By John H. Foote

Louise Fletcher, aka Nurse Ratched, has died.

Though she made just a single great film, her performance in it won her one of five Academy Awards won by the film – Best Actress in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Filming was more than halfway finished when Fletcher learned a plethora of major actresses had turned the part down, including Jane Fonda, Marsha Mason, Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Page, Jill Clayburgh and Vanessa Redgrave, none willing to portray what they called “a castrating monster”. 

Fletcher, best known for character work in Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us (1974), took the part and made it her own, with a haunting performance, the perfect foil to Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy. 

Sadly, though she worked frequently the rest of her life, she never came close to the Academy Awards again, appearing in the dreadful Exorcist II – The Heretic (1977), The Cheap Detective (1978), Brainstorm (1983), the last film Natalie Wood made before her tragic death, Firestarter (1984), Flowers in the Attic (1988),before heading to television where she was seen in Star Trek – Deep Space 9, ER and had a recurring role as Frank’s criminal minded mother Peg on Shameless for HBO. 

She passed peacefully in her sleep at home in Paris.

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