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Diane Lane is a Golden Globe–winning actress of films and TV and the mother of actress Laura Dern.
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Diane Ladd was born Rose Diane Ladnier on November 29, 1942, in Laurel, Mississippi. Her father, Paul Ladnier, was a veterinarian and traveling salesman who developed and sold his own poultry remedies throughout the South. Ladd describes her childhood self as "just a pigtailed girl with a curious nature and a wonderfully crazy Southern family." Ladd was an only child but grew up surrounded by her many cousins, including the playwright Tennessee Williams. As a kid, Ladd did not dream of becoming an actress. Instead, she remembers, "I wanted to be a district attorney and solve hidden problems or maybe even be a leper-colony missionary and save people." However, Ladd recalled one Sunday morning at church when she saw a flash of light before her eyes and impulsively asked God to let her become an actress. When she told her father about her experience, he responded, "You're a drama queen, all right."
Ladd fenced, sang in the choir, and acted in several plays while attending high school in Mississippi. After graduating at the age of 16, she turned down a scholarship to Louisiana State University and moved to New Orleans to pursue work in acting and to attend finishing school, which, she later joked "almost finished me!"
While performing at the Gallery Circle Theater in New Orleans, Ladd was spotted by the actor John Carradine, who hired her to perform in his San Francisco production of Tobacco Road. Only 17 years old, Ladd next moved to New York City where she landed a gig as a "Copa girl" in the chorus at the famed Copacabana night club. Ladd then made her New York acting debut in an off-Broadway production of her cousin Tennessee Williams' play, Orpheus Descending. After nearly a decade acting in off-Broadway productions such as The Fantastics, Love Letters and Hamlet, Ladd debuted on Broadway in the 1968 play Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights.
While developing her stage career in the 1960s, Ladd also played guest roles on various TV shows and minor roles in feature films. She landed her breakthrough role in the 1974 film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Ladd's portrayal of Flo, the wisecracking waitress, earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Two years later, Ladd returned to the stage in the play Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander (part of Preston Jones' A Texas Trilogy). After a successful debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the show moved to Broadway and received rave reviews. Later in 1976, CBS decided to convert Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore into a TV series called Alice.
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