Kim Stanley (February 11, 1925 – August 20, 2001) was an American actress, primarily in television and theatre, but with occasional film performances.
She began her acting career in theatre, and subsequently attended the Actors Studio in New York City, New York. She received the 1952 Theatre World Award for her role in The Chase (1952), and starred in the Broadway productions of Picnic (1953) and Bus Stop (1955). Stanley was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for her roles in A Touch of the Poet (1959) and A Far Country (1962).
During the 1950s, Stanley was a prolific performer in television, and later progressed to film, with a well-received performance in The Goddess (1959). She was the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and starred in Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), for which she won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She was less active during the remainder of her career; two of her later film successes were as the mother of Frances Farmer in Frances (1982), for which she received a second Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress, and as Pancho Barnes in The Right Stuff (1983). She received an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie for her performance as Big Mama in a television adaptation of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1985).
She did not act during her later years, preferring the role of teacher, in Los Angeles, California, and later Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she died in 2001, of uterine cancer.
Stanley was a successful Broadway actress with only a few film roles. She was singled out by The New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson for her early work. She eventually attended the Actors Studio, studying under Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. She received the 1952 Theatre World Award for her performance as Anna Reeves in The Chase, and starred in such Broadway hits as Picnic (1953), playing Millie Owens (which she never felt received the credit it deserved) and Bus Stop (1955), playing Cherie.
She was nominated for the 1959 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for A Touch of the Poet and the 1962 Tony for Best Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Elizabeth von Ritter in Henry Denker’s A Far Country.
Stanley also portrayed Maggie “The Cat” in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the original London production of the play.
She was also the leading lady of live television drama, which flourished in New York City during the 1950s. Among her many starring roles was Wilma, a star-struck 15-year-old girl from the U.S. Gulf Coast of Texas in Horton Foote’s A Young Lady of Property, which aired on The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse on April 5, 1953.
Following a savaging by English critics after her London performance of “Masha” in an Actors Studio production of Anton Chekhov’s play The Three Sisters (1965) she vowed never to perform on stage again, a vow she kept for the rest of her life.
Stanley’s first film was The Goddess (1958), playing a tragic movie star modeled on Marilyn Monroe (though she and director, John Cromwell, would forever deny Marilyn’s influence, using Rita Hayworth as being more accurate). She starred in Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), winning both the National Board of Review Award for Best Actress and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
A filmed version of Strasberg-directed Three Sisters (1966) opened with Stanley reprising the role of Masha, and is the only time one can see her perform in a film alongside Geraldine Page, Sandy Dennis, Shelley Winters and other well-known names of the Actors Studio.
She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her performance as Frances Farmer’s possessive mother in Frances (1982). She also played Pancho Barnes in The Right Stuff (1983).
Stanley was the uncredited narrator in the drama film To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). As the narrator, she represents the character Jean Louise Finch (“Scout”) as an adult. Mary Badham portrays Scout as a child in the film.
She received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her appearance in the episode, “A Cardinal Act of Mercy” (1963), of the television series, Ben Casey (1961–1966), and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special for her appearance in Tennessee Williams’s Southern melodrama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1985), this time as Big Mama.
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