Susan Strasberg

Active - 1955 - 2018  |   Born - May 22, 1938   |   Died - Jan 21, 1999   |   Genres - Drama, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The daughter of renowned acting coaches Lee and Paula Strasberg, Susan Strasberg did not, as has often been assumed, attend her father's celebrated Actors Studio. She was, however, a close friend of several of her parents' most famous students--notably Marilyn Monroe, the subject of Strawsberg's affectionate 1992 memoir Marilyn and Me. While growing up, Strasberg harbored dreams of becoming a scientist like her idol Marie Curie, but many of her parents' friends urged the girl to give acting a try. Mildly curious, she made her off-Broadway debut in the 1952 production Maya. Two years later, she made her first television appearance as Shakespeare's Juliet, and shortly thereafter was cast as a regular on the Hume Cronyn-Jessica Tandy TV situation comedy The Marriage. At 17, Susan blossomed into full-fledged stardom when she played the leading role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play The Diary of Anne Frank. By 1957, she was being tagged as "Helen Hayes' successor" by several influential critics. Her first film appearances in The Cobweb and Picnic (both 1955) also bode well for a long and lasting stardom. Unfortunately, Susan's ardent supporters began turning on her when she starred in Stage Struck, the 1957 remake of Morning Glory (1933). Her over-the-top rendition of the role that had won Katharine Hepburn an Oscar back in 1933 was almost universally drubbed by the critics, prompting Strasberg to flee the U.S. and resettle in Europe. In the early 1960s, director Franco Zeffirelli persuaded her to return to Broadway in his production of Dumas' Lady of the Camelias. Alas, this effort also proved disastrous, forcing her to grasp at straws to revive her reputation. Her best effort during this awkward phase of her career was the Yugoslav-Italian film Kapo (1960), in which she played a concentration camp survivor. Such excellent opportunities were rare indeed; for the most part, Strasberg was mired in such tripe as Psych-Out (1967) and The Name of the Game is Kill (1968). In 1973, Susan returned to television as co-star of the detective series Toma. Shesubsequently continued to accept character roles of fluctuating quality in both U.S. and Canadian productions. In 1980, Susan penned her autobiography Bittersweet, which detailed her brief marriage to actor Christopher Jones, the heart defect that long imperiled the life of her daughter Jennifer, and the debilitating burden of being too famous too soon. Reflecting on her career in 1974, Susan Strasberg compared her teen-aged stardom to "trying to play a violin before it's finished." In 1999, Strasberg died of cancer at the age of 60.

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