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After headlining a short-lived television series called
"Wire Service" in 1956, McCambridge returned to supporting film roles. In
1957, she played the relatively small role of Miss Van Campen, a tough head
nurse, in producer David O.
Selznick's adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's A FAREWELL TO ARMS.
Starring Selznick's wife Jennifer Jones
and Rock Hudson, much of the film was
shot on location in Italy in 20th
Century-Fox's preferred widescreen format, CinemaScope. But despite
its impressive production values, the adaptation was overlong and proved
unsuccessful at the box-office.
The following year, McCambridge made an uncredited appearance as a
leather-jacketed drug dominatrix sent to torture
Janet Leigh in
Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL
(1958). Unplanned, McCambridge played the role as a favor to
Welles, an old friend from her
radio days, who needed an actress on short notice. Read
Touch of Genius to a Classic" about the restoration of the film.
(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins
In 1959, McCambridge appeared in
Joseph L. Mankiewicz's
adaptation of Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER, playing
Elizabeth Taylor's mother, Mrs. Holly, who is coerced into committing her
daughter to a mental institution at the behest of her rich aunt, played by
McCambridge made only sporadic film appearances during
the 1960s, concentrating her attention instead on stage work, including a
Broadway production of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
In one of the most famous film contributions of her later career however, she
lent her low, raspy voice to the demon-possessed girl (played by Linda Blair)
in William Friedkin's thriller THE EXORCIST (1973). The film received
ten Academy Award nominations, but this time it was Blair (aided by
McCambridge's voice) who received the Best Supporting Actress nomination.
- The quality of mercy: an autobiography by Mercedes
McCambridge (New York, N.Y.: Times Books, c1981).
- The two of us by Mercedes McCambridge (London: P.
- Hagen, Ray. "Mercedes McCambridge: Won an Oscar
the First Time She Acted for the Screen." Films in Review 16.5
(May 1965): 292+.
- "McCambridge, Mercedes." Current Biography
- "Mercedes McCambridge." Collier's n.126 (9
Sep. 1950): 23+.
- "A" Western Filmmakers: A Biographical Dictionary of
Writers, Directors, Cinematographers, Composers, Actors and Actresses
by Henryk Hoffmann (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2000).
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