March 18, 2004 by

Mercedes McCambridge

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Media, Writers/Editors

mmccambridge.jpgCarlotta Mercedes Agnes McCambridge, who Orson Welles once called “the world’s greatest living radio actress,” died on March 2 from natural causes. She was 87.
Born in Joliet, Ill., McCambridge graduated from Mundelein College and signed an acting contract with NBC Radio in Chicago. In her 20s, she moved to New York, where she appeared in several Broadway plays before landing the title role in the radio adaptation of “Abie’s Irish Rose.” She spent several years working with Welles before focusing on her film career.
McCambridge’s radio-trained voice served her well in Hollywood. She acquired a reputation as an outspoken woman with a talent for playing strong-willed characters. She made her screen debut in the 1949 film “All the King’s Men,” a role that earned her an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Broderick Crawford, who played the lead in the film, won the best actor Oscar; the drama also won for best picture. That same year, McCambridge won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and another for Most Promising Newcomer-Female.
Despite such critical acclaim, McCambridge had trouble finding good roles because her severe appearance didn’t fit the glamour girl image that was popular in many postwar films. However, she chose her future projects wisely, acting in “Giant, (for which she earned a second Oscar nomination for best supporting actress), “A Farewell to Arms” and “Touch of Evil.”
In 1973, McCambridge put her talents to the test by taking on the voice-over role of The Demon in the classic horror flick, “The Exorcist.” Although she didn’t receive credit in the first printing of the movie, The Screen Actors Guild intervened on her behalf and had her name inserted into future printings of the film. She also did numerous guest appearances on TV shows, such as “Bewitched,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Magnum P.I.” She returned to New York in the 1990s to play the grandmother in Neil Simon’s Broadway hit, “Lost in Yonkers.”
Her personal life, which included bouts with alcoholism, two divorces and a son who later killed his wife and children before committing suicide, were chronicled in the autobiographies “The Two of Us” and “The Quality of Mercy.”

One Response to Mercedes McCambridge

  1. Dante's Girl

    I have only ever seen ‘The Exorcist’ but judging from that and what I’ve read and heard about her, I could pretty much guess the range of her talents. I was shocked to hear news of her death and I know she will be sadly missed by many and all who knew her. I would also like to take this time to express my disgust at the fact that she was never given an award for her part in that film. I mean, just because you never saw her in the film, she was still as big-a-part as any of the other actors and actresses in it! (shame, most of all, on Billy Friedkin for commiting so many grievous injustices against this great woman!)

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