Lee Remick: An Appreciation

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“I make movies for grownups.”  – Lee Remick 

 

    Lee Remick was a woman of deep sensuality, talent, elegance and on top of all that, a classic beauty.  She made her film debut in Elia Kazan’s underrated “A Face in the Crowd” portraying Betty Lou Fleckum, a sexy seductive seventeen year high school cheerleader, who is selected by “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith) as the winner of a baton-twirling contest. Rhodes is so turned on by Betty Lou’s sensuality that they run off together and marry.  The following year Lee appeared in Martin Ritt’s “The Long Hot Summer” with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Tony Francisosa, followed by “These Thousand Hills” and Otto Preminger’s excellent “Anatomy of a Murder” where she played the seductive trampy wife of Ben Gazarra who allegedly was raped by the man Gazarra murdered. Remick’s use of her natural eroticism to manipulate others is so straightforward she never allows the character to seem like a stereotypical Hollywood tramp but a full dimensional human being. 

  lee-remikc-a-face-in-the-crowd  The 1960’s got started with her second Kazan film, “Wild River” another underrated gem in which she co-starred with Montgomery Clift and gave what Richard Schickel says “may be her finest performance.”  In 1961, she played Temple Drake, her performance is the best thing, in Tony Richardson’s misfire “Sanctuary” based on two William Faulkner novels (Sanctuary and Requiem for a Nun).  Things improved in 1962 with the released of two Blake Edward’s directed films, the fine thriller “Experiment in Terror” and in what may be her most memorable role, that of the alcoholic wife in  “Days of Wine and Roses” for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. It is a harrowing performance that will stay with you long after the film is over. At this point in her career Lee should have been swimming right into the top-tier of female stars of the sixties however, a series of uneven choices in her following films would derail that trajectory.  Carol Reed’s “The Running Man”, a decent film did not find much of an audience. This was followed by her first comedy, “The Wheeler Dealers” with James Garner, a pleasant enough movie but nothing to write home about. “Baby, The Rain Must Fall” with Steve McQueen, “The Hallelujah Trail” with Burt Lancaster were moderately successful though neither were groundbreaking.

  lee-remick-phgtos2   In the mid 1060’s, Lee took off some time between films to appear in a couple of Broadway productions. first, the musical “Anyone Can Whistle”, which closed after one week. This was followed by “Wait Until Dark” a play written by Frederick Knott who previously authored “Dial M For Murder.” Directed by Arthur Penn, the play was a hit running for 11 months. In addition to Lee, the cast included Robert Duvall in the role of Harry Roat Jr., the leader of the drug dealers. Lee received wonderful reviews and a Tony nomination for her role as Susie Hendrix the blind heroine. According to Alexander Walker in his biography of Audrey Hepburn, he states that Warner Brothers purchased the rights to the play before it even opened on Broadway and that they were negotiating with Hepburn as early as mid 1965. The play did not open until February of 1966. Upon agreeing to do the role, Hepburn wanted it announced early to avoid accusations, which previously occurred when she did “My Fair Lady”, that she stole the role from the original Broadway actress.  lee-remikc-wait-until-dark-palybill3

    Lee returned to films in 1968, with the release of the enjoyably light thriller “No Way to Treat a Lady” based on an early William Goldman novel. That same year she played Frank Sinatra’s oversexed wife in the uneven version of the best-selling novel “The Detective.” Other movies followed; among them are “Hard Contract” with James Coburn, “Sometimes a Great Notion” reuniting her with Paul Newman, “The Omen” with Gregory Peck “Loot”, “A Severed Head”, “Hennessey” and “Tribute.” There also was a production of The American Film Theater’s version of Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance.” However, Lee’s career turned more and more toward TV movies and mini-series. She played the title role in “Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill.”, She also appeared in “QBVII”, The Blue Knight” with William Holden, “A Girl Named Spooner”, “Ike”, “Ike: The War Years”, “Hustling,”, “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and “Haywire” among others.

    Remick was known to prepare passionately for her roles. The Massachusetts’s born actress lived with a local family in the Arkansas town where they were filming “A Face in the Crowd” and learned from their daughter the art baton twirling for her role as the overly seductive cheerleader.  For her stage role in “Wait Until Dark”, Lee spent a month blindfolded every morning at New York’s Lighthouse for the Blind. In preparation for her role as Kristen in “Days of Wine and Roses”, Lee attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

    lee-remick-daily-news2Lee Remick never achieved the stardom of say an Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn or Shirley MacLaine but her talent was just as great. She sometimes was second choice for a role (Lana Turner was originally offered her role in “Anatomy of a Murder”) yet she persevered and gave us some outstanding performances that will never be forgotten.       

    Despite her elegance, early in her career, 20th Century Fox publicity was trying to build Lee up as “America’s answer to Brigitte Bardot.” According to an interview with Joe Hyams of the New York Tribune, Lee was not happy with the comparison saying, “anyone who’d want to build me up as a sex siren would have to be crazy.”   She added, “I’m an actress and a woman and you can’t classify me with your interview number 4, nor can you dispose of me by comparing me to Brigitte Bardot or Grace Kelly.” At the end of the interview, she smiled “you can compare me with Greta Garbo, I have big feet too.”

    While never compared to Marilyn Monroe, at least that I am aware of, Remick and Marilyn’s careers intertwined three times. In 1956, Lee did a stage version of “The Seven Year Itch” portraying the sexy neighbor that Marilyn would play in the Billy Wilder movie. In 1976, she played Cherie in a West End, London production of William Inge’s “Bus Stop.” In film, a more direct connection came when 20th Century Fox announced after firing Marilyn that Lee would replace her in the ill-fated “Something’s Got to Give.”  Dean Martin who was to co-star stated that, no offence to Remick, but he would not do the film without Marilyn. 20th Century Fox smartly just dropped the production. Five years later the story was resurrected and made with James Garner and Doris Day in the leads with the title changed to “Move Over, Darling.”  Lee Remick premature death at the age of 55 in 1991 was sad, shocking and severed the short career of one of the classiest actresses of our time.

“Wild River” will be on The Fox Movie Channel on March 3rd at 1:30 PM

“Anatomy of a Murder” will be on TCM on April 29th  PM

 

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 Here a good article on Lee Remick from The Passionate Moviegoer

Here is my review of “A Face in the Crowd” from Halo-17 

NY Times Obit.

Check out The Remick Galleries website.

Review of “The Long Hot Summer” from Self-Styled Siren

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NY Times review of  “A Face in the Crowd” 

NY Times review of  “Anatomy of a Murder” 

NY Times review of  “Wild River”

NY Times review of “No Way to Treat a Lady”

NY TImes reveiw of  “The Wheeler Dealers”

NY Times review of “The Long Hot Summer”

NY Times review of “Experiment in Terror”  

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62 comments on “Lee Remick: An Appreciation

  1. Judy says:

    Hi John, I enjoyed reading this and like the quotes from Remick you picked out. A performance of hers which sticks in my mind is as Mira in The Woman’s Room, a TV movie from 1980 based on Marilyn French’s bestselling feminist novel, where she had to age and go through various different eras, from perfect housewife to hippy mum, etc. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this, but I remember being impressed at the time.

  2. John Greco says:

    Judy – Thanks for your comments. “The Woman’s Room” sounds interesting. I don’t think it gets any playing times these days but I will keep an eye out for it.

  3. Denise says:

    I´m Lee Remicks biggest fan!!
    I´m so sad that she left so soon!

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Denise, She left us way too early. I was fortunate enough to see her in Waif Until Dark on Broadway when I was a young teenager. A splendid actress.

  4. Denise says:

    Have you ever seen her??
    I´m so sorry for her children!!
    Aren´t there any doctors who can heal cancer??
    You know, I´m from Germany an I´ve seen her
    in the movie “The hallelujah trail”
    Can you maybe give me links, where I can
    find nice pictures of her??
    You cold even send me a few per e-mail!!

    • John Greco says:

      Hi Denise, I only saw her on stage in “Wait Until Dark.” She was just as beautiful in real life.

      I will e-mail you a couple of links with photos.

  5. Denise says:

    thanks!!
    Oh my god!!
    If I were you, I would be realy proud of that!!! :-)

  6. Denise says:

    Is this website located in the US or in the UK?

  7. Denise says:

    Thats a realy cool one!
    I love it!!

  8. Denise says:

    I have a little quastition:
    I will come to the U.S. this summer.
    Is there a grave or something of Lee
    Remick that I can visit?
    I´ve heard something about ´Westwood Memoral Park´,
    but I´ve heard that her ashes were given to her family, too. Do you know something about that?

    • John Greco says:

      Denise, I only know that she was cremated. I doubt there is any memorial to visit.

      • Denise/John,

        Westwood Memorial Park is the location of the facility where Ms. Remick’s remains were cremated. I learned of this relatively recently, while performing some Internet research of my own.

        As I reside not very far from Westwood, I, too, had hopes and every intention of visiting her final resting place, so that I could pay my respects and place flowers upon her grave, so I was very deeply saddened to learn that this fabulous woman does not have a public memorial to mark her resting place. Her remains probably reside within the home of a relative or a very close friend of the family.

        And Lee Remick was born in Quincy, Massachussets, not Scotland.

  9. Denise says:

    Oh, I see! That´s sad but nobody can change that!!
    Thanks for your help!!

  10. Denise says:

    Are there still with Lee Remick running in the U.S.
    If yes do you know on wich chanel??

  11. Denise says:

    Thanks!!
    In Germany you can´t see movies of her on TV!!
    Well,…

  12. Denise says:

    There is a song from a bad called “Go-Betweens”.
    They have written a song called “Lee Remick”
    if listened to that song and realized that they are
    singing things that are not true. For example they
    say, that she is born in Scotland and so on!!
    Is this the Lee Remick who I mean or is there an other one, too??
    Do you konw that??

    • John Greco says:

      The song is about the same Lee Remick. I’m not familiar enough with the song to know the words.

      • Gregory Callahan says:

        The song is a bit silly, and it DOES refer to Lee’s having been born in Ireland (not Scotland), not really why this Australian band would’ve been under that impression! She did “play Irish” in a couple of roles, and she had a kind of Celtic look about her. But I think they were just messing around with the lyrics. I mean there’s also a set of lines “Her eyes are like gems/She’s an actress for Screen Gems.” That’s just being playful–and I’m not aware of too many Lee Remick projects actually FOR Screen Gems.

      • John Greco says:

        Thanks Gregory. I mentioned in an earlier post “I’m not familiar enough with the song.” I should have said, I never heard the song and it does not sound like I am missing much.

  13. Denise says:

    OK :-D
    thx

  14. Denise says:

    I´m soo happy!!
    ´The Omen´will run tomorrow!!!
    Have you already seen it??
    I´ve seen the English version, but the German
    one is new for me!!
    That´s the only movie with Lee Remick that is
    still runnning on German TV!!
    It´s cool!

  15. Denise says:

    Thanks that you always answer my quastitons.
    Is that stressfully for you??

  16. Denise says:

    thanks!!
    I thought that you think: Not her again!
    But if you say that I have to belive you!

  17. Denise says:

    Oh, I´m soooooooo happy!!
    My grade and I

  18. Denise says:

    will go to England next week!!
    Have you ever benn there
    I´m so excited though the British have
    prejudices to Germans!

  19. Denise says:

    You will not belive, what I´ve just read!!
    This week will be in Germanys most popular TV
    show more than three movies with Lee Remick shown!!
    But all so late!! Almost nobody I know knows her!
    But that so many movies of her are still shown is
    surprising me!!

  20. Denise says:

    I love old movies
    where can I buy cheap ones
    I need some like:The last train or experiment in terror
    It mean a lot to me to have movis with Lee Remick at home, she is and stays ma idol

  21. Denise says:

    oh
    thanks
    i went to a movie store in Germany this afternoon
    and looked for movies with lee remick
    i only found the German version of “The Omen” there
    i have the feeling that the good old movies will die out very soon
    they bring to much shit on TV.
    i am sure that the real actors and actresses with talent lived in the
    60s. The talents now are not as good as they were there

  22. Denise says:

    You may know that lee remick is my idol and I love her more than
    anything else!!!
    I know almost everything about her (through the internet)!!
    I also know that she had two kids. they have to 60 or younger now.
    Are they actors, too?
    Do you maybe know where they are now or are there in TV or something??
    It would really help me to know that.
    thanks for your help!!!!

    • John Greco says:

      Hi Denise, I know she had children but I do not know anything about them. Most likely they are not actors but I cannot say for sure.

      • Gregory Callahan says:

        Lee Remick’s son Mathew Remick Colleran was a rock musician for a time. I believe he’s now involved in film in a behind-the-scenes capacity (camerawork or something). Her daughter Kate (Katherine Lee Colleran) was a writer last I heard.

      • John Greco says:

        Thanks Gregory!

  23. Leon Nader says:

    I was a kid in New Zealand in the 1960s when I saw Lee Remick for the first time. She was in an advert: “Glamorous movie star Lee Remick uses Lux Soap”. She was so beautiful I became an instant fan. I have the Days of Wine and Roses DVD and must say I don’t know how Jack Lemmon manages to leave her at the end to overcome his battle with booze. Had it been me, I would have taken one look at those startlingly blue eyes and exquisite smile and melted. Of course I would have chosen her over sobriety. It would have been a no-contest. How could a man walk away from such a woman? Unthinkable! Impossible!

    • John Greco says:

      Leon,
      thank you for your comments. I too became a fan of Lee Remick in the 1960’s having seen THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES in the theater as a teenager. A gorgeous and talented woman.

  24. Denise says:

    Hey, it´s me again
    I made a dessision:
    I´m gonna make a tatoo:
    *14.12.1935
    That´s lee remicks birthday
    As you saw her on stage did you make any
    photos or something

  25. John says:

    I’ve been a fan since seeing The Wild River. The prettiest and classiest actress EVER. So sad she died so young.

  26. […] Further: John Greco remembers Lee Remick at Twenty Four Frames. […]

  27. Bill says:

    Just the thought of this beautiful woman excites me. I loved all of her performances, and I imagined myself being friends with her all the time. I miss her so.

  28. At 13, I fell totally, hopelessly and impossibly in love with this angel back in the early 1970s, when I first viewed “The Hallelujah Trail,” which quickly became one of my favorite films (and still is). As silly as it sounds, even at that age, I wanted to marry Lee Remick and make her my wife! Much later, I was truly devastated when I first learned of Ms. Remick’s untimely passing in 1991. As a celebrity, Ms. Remick was a total stranger to me, but there was still just something very special about Lee that set her far apart from so many of her colleagues. In many ways, she seemed like someone who, in real life, would be friendly, open and approachable, in spite of her status as a film adn television star. A supremely classy, elegant, talented and stunningly beautiful young woman without peer…I still love her to this very day…and I always will. R.I.P, my sweet and lovely lady. I miss you.

  29. John Greco says:

    Hi Robert, thanks for sharing these fond memorires of Lee Remick. She certainly had class, talent and was beauty. A sophisticated lady.

    • Hello John – are you aware of or have seen, this old home movie footage (Labor Day, Malibu, 1965) that is currently available on You Tube?

      If not, I would invite you to view the segment from time 02:19:28:04 thru 02:20:02:27.

      Never, in all of my 53 years of life, have I ever seen anything so heartstoppingly beautiful as 30 year-old Lee Remick; her big baby blue eyes, her eyelashes, her incredible smile, that perfect nose complete with those cute freckles and that magnificent mane of honey-gold hair! Just amazing. My heart is absolutely breaking as I sit here, watching this footage, over and over again, knowing that this heavenly angel is no longer with us (she is in my heart, though, and always will be).

      I am a fully grown man, yet I am hoplessly and irrevocably smitten by this unparalled vision of feminine lovliness from 47 years ago. I feel much like Christopher Reeve’s character in the 1980 film, “Somewhere In Time.”

  30. John Greco says:

    Thanks Robert! Totally unaware of this clip. Good stuff!

    • Hello John – I am still sitting here, watching this incredible footage of Lee. I cannot…and will not…stop! This brief…but irreplaceable and precious…clip has now become my most favorite piece of celluloid ever recorded! Seems impossible that it was recorded 47 years ago! And if you can, you can remove the first video up above…totally unrelated. Still not sure what happened with that first send from last night.

  31. Robert Bruce Tecau says:

    My Dearest Lee,

    I cannot speak to you directly, separated as we are, but as you have had such an incredibly powerful hold on me for so many years, there is something inside me that I cannot quite explain, but which compels me to try and communicate with you in any way that I can. Maybe you can hear me….I sure hope you can.

    I’ve been watching that old home movie footage of you…that which Roddy McDowall captured way back in September of 1965. Not only were you a truly blessed and angelic vision, but much more importantly…and as I have since happily learned…in spite of your fame, success and celebrity, you were also a warm, kind, loving and totally unpretentious lady of the first order…just as I had always intuitively sensed about you. I am so sorry that you suffered with that terrible affliction. You did not deserve that; please know that I would have gladly born the pain for you if I could have.

    Do you remember a love ballad from 1973 called “Daisy a Day?” The artist was a talented fellow named Jud Strunk. It is a song about a man who finds…and loses…his one and only true love. After she is gone, the heartbroken man walks up to the hilltop where she rests…and gives his lost love a daisy, each and every day.

    I want to sing to you now, a very special lyric from this wonderful and sentimental old tune from the days of my childhood…a time when you were still with us…and a time when I would dream that someday, a miracle would occur that would somehow make you my wife:

    “I’ll give you a daisy a day, dear, I’ll give you a daisy a day…I’ll love you until the rivers run still…and the four winds we know, blow away.”

    I sing this song to you every single night, as I gaze upon a photograph that I keep close to me…and I also place a daisy in front of that picture each and every day, all the while dreaming that I am holding your hand as I do.

    Lee – I dedicate this song to you…

  32. Robert Bruce Tecau says:

    Happy Birthday, My Dearest Lee.

    I wanted to share another musical tribute with you, on your special day. This one is from B.J. Thomas, a terrific song from 1968 called “The Eyes of a New York Woman.”

    I know you weren’t born in New York, but you were raised in NYC and worked on Broadway in the 1960s…and you most certainly did have the eyes, that’s for sure.

    I dedicate this wonderful song to you, my sweet, lovely and beautiful lady…

    “The eyes of a New York woman, are eyes that can hold a man – she swept me up off my feet, made my world seem so complete, I’ll never have to look for more, I found what I’ve been lookin’ for…deep in the eyes of a New York woman!”

  33. Terry Dodd says:

    While all the other little boys on the playground were busy falling in love with Natalie Wood, I got esoteric, I fell in love with Lee Remick. Those eyes and intense sexuality both in Anatomy of a Murder and Wild River (my favorite). Remember seeing her in Wild River (finally on DVD for the first time) crossing the river on the raft waving to Montgomery Clift. So many images in that film and her taking off her hat in the courtroom in Anatomy of a Murder. She was a class act and smart actress that I think Hollywood didn’t know quite what to do with. She exuded brains along with looks. She died far too young. I was at a screening for the new print for Wild River in Nov. 2011 at the Denver Film Festival and it was great to introduce that film to a full theatre and some Lee Remick fans too. May she live on through her movies!

    • John Greco says:

      Hi Terry, Yeah, Hollywood did not use her nearly enough. And I totally agree with you that she was a class act and a smart actress. Seeing WILD RIVER on the big screen was a nice treat for sure. Thanks!

  34. Terry Dodd says:

    It was incredible on the big screen. Beautiful film shot on location in Tennessee in Oct. Not typical Kazan and yet one of his finest. It was a favorite of Lee Remick’s too. Find your way to it now. Great commentary by Richard Schickel including a lot of thoughts about Lee Remick. Thanks for the reply.

  35. Robert Bruce Tecau says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Darling Lee.

    I want to post another musical tribute and dedication for you, her on Mr. Greco’s fine website. Perhaps you will remember it – the song is called “You’re The One,” by The Vogues. This is the later, re-release version, from 1970, the one that has the orchestration added.

    I immediately associated this wonderful and heartfelt tune with you many years ago, back in 1974, when I first heard it and I’ve been singing it to you ever since. I can think of no finer or more appropriate song than this one, in terms of lyrics and melody that so perfectly fit the emotions and feelings that I have had for you these past 39 years.

    I love you, Lee, now and forever.

  36. Gregory Callahan says:

    I certainly don’t mean to be unkind to other admirers of this dignified, lovely and gifted actress, but my sense of Lee Remick was that she was a very modest person. I don’t know how comfortable with some of the comments here. My suspicion is that she would not have been. She liked to consider herself ‘a working actress,’ and not someone’s idol. I guess every star gets some of that, but while it may be just the kind of ego gratification some actors look for, I’m pretty sure that that’s NOT the reason Lee went into acting. Still I wish she were at least revered enough to merit a biography (full length).

    • John Greco says:

      Understand what you mean Gregory, she was a class act, a professional not attracted to the glitz of show business. Like you, I wish a full length biography would someday come out.

    • Robert Tecau says:

      Hello Mr. Callahan – I agree fully with your assessment and “sense” about Lee – you are 100% correct. I had the very same sense when I first saw her on-screen back in 1974, in “The Hallelujah Trail.” One look into those incredible eyes and that mesmerizing smile indicated to me, instantly, the caliber and nature of this exceptionally fine woman and human being. Even then, as young as I was, I realized that Lee was certainly not your average or typical “famous person.” To this day, I do not consider myself to be an “admirer” or a “fan.”

      I, for one, do not “idolize” anyone – and especially not those who hold/maintain celebrity status. Quite the contrary, in fact. With precious few exceptions, I would want absolutely nothing to do with 99.998% of those who work in Hollywood. But with that said, I was and have never been interested in Lee’s status as a star of film and television…as a human being and as a fine example of representing and epitomizing my ideal of what a woman is and should really be, yes, absolutely…but never as a celebrity. In fact, I do not even view Lee in that kind of light – I never have and never will. And it was exactly and precisely Lee’s modest, demure, quiet, low-key, unpretentious and highly intelligent nature that I was instantly taken with and attracted to as a young teenager. That a woman THIS beautiful, this talented, this successful and this intelligent, working in this kind of industry, COULD BE that down to earth, modest and unassuming (and sweet and warm and kind), to me, truly made Lee a one in a million standout and set her far, far apart from (and head and shoulders above) any other female “celebrity” that I would or could care to mention, either then or now.

      I have a close friend in “the biz” who worked with Lee back in the 1970s – and although I never had the good fortune of meeting her (when I was in high school, back in 1977, I dreamed that Lee would be my date for my senior prom – I wanted no other woman, just her), my friend assured me that Lee Remick was 100% EVERYTHING that I had intuitively sensed about her…and he also mentioned (confirmed?) that Lee did not, in any way, hold to or with any of that sickening, elitist, nose-raising snobbery and oh-so-commonplace “movie star” stuff – she was, as you had already sensed, the exact polar opposite of this (Angela Lansbury also said many of these very same kinds of things about Lee during an interview that she gave back in 1991). Michael also assured me that had Lee not left us so soon, he would gladly have arranged an opportunity for me to meet her, as he knew Lee well enough that she would have been more than happy to have agreed to such a meeting. My friend also said that had I actually reached out and asked Lee to be my prom date, I may very well have been pleasantly surprised with the response…mainly because Lee was just THAT kind of special person. It is to my unending chagrin and disappointment, that I did not attempt that reachout back then, and I will never forgive myself for that.

      Lee’s passing in 1991, which hit me like several tons of bricks, broke my heart and I have never been the same since. There will never be another like her….nor would I want there to be.

      Thank you.

  37. Love her! Days of Wine and Roses is my favorite. Exquisite and heart wrenching

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