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Lee Remick: 'Days Of Wine And Roses' And 'Omen' Star Biography

Entertainment | December 14, 2020

Lee Remick in 'No Way To Treat A Lady' (1968). Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

From her debut in A Face In The Crowd in 1957, Lee Remick was clearly a big star, which she would soon prove in films like Anatomy Of A Murder (1959) and Days Of Wine And Roses (1962). Billed as "America's answer to Brigitte Bardot" early on, Remick proved to be much more serious actress than international sexpot, and augmented her film career with stage and TV acting as well. Remick would initially captivate others with her gorgeous eyes that made up her all-American beauty, but would keep their attention with her remarkable acting skills. From playing the boozy wife in Days Of Wine And Roses to the mother of a demon in The Omen, Remick’s versatility made her a celebrity to remember. She passed away in 1991.

Lee Remick Was First Interested In Dancing

Source: Pinterest

Remick was born in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1935 to Francis Remick and actress Gertrude Margaret. As a child, she found her passion in dancing and eventually studied dance and acting at Swoboda School of Dance, The Hewitt School, Barnard College, and The Actors Studio. She first stepped into the entertainment world when she landed a dancing role in the 1953 Broadway musical Be Your Age. After this stunt, she began appearing in minor roles on smaller scale TV series including Philco Playhouse, Hallmark Hall Of Fame, and Playhouse 90. 

Remick Launched Her Acting Career While In College

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During this era, Remick was cutting a majority of school classes for rehearsals and used up the rest of her energy to study all night long. One of her teachers encouraged her to choose one avenue since both were causing serious burnout, so without hesitation Remick took the showbiz route and dropped out of school. 

Remick's Star Quality Was Evident From Her Debut In 'A Face In The Crowd'

Lee Remick in 'A Face In The Crowd.' Source: IMDB

Remick first appeared on the big screen when she played the promiscuous cheerleader Betty Lou Fleckum in the 1957 film A Face In The Crowd. To truly develop into the character, Remick studied baton twirling so she could portray the cheerleader authentically. This role launched her career and set off her into decades of opportunities, and she officially became a star. The next year found Remick in the film The Long Hot Summer and then in the starring role (along with Jimmy Stewart) in the 1959 film Anatomy Of A Murder playing a rape victim. Although her character Laura Manion was a seductive female in the movie, Remick was determined to break out of this typecast of a sex symbol and to explore different kinds of characters. 

She Gave The Performance Of Her Career In 'Days Of Wine And Roses'

Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in 'Days Of Wine And Roses.' Source: IMDB

Remick's desire to branch out led to one of her most iconic roles as the housewife-turned-alcoholic Kirsten Arnesen-Clay in the 1962 drama Days Of Wine And Roses. Her iconic performance proved her talents extended further than sexualized roles and earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Actress Bette Davis was also nominated for the same honor and admitted she was so impressed with Remick that she was sure she would take the title. However, they both lost to Anne Bancroft for her role in The Miracle Worker.

She Played The Mother Of The Antichrist

Source: Art.com

Remick’s dazzling and elegant demeanor continued to land her in notable films including Baby The Rain Must Fall (1965), Loot (1972), and The Europeans (1979). A hallmark of Remick's career was a tendency to play well off of some of Hollywood's legendary leading men; in 1972's Sometimes A Great Notion, based on the novel by Ken Kesey, Remick shared the screen with Paul Newman and Henry Fonda, while in 1968's The Detective she held her own with Frank Sinatra. But perhaps her most memorable role was one that haunted viewers worldwide as the mother of the antichrist Damien in The Omen, released in 1976 and co-starring Gregory Peck. Although the special effects and scare tactics might not be up to the modern day standards, The Omen is still considered one of the best horror movies ever. The remarkable convincing acting skills of Remick as Katherine Thorto definitely contributed to the film’s success. 

Remick Considered Herself A 'Housewife'

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Just as she studied baton twirling to gain the perspective of a cheerleader for A Face In The Crowd, Remick took all her roles very seriously and dove deep into studying their personalities. To represent a genuine alcoholic in Days Of Wine And Roses, Remick attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to discover the intentions of those that suffer with substance abuse. She also spent a month being blindfolded at New York Lighthouse For The Blind to capture her role of the blind Susy Hendrix in the 1966 Broadway play Wait Until Dark. This is how the classic beauty was able to transform into people of her opposite nature. She once said about herself, "I'm really a housewife who is incidentally an actress...People tell me that I have a special quality in films, but if I do I take no intellectual credit for it. It's pure instinct. I think I've held on to certain qualities within myself which have been strong."

Lee Remick Was 55 When She Died

Remick and Charles Bronson in 'Telefon' (1977). Source: IMDB

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Remick primarily starred in television mini-series including the main character Jennie in Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1975), Telefon (1977), Ike (1979), Haywire (1980), Toughlove (1985), and Nutcracker: Money, Madness, Murder (1987). She divorced her husband producer/director William Colleran, with whom she had two children, in 1969 and married Kip Gowans in 1970 who she stayed with for the rest of her life. Sadly, Remick passed away in 1991 after battling kidney cancer for two years shortly after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Throughout all of her stardom, Remick remained a humble soul and once said, “I don't quite know what stardom means. It was never something I went after, as such. I love to work; I always have, and I love trying to do the best I can. I suppose it means power basically -- and I'm not good at that.”

Assessing his Omen co-star's appeal, Gregory Peck remarked that Remick possessed ″a rare quality, which I would call a depth of womanliness. She played her on- and off-screen roles with an open heart, an open mind, keen intelligence and honest emotion. ... She made all of her leading men look good. I will never forget this clear-eyed Yankee girl.″

Tags: Ladies | Lee Remick

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.