To younger viewers, Faye Dunaway is probably best known as the woman involved in the unfortunate mix-up during the Best Picture announcement at this year’s Oscars or as the star of the camp classic “Mommie Dearest” in which she played actress Joan Crawford. In reality though Dunaway was one of the most acclaimed actresses of the 1960s and 1970s.
With the exception perhaps of Jane Fonda, no other American actress was able to consistently produce the level of high caliber work in the 70s, a period of film history that is sometimes credited as the pinnacle of the film industry. Tonight on TCM, viewers can watch four of Dunaway’s greatest films — “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Network,” “The Champ” and “The Arrangement” — as well as a new hour-long interview conducted by Ben Mankiewicz.
An army brat from Florida, Dunaway found quick success on the Broadway stage. Six days after she graduated from Boston University she took over a role in the hit play “A Man for All Season” and would then go on to appear in the repertory company at Lincoln Center that was started by Elia Kazan. Her first film appearance was “The Happening” in 1967 a film that starred Anthony Quinn. That same year she also made “Bonnie and Clyde” with Warren Beatty. This film would go on to make her a star and earn her her first Oscar nomination. (She lost the award to Katharine Hepburn for “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”) She would receive a second nomination for the film noir classic “Chinatown” in 1974 (losing to Ellen Burstyn in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”) and then she finally won in 1976 for her role in the classic TV news satire “Network.”
Five years after “Network” Dunaway made “Mommie Dearest,” a film that turned into a painful experience for the actress. While acclaimed by many (legendary film critic Pauline Kael loved the performance and helped Dunaway come in second place for Best Actress at the New York Film Critic’s Circle Award) the film also received highly negative responses and Dunaway blamed the film for slowing down her career momentum. In an interview on “Inside the Actors Studio” Dunaway stated she felt the performance was edited to be too campy and almost became a “kabuki performance.”
Dunaway’s career also suffered in her later years from her being labeled difficult and a perfectionist. While Dunaway did clash notoriously with directors Otto Preminger and Roman Polanski in her early years, it is debatable whether she was just being difficult or if she was just a highly passionate actress concerned with the authenticity of her performances. On a recent TCM Classic Film Cruise, host Mankiewicz stated that he left the interview highly impressed with Dunaway’s work ethic and her devotion to her acting craft. Actor Michael York was also asked on the cruise to speak about his experience working with Dunaway in the 70s on “The Three Musketeers” and “The Four Musketeers.” York was highly supportive of Dunaway and said he had a wonderful time working with her on those films.
The new Faye Dunaway interview airs tonight on TCM. Sound off on your favorite Dunaway performance down in the comments section and in our fun movie forums.