing from Edward Albee’s play, in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, 1966.
Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - The Boxing Match We Had Ominously soused Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) getting sloppy over guest Nick (George Segal), ignoring his wife Honey (Sandy Dennis), and prompting her professor husband George (Richard Burton) to action, in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, 1966.
Another Woman (1988) - Just Give Me A Flood Or A Famine Gena Rowlands as academic Marion is sort of stalking Mia Farrow (her character still not named), taken aback when she runs into her old frenemy, actress Claire (Sandy Dennis), and husband Jack (Jacques Levy), she’s never met, conflict inevitable, in Woody Allen’s Another Woman, 1988.
Up The Down Staircase (1967) - How Do We Get In? Guerrilla feel from the Mulligan-Pakula (Robert and Alan J., famous for To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962) team opening their inner-city high school drama based on the best-selling semi-autobiographical novel by Bel Kaufman, with Sandy Dennis in her first movie leading role, Up The Down Staircase, 1967.
Up The Down Staircase (1967) - Watch For Latent Maladjustments Scrambling on the first day of class, new teacher Sylvia Barrett (Sandy Dennis) encounters Broadway regulars, Jean Stapleton in the office, Florence Stanley the counselor and Sorrell Booke the principal, director Alan J. Pakula working on location at Haaren High School in Manhattan, early in Up The Down Staircase, 1967.
Up The Down Staircase (1967) - The Limitless Realm At lunch on the first day at her New York public high school, new teacher Sylvia (Sandy Dennis) with colleagues Ruth White, Eileen Heckart, Patrick Bedford as Barringer, early in Up The Down Staircase, 1967, from director and producer Robert Mulligan and Alan J. Pakula.
Up The Down Staircase (1967) - There's One Every Year After a classroom standoff with delinquent-but-gifted student Joe Ferrone (Jeff Howard), novice Manhattan high school English teacher Sylvia (Sandy Dennis) meets him again in the stairwell, in Up The Down Staircase, 1967, based on the novel by Berlin-born former New York teacher Bel Kaufman.
Up The Down Staircase (1967) - To Take Us Lands Away Nervous on her first day teaching Manhattan public high school English, Sylvia (Sandy Dennis) works with Harry (Salvatore Rasa), Jose Rodriguez (his real name) and Alice (Ellen O’Mara), taking a run at an Emily Dickinson poem, early in Up The Down Staircase, 1967, from producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan.
Splendor In The Grass (1961) - What The Poet Means Lit teacher (Martine Bartlett) calls upon Wilma-Dean (Natalie Wood), seated behind Juanita (Jan Norris) who's just taken up with her boyfriend, to read a poem, William Wordsworth supplying the movie's title, in Splendor In The Grass, 1961, from William Inge's original screenplay.
God Told Me To (1976) - Where Is All The Joy? Traumatized after a sniper incident, New York cop Nicholas (Tony LoBianco), who’s just promised his Manhattan girlfriend that he’ll get out of his marriage, visits his wife (Sandy Dennis) in Long Island, where she makes it clear that he’s the spooky one, in Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To, 1976.
Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) - Are You The Mother? Before the reunion, a stranger (Karen Black) appears at the Woolworth’s, prompting queries and exposition about the James Dean fan club and its origins, from Juanita and Mona (Sudie Bond, Sandy Dennis), in Robert Altman’s Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, 1982.
Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) - Disciples Of James Dean Director Robert Altman’s opening, from Ed Graczyk’s play and screenplay, Sudie Bond as Juanita, running the same Woolworth’s where the James Dean fan club first met 20 years earlier, introducing Cher as sassy waitress Sissy, in Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, 1982.

Trailer

Family

Jack Dennis
Father
Postal worker. Deceased.
Yvonne Dennis
Mother
Frank Dennis
Brother

Companions

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

Bibliography

"A Personal Memoir"
Sandy Dennis (1997)

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.