Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
One of America's most accomplished actresses, Barbara Hershey was born Barbara Herzstein on February 5, 1948 in Hollywood, California where her father was a professional gambler. She attended Hollywood High School and quickly found her vocation. Her debut was guest starring in three episodes of Gidget in 1965, which she followed up with roles in the television series The Monroes (1966). She found working on The Monroes to be such a dispiriting experience that she wrote pseudonymous letters to the producers asking that the show be cancelled.
Her feature film debut was in the 1968 comedy With Six You Get Eggroll - which also marked Doris Day's final screen appearance. This was followed by the 1969 Glenn Ford western Heaven With A Gun , where one of her co-stars was future Kung Fu star David Carradine. They became a romantic couple and a prominent symbol of the Hollywood counterculture - famously naming their child Free. (He later chose the name Tom for himself.)
Later that year came the shocking drama Last Summer, based on the novel by Evan Hunter (better known for his police procedurals written under the pseudonym Ed McBain) and directed by future Mommy Dearest helmsman Frank Perry. The film received an X rating for an unflinching rape scene and earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for co-star Cathy Burns . Hershey's powerful performance as a manipulative queen bee made a large impression on Woody Allen, who would later foster her mid-80s career revival by casting her in his greatest commercial success Hannah and Her Sisters. During the filming of a scene for Last Summer, a seagull was killed. Hershey felt a sense of personal responsibility for its death and went by the name of Barbara Seagull for several years in the early 1970s as a tribute to the creature.
Her 1970 film The Baby Maker explored the idea of surrogate motherhood many years before it became a mainstream reproductive option and cemented her image as a free-spirited hippie. This image helped secure her the starring role in the 1972 Roger Corman production Boxcar Bertha , which was being directed on the cheap by a fresh-out-of-film-school talent named Martin Scorsese. During filming, Hershey gave Scorsese a copy of her favorite book - Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ. Adapting that book into a film would become a 16 year labor of love for Scorsese, who would eventually cast Hershey as Mary Magdalene - though not before making her audition, to prove that she had earned it. Hershey's co-star in Boxcar Bertha was once again David Carradine. In characteristically free-spirited fashion, they would later recreate their love scene in a hay-filled boxcar for a Playboy magazine pictorial.
However, the hippie label soon became a career impediment and by the late 1970s she was reduced to appearing in made-for-TV embarrassments like Flood! and Sunshine Christmas . But her excellent work in Richard Rush's 1980 critical favorite The Stunt Man - her first big screen appearance in four years - served as a reminder to Hollywood that there was still a notably beautiful and talented actress in their midst.
The road back to industry acceptance would not be short or smooth. She would still need to pay dues in unglamorous vehicles like 1981's exploitation shocker The Entity, where she played a woman repeatedly raped by an unseen supernatural force. Yet even in such uninspiring material, Hershey found the means of a giving committed, affecting performance - sufficiently impressing Michael Douglas to have him later fight to have her cast as his estranged wife in Falling Down.
Her performance as Glynnis Yeager in Philip Kaufman's 1983 film of The Right Stuff marked the true beginning of her career renaissance. In mid-decade, she followed the commercial success of Hannah and Her Sisters with unprecedented back-to-back wins for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and Scorsese's long-awaited but fatally controversial The Last Temptation of Christ. For her role in the 1988 Bette Midler sudser Beaches, she injected collagen into her lips - an act that drew a ridiculous amount on negative media coverage.
In 1990 she won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special for her harrowing turn as real-life murderer Candy Morrison in A Killing in a Small Town . But as an actress in her forties, she was once more forced into smaller independent films and television work. In what one hopes will not be her last hurrah as a film actress, she gave an unforgettable performance as Madame Merle in Jane Campion's 1996 adaptation of the Henry James novel The Portrait of a Lady - earning an Oscar nomination and winning the Best Supporting Actress award from the National Society of Film Critics.
In 2001, Hershey was part of a largely Australian ensemble cast for the critically successful Australian film Lantana, which also starred Kerry Armstrong, Anthony LaPaglia and Geoffrey Rush playing a troubled psychiatrist.
1987 - Winner - Cannes Film Festival - Best Actress - Shy People
1991 - Nominee - Emmy Awards - Outstanding Lead Actress in A Miniseries/TV Film - Paris Trout
1991 - Winner - Golden Globes - Best Actress in a TV Film - Killing in a Small Town
1997 - Winner - National Society of Film Critics Awards USA - Best Supporting Actress - The Portrait of a Lady
1999 - Nominee - Golden Satellite Awards - Best Actress in a TV Film - The Staircase
2002 - Winner - Munich Film Festival - CineMerit Award
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