Death of Louise Fletcher: the winner of the Oscar Flight over the Cuckoo’s Nest was 88 years old

Louise Fletcher, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her indelible performance as Nurse Ratched in Milos Forman’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ died Friday at her home in France, according to a representing. She was 88 years old.

The classic film, based on Ken Kesey’s novel and exploring the repressive streak of authority through the stories of patients and staff on a psychiatric ward, won five Oscars in 1976, including Best Picture and Best Picture. best actor for Jack Nicholson.

“Flight Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was the first film in more than four decades to sweep the major categories for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. It was nominated for four more Oscars and was also a substantial box office success.

In the American Film Institute’s television special “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains,” Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched was named the fifth-greatest female villain in movie history – and second-greatest female villain, behind the Wicked Witch. from West.

Ironically, Ratched’s character had been toned down in the script compared to Kesey’s original, and Fletcher gave a rather subtle performance, often conveying the character’s emotions simply through facial expressions, which is why she deserved her Oscar first. Indeed, the actress even allows us to pity Ratched at more than one key moment in the film.

In a 2003 reassessment of “Cuckoo’s Nest”, Roger Ebert said that despite the Oscar, Fletcher’s performance “is not appreciated enough. Perhaps it’s because his nurse Ratched is so deeply despicable and because that she embodies so completely the qualities that all of us (men and women) have come to fear in a certain type of female authority figure – a woman who has subsumed sexuality and humanity into duty and righteousness”.

One could argue, however, that the role of Nurse Ratched and the Oscar the actress won for that performance ultimately did Fletcher more harm than good: In 1987, a frustrated and unsympathetic Washington Post writer said “Fletcher should talk to her agent about those stereotypical ‘kinky’ roles, in which she’s become increasingly boring.

But Fletcher may have implored his agent for a wider variety of roles to no avail.

She had recently appeared in the 2013 feature film “A Perfect Man”, starring Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

On television, Fletcher had played family matriarch Peggy “Grammy” Gallagher, a wily ex-con who nonetheless wanted a relationship with her grandchildren, on Showtime’s “Shameless.” The actress returned to “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” as the scheming and deceitful spiritual leader Winn Adami from 1993 to 1999, to the cult sci-fier “VR.5” from 1995 to 1997, and to “ER” in 2005.

She was Emmy nominated for guest roles in “Picket Fences” in 1996 and “Joan of Arcadia” in 2004.

Fletcher had returned to acting in 1974 after more than a decade away to raise a family and gave a supporting performance in Robert Altman’s “Thieves Like Us” which Pauline Kael called “impressively strong”, but the actress didn’t have much fame in Hollywood when she was cast in Ratched.

Angela Lansbury, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Colleen Dewhurst and Geraldine Page had all turned down the role of Ratched, each fearing the possible effect on her career.

Director Milos Forman was lucky enough to see Fletcher in “Thieves Like Us.”

“She had it all wrong for the [Ratched] role, but there was something about her,” Forman later wrote in his memoir. “I asked him to read with me and suddenly, beneath the velvety exterior, I discovered a tenacity and a will that seemed suited to the role.”

Fortunately, there were a few opportunities to escape typing.

She did well in the 1978 noir parody “The Cheap Detective,” starring Peter Falk.

In the 1979 drama “Natural Enemies,” she co-starred with Hal Holbrook, playing a husband who murders his family. Critic Richard Winters wrote that Fletcher is “pretty good at playing the opposite of her Nurse Ratched character. Here she is vulnerable and fragile instead of rigid and bossy and even has a scene inside a mental hospital as a patient. The fact that she can play such different characters proves what a brilliant actress she is.

In 1999’s “Cruel Intentions,” she played a genial, warm-hearted aristocrat from Long Island.

Other film credits include “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” starring Richard Burton and Linda Blair; the savant “Brainstorm,” with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood; “Firestarter”, featuring a young Drew Barrymore; and “2 days in the valley”.

Estelle Louise Fletcher was born in Birmingham, Alabama. His parents were deaf; she was introduced to the theater by the aunt who taught her to speak when she was 8 years old. Fletcher attended the University of North Carolina; after taking a trip across the country, she found herself stranded in Los Angeles and quickly got into acting.

The young actress made her screen debut in 1958 with appearances on “Playhouse 90”, among other television shows. The following year, she participated in “Maverick”, “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Untouchables”. She appeared twice in ‘Perry Mason’ in 1960, but by 1963 she had given up her career, at least for the time being, after debuting in ‘A Gathering of Eagles’.

In 1973, after raising her children, she returned to her profession with an appearance in “Medical Center”. After doing a TV movie, she was cast in a supporting role in ‘Thieves Like Us’ – a film her husband, Jerry Bick, was producing.

Fletcher’s life story served as the inspiration for one of the main characters in Robert Altman’s classic 1975 film “Nashville” and was set to play the character when Bick and Altman had a falling out.

Fletcher was married to Bick, a Hollywood literary agent who was also later a producer, from 1959 to 1978. He died in 2004. She is survived by her sons John Dashiell Bick and Andrew Wilson Bick.

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