Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint
Taped at the Academy of Arts University, San Francisco
Eva Marie Saint (pronounced /ˌiːvə məˌriː ˈseɪnt/) (born July 4, 1924) is an American actress and producer. She is known for starring in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). She received Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations for A Hatful of Rain (1957) and won a Primetime Emmy Award for the television miniseries People Like Us (1990).
Her film career also includes roles in Raintree County (1957), Exodus (1960), Grand Prix (1966), Nothing in Common (1986), Because of Winn-Dixie (2005), Superman Returns (2006) and Winter’s Tale (2014).
Early life and education
Saint was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Eva Marie (née Rice) and John Merle Saint. She attended Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, New York, near Albany, graduating in 1942. (She was inducted into the high school’s hall of fame in 2006.)
She studied acting at Bowling Green State University and joined Delta Gamma Sorority. A theater on Bowling Green’s campus is named for her. She was an active member in the theater honorary fraternity, Theta Alpha Phi, and served as Secretary of the Bowling Green Student Government in 1944.
Early television career
Saint’s introduction to television began as an NBC page. She appeared in the very early live NBC TV show Campus Hoopla in 1946–47. Her performances on this program are recorded on rare kinescope, and audio recordings of these telecasts are preserved in the Library of Congress. She also appeared in the Bonnie Maid’s Versa-Tile Varieties on NBC in 1949 as one of the original singing “Bonnie Maids” used in the live commercials.
She appeared in a 1947 Life Magazine special about television, and also in a 1949 feature Life article about her as a struggling actress earning minimum amounts from early TV while trying to make ends meet in New York City.
In the late 1940’s, Saint continued to make her living by extensive work in radio and television. In 1953 she won the Drama Critics Award for her Broadway stage role in the Horton Foote play, The Trip to Bountiful (1953), in which she co-starred with such formidable actors as Lillian Gish and Jo Van Fleet.
In 1955, Saint was nominated for her first Emmy for “Best Actress In A Single Performance” on The Philco Television Playhouse, for playing the young mistress of middle-aged E. G. Marshall in Middle of the Night by Paddy Chayefsky. She won another Emmy nomination for the 1955 television musical version of Our Town, adapted from the Thornton Wilder play of the same name. Co-stars were Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra. Her success and acclaim in TV productions were of such a high level that the young Saint earned the nickname “the Helen Hayes of television.”
On the Waterfront
Saint made her feature film debut in On the Waterfront (1954), starring Marlon Brando and directed by Elia Kazan – a performance for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her performance as Edie Doyle (whose brother’s death sets the film’s drama in motion), which she won over such leading contenders as Claire Trevor, Nina Foch, Katy Jurado, and Jan Sterling, also earned her a British Academy of Film and Television Award nomination for “Most Promising Newcomer.” In his New York Times review, film critic A. H. Weiler wrote:
“In casting Eva Marie Saint – a newcomer to movies from TV and Broadway – Mr. Kazan has come up with a pretty and blond artisan who does not have to depend on these attributes. Her parochial school training is no bar to love with the proper stranger. Amid scenes of carnage, she gives tenderness and sensitivity to genuine romance.”
Saint and Brando in On the Waterfront
In a 2000 interview in Premiere magazine, Saint recalled making the film, which has been highly influential:
“ [Elia] Kazan put me in a room with Marlon Brando. He said ‘Brando is the boyfriend of your sister. You’re not used to being with a young man. Don’t let him in the door under any circumstances’. I don’t know what he told Marlon; you’ll have to ask him – good luck! [Brando] came in and started teasing me. He put me off balance. And I remained off balance for the whole shoot. ”
The film was a major success and launched Saint’s movie career. She starred with Don Murray in A Hatful of Rain (1957), the pioneering drug-addiction drama, for which she received a nomination for the “Best Foreign Actress” award from the British Academy of Film and Television. She also starred in the lavish Civil War epic Raintree County (also 1957) with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.
North by Northwest
Director Alfred Hitchcock surprised many by choosing Saint over dozens of other candidates for the femme fatale role in what was to become a suspense classic North by Northwest (1959) with Cary Grant and James Mason. Written by Ernest Lehman, the film updated and expanded upon the director’s early “wrong man” spy adventures of the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s, including The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent, and Saboteur. North by Northwest became a box-office hit and an influence on spy films for decades. The film ranks number forty on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time.
At the time of the film’s production, much publicity was gained by Hitchcock’s decision to cut Saint’s waist-length blonde hair for the first time in her career. Hitchcock explained at the time, “Short hair gives Eva a more exotic look, in keeping with her role of the glamorous woman of my story. I wanted her dressed like a kept woman – smart, simple, subtle and quiet. In other words, anything but the bangles and beads type.” The director also worked with Saint to make her voice lower and huskier, and personally chose costumes for her during a shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
The change in Saint’s screen persona, coupled with her adroit performance as a seductive woman of mystery who keeps Cary Grant (and the audience) off balance, was widely heralded. In his New York Times review of August 7, 1959, critic Bosley Crowther wrote,
“In casting Eva Marie Saint as [Cary Grant’s] romantic vis-a-vis, Mr. Hitchcock has plumbed some talents not shown by the actress heretofore. Although she is seemingly a hard, designing type, she also emerges both the sweet heroine and a glamorous charmer.”
“[Grant] would say, ‘See, Eva Marie, you don’t have to cry in a movie to have a good time. Just kick up your heels and have fun.’ Hitchcock said, ‘I don’t want you to do a sink-to-sink movie again, ever. You’ve done these black-and-white movies like On the Waterfront. It’s drab in that tenement house. Women go to the movies, and they’ve just left the sink at home. They don’t want to see you at the sink.’ I said, ‘I can’t promise you that, Hitch, because I love those dramas.'”
Although North by Northwest might have propelled her to the top ranks of stardom, Saint chose to limit her film work in order to spend time with her husband since 1951, director Jeffrey Hayden, and their two children. In the 1960’s, Saint continued to distinguish herself in both high-profile and offbeat pictures. She co-starred again with Paul Newman in Exodus (1960), a historical drama about the founding of the state of Israel adapted from the novel of the same name by Leon Uris. It was directed by Otto Preminger. She also co-starred with Warren Beatty, Karl Malden and Angela Lansbury as a tragic beauty in the drama All Fall Down (1962). Based upon a novel by James Leo Herlihy and a screenplay by William Inge, the film was directed by John Frankenheimer.
She appeared with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the melodrama The Sandpiper for Vincente Minnelli, and with James Garner in the World War II thriller 36 Hours (1965), directed by George Seaton. Saint joined an all-star cast in the comedic satire, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, directed by Norman Jewison, and the international racing drama, Grand Prix (1966) directed by Frankenheimer and presented in Cinerama.
Saint received some of her best reviews for her performance in Loving (1970), co-starring as the wife of George Segal. The movie was about a commercial artist’s relationship with his wife and other women; it was critically acclaimed but did not have wide viewership.
Because of the mostly second-rate film roles that came her way in the 1970’s, Saint returned to television and the stage in the 1980’s. She appeared in a number of made-for-television films; she played the mother of Cybill Shepherd on the television series, Moonlighting, which lasted three years. She received an Emmy nomination for the 1977 miniseries, How The West Was Won, and a 1978 Emmy nomination for Taxi!!!. She was reunited with On the Waterfront co-star Karl Malden in the television film Fatal Vision, this time as the wife of his character, as he investigated the murder of his daughter and granddaughters.
Saint returned to the big screen for the first time in over a decade in Nothing in Common (1986), in which she played the mother of Tom Hanks’ character; it was directed by Garry Marshall. Critics applauded her return to features.
Saint was soon back on the small screen in numerous projects. After receiving five nominations, Saint won her first Emmy Award for the 1990 miniseries People Like Us. She appeared in a number of television productions in the 1990’s and was cast as the mother of radio producer, Roz Doyle, in a 1999 episode of the comedy series Frasier.
In 2000, she returned to feature films in I Dreamed of Africa, with Kim Basinger. In 2005 she co-starred with Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard in Don’t Come Knocking. Also in 2005, she appeared in the family film, Because of Winn-Dixie, co-starring AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels and Cicely Tyson.
In 2006, Saint appeared in Superman Returns, as Martha Kent, the adoptive mother of Superman, alongside Brandon Routh and a computer-generated performance from her On the Waterfront co-star Marlon Brando.
Saint has appeared in a number of television specials and documentaries, particularly since 2000. These included The Making of North by Northwest, which she narrated and hosted. In 2009, she made a rare public appearance at the 81st Academy Awards ceremony as a Best Supporting Actress presenter. In 2011, Saint participated in two screenings of North by Northwest with Robert Osborne. The films were shown in Seattle and Cleveland. Saint and Osborne participated in meet-and-greet sessions as well as a pre-movie question and answer session. Saint has lent her voice to the 2012 Nickelodeon animated series The Legend of Korra, a sequel to the hit TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender, playing the now-elderly Katara, a main character from the original series.
In September 2012, Saint was cast as the adult version of Willa in the film adaptation of Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel Winter’s Tale. The film was released on Valentine’s Day 2014.
She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures at 6624 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for television at 6730 Hollywood Boulevard.
Saint has been married to producer/director Jeffrey Hayden since October 28, 1951. They have two children, Darrell (born April 1, 1955) and Laurette (born July 19, 1958).