Oscar Actors: Grant, Lee–Background, Career, Awards, Cumulative Advantage

Lee Grant Career Summary

Lee Grant (born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal) on October 31, 1925 (or 1927) has won the Oscar and the Emmy Awards.

Grant made her film debut in 1951 as a young shoplifter in William Wyler’s “Detective Story,” starring Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker. This role earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress as well as the Best Actress Award at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival.

In 1952 she was blacklisted from most acting jobs for the next 12 years. She was able to find only occasional work onstage or as a teacher during this period. It also contributed to her divorce. She was removed from the blacklist in 1962 and rebuilt her acting career in films.

She starred in 71 TV episodes of Peyton Place (1965–1966), followed by lead roles in films such as Valley of the Dolls, In the Heat of the Night (both 1967), and Shampoo (1975), for the last of which she won an Oscar.

In 1964, she won the Obie Award for Distinguished Performance by an Actress for her performance in The Maids.

During her career she was nominated for the Emmy Award seven times between 1966 and 1993, winning twice.

Her film “Down and Out in America” also tied for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar in 1986.

Lee Grant was born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal in Manhattan, the only child of Witia (née Haskell), an actress and teacher, and Abraham W. Rosenthal, a realtor and educator. Her father was born in New York City, to Polish Jewish immigrants, and her mother was a Russian Jewish immigrant. The family resided at 706 Riverside Drive in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

Her date of birth is October 31, but the year is disputed, with all years ranging from 1925 to 1931 having been given as her year of birth at some point.

She debuted in L’Oracolo at the Metropolitan Opera in 1931 and later joined the American Ballet as an adolescent.  She attended Art Students League of New York, Juilliard School of Music, The High School of Music & Art, and George Washington High School, in New York City.

Drama Training

Grant graduated from high school, and won a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, where she studied under Sanford Meisner. Grant undertook further study with Uta Hagen at the HB Studio.  She later enrolled in the Actors Studio in New York.

Ballet Dancer

Grant had her first stage ballet performance in 1933 at the Metropolitan Opera House. In 1938, in her early teens, she was made a member of the American Ballet under George Balanchine. As an actress, Grant had her professional stage debut as understudy in Oklahoma in 1944.

Broadway Debut

In 1948, she had her Broadway acting debut in “Joy to the World.” Grant established herself as a dramatic method actress , earning praise for her role as a shoplifter in “Detective Story,” in 1949.

She made her film debut two years later in the film version of Detective Story, starring Kirk Douglas, receiving her first Best Supporting Oscar nomination, and winning the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

But right when her career was about to bloom, she was banned from working in Hollywood, a ban lasted for twelve years.  In 1951, she gave an impassioned eulogy at the memorial service for actor J. Edward Bromberg, whose early death, she implied, was caused by the stress of being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Her name later appeared in the publication Red Channels, and as a result, for the next ten years, she was blacklisted and her work in television and movies was limited.

Kirk Douglas, who acted with her in Detective Story, recalled that director Edward Dmytryk, who was blacklisted, had first named her husband at the HUAC.

In 1953, she played Rose Peabody in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. In the Broadway production of Two for the Seesaw in 1959, she succeeded Anne Bancroft in the lead female role.

Grant’s first major achievement, after HUAC officially cleared her, was in the 1960s television series Peyton Place as Stella Chernak, for which she won an Emmy in 1966.

In 1963, she won acclaim for her stage performance in the off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Maids.

In 1967, Grant appeared in an episode of Mission Impossible, portraying the wife of a U.S. diplomat who goes undercover to discredit a rogue diplomat. The same year, she played the distraught widow of a murder victim in the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night.