Born in 1924 in Kirksville, Missouri, Geraldine Page took to acting during her teen years and eventually established herself as a highly acclaimed icon of theater, TV and film. She starred in both stage and screen versions of Tennessee Williams's Summer and Smoke and Sweet Bird of Youth, and earned Tony nominations for works like Absurd Person Singular and Agnes of God. She also received seven Academy Award nods before winning Best Actress for The Trip to Bountiful. She died at age 62 on June 13, 1987.
Background and Early Career
Geraldine Sue Page was born on November 22, 1924, in Kirksville, Missouri, later moving to Chicago, where she grew up during the Depression. Though initially having her sights set on a career in music and then the visual arts, she performed as a teen in her first theater production—Excuse My Dust—and was thus inspired to pursue life as a thespian. After attending Chicago's Goodman School of Drama, also having co-founded a stock theater company in the area, she moved to New York City to study acting with Uta Hagen.
Page worked an assortment of jobs while looking for acting work and was eventually cast by Panamanian theater director José Quintero in a production of Yerma, penned by Federico García Lorca. She was also cast by Quintero in a 1952 staging of Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke, which would have a monumental effect on the development of New York’s Off-Broadway scene and start a career-long association between actress and playwright.
Lauded Stage Work
Page launched her Broadway career with the plays Mid-Summer (1953) and The Immoralist (1954) and later received her first Tony nomination for her performance opposite Paul Newman in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). The two reprised their roles for the 1962 film version, for which Page received an Academy Award nod for lead actress. Other notable Broadway credits included The Three Sisters (1964), Black Comedy/White Lies (1967), Absurd Person Singular (1974) and Agnes of God (1982).
With her distinctive vitality and authentic emotional presence, Page opted to focus on live theatrical work both on Broadway and in more modest repertory productions. Still, she cultivated a lauded screen career as well, though not particularly taking to the Hollywood obsession with looks and glamour. She appeared in a number of TV programs in the ‘50s and ‘60s and won two Emmys for her roles in works written by Truman Capote—A Christmas Memory (1966) and The Thanksgiving Visitor (1967).
Long Awaited Oscar for 'Bountiful'
Page made her film debut in Out of the Night in 1947 and later appeared in Hondo (1953) with John Wayne, for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination. Despite the fact that she appeared in relatively few films for an actress of her renown, Page garnered a record seven Academy Award nods without winning, for projects such as the screen version of Summer and Smoke (1961), You’re a Big Boy Now (1966), Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972), Interiors (1978) and The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984). She finally won the coveted Oscar in 1986, her eighth nomination, for her performance in The Trip to Bountiful (1985), with F. Murray Abraham happily announcing her as the winner.
Geraldine Page died from a heart attack on June 13, 1987, at her home in New York City. She was starring in a Broadway production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the time. Days later, the theatrical community honored her memory at a tribute held at the Neil Simon Theater. She was survived by her third husband, Texan actor Rip Torn, whom she wed in 1963, and their three children.
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