| Awards |
A nationally-known radio actress who won an Academy Award
for her film debut performance in ALL THE KING'S MEN (1949), Mercedes McCambridge appeared in fewer than two
dozen films, but the forceful female characters she played left an enduring impression on American audiences.
Already thirty years-old, McCambridge was a veteran radio
performer but had no prior film experience when she auditioned for and won the
role of Sadie Burke in Robert Rosson's adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's
Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ALL THE KING'S MEN (1949). The story of Willy Starke, a populist politician (played by Broderick Crawford) who is
corrupted by the system he sets out to defeat, the film earned seven Academy
Award nominations and took home three Oscars including the prize for Best
Picture of the year. Mercedes herself was honored with the statuette for
the year's Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the female journalist
who helps build Starke's public persona and later becomes more personally
involved in his rise and fall.
- "I'd like to say to every waiting actor, 'Hang on.
Look what can happen!'" -- Academy Award acceptance speech, 23 March 1950,
RKO Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles, California.
Columbia Pictures, which had produced ALL THE KING'S MEN, held an option
to sign her to a long-term contract after she completed the film, the studio declined to do so. As a
result, Mercedes followed her Oscar win with three more-or-less disappointing
programmers at various studios around Hollywood, including the film-noir thriller THE SCARF
(1951) for United Artists in which she
played a hard-boiled waitress and sang "Summer Rains."
After taking some time off to pursue opportunities in radio and television,
McCambridge made a memorable return to filmmaking as
Joan Crawford's vengeful nemesis in
Nicholas Ray's Technicolor noir-western JOHNNY GUITAR (1954), also starring
Guitar" (clip) sung by Peggy Lee (a .MP3 file).
Continuing her success in the Western genre, Mercedes played
Rock Hudson's domineering sister Luz
Benedict in George Stevens'
epic western GIANT (1956), also starring
Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean.
Based on Edna Ferber's sweeping novel of a Texas cattle ranching family facing
changing times, GIANT earned ten Oscar-nominations, including a second Best
Supporting Actress nomination for McCambridge.
- Giant" (clip) by
Tiomkin (a .MP3 file).
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