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.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.