Oscar Actors: Baker, Carroll–Background, Career, Award

Born on May 28, 1931 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

The daughter of a traveling salesman, Baker left St. Petersburg, Florida Junior College after one year to join a dance company, then worked as an assistant in a magic act. Following a brief marriage to a furrier, she went to Hollywood and played a bit role in the film Easy to Love (1953).

Discouraged, she left for New York, where she appeared in TV commercials and did a walk-on in Broadway’s “Escapade.” In 1954 she enrolled at the Actors Studio, where she met director Jack Garfein. They married the following year and divorced in 1969. Their daughter is actress Blanche Baker.

Baker appeared in Robert Anderson’s play “All Summer Long” (1955), followed by several TV dramas. Hollywood took notice, and in 1956 she was cast in “Giant.” The same year she became famous as the thumb-sucking child-wife in “Baby Doll,” her best film role to date and one that gained her an Academy Award nomination.

In the 1960s, Hollywood producers groomed her to replace Marilyn Monroe as the screen’s new sex goddess, but such exploitative films as The Carpet Baggers and Harlow did little to advance her career. In the late 1960s, she moved to Italy and began appearing in Italian and Spanish films. She made her London stage debut in 1977, in a production of Somerset Maugham’s “Rain.”

In the 1980s, Baker was back in front of the cameras in the U.S. In 1982 she married actor Donald Burton. She wrote an autobiography: Baby Doll.

Oscar Alert:

In 1956, Carroll Baker vied for the Best Actress Oscar with Ingrid Bergman (who won) in “Anastasia,” Katharine Hepburn in “The Rainmaker,” Nancy Kelly in “The Bad Seed,” and Deborah Kerr in “The King and I.”