Primarily a stage actress, Lee Grant has also been distinguished for her feature film and television work. She was born Lyova Rosenthal in New York City and received her training at Juilliard. The daughter of an actress and model, Grant was only four when she debuted in a show at the Metropolitan Opera. Grant joined the American Ballet at age 11, graduated from high school at 14, and then received a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse where she was seen by stage director Sidney Kingsley who cast her as a young shoplifter in his 1949 Broadway production Detective Story. The role won Grant a Critics Circle Award. She reprised the role in the 1951 film version and earned an Oscar nomination and the Cannes Festival's Best Actress award. Her promising film career abruptly derailed when the House Un-American Activities Committee tried forcing Grant to testify against her already blacklisted playwright husband, Arnold Manoff. She refused and was promptly blacklisted. Though her stage career thrived, it would be 12 years before Grant would be able to get substantial roles in television or movies. By the time she returned to the media in the mid-'60s, she was relegated to character roles wherein she typically played ambitious, tough, and beautiful women. During the second season of the sudsy television drama Peyton Place (1964-1969), Grant won an Emmy for her portrayal of Stella Chernak. In 1970, Grant won her second Oscar nomination for Hal Ashby's The Landlord and her first Oscar for Shampoo (1975). But for yet another Oscar nomination in Voyage of the Damned (1976), Grant the actress spent the rest of the decade making cameo appearances in big-budget disaster pictures. She remained busy in films like Damien: Omen II, Little Miss Marker, Bare Essence, Teachers, and The Big Town. In the '90s, Albert Brooks cast her as a prosecuting attorney in the afterlife in Defending Your Life, and appeared in the well-regarded biopic Citizen Cohn. She continued to work steadily in projects such as It's My Party, Robert Altman's Dr. T & The Women, and David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. Grant became a movie director in 1980 with the moving Tell Me a Riddle. Subsequent directorial efforts include A Matter of Sex (1984) and Reunion (1994).
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Composed her stage name by using the last names of two famous Civil War generals.
- At age 4, performed as a ballerina for the New York Metropolitan Opera. She joined the American Ballet Theatre at age 11.
- Was blacklisted from Hollywood for 12 years for refusing to testify against her then-husband Arnold Manoff to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
- Played a divorcée entering the dating world in the short-lived series Fay, which was canceled after only eight episodes (despite high Nielsen ratings) due to viewer complaints about sexual content.
- Directed and narrated the 1986 HBO documentary Down and Out in America, which examined economic hardships in the U.S.