With more than 100 film and TV appearances throughout a remarkable six-decade career, Gena Rowlands' cinematic presence is wholly singular in its command of the screen.
From her iconic, full-bodied blonde hair to her penetrating, icy gaze, her ability to captivate the viewer and embody so many dramatic, unconventional and offbeat characters of startling honesty - most famously a mother experiencing a devastating and volatile emotional breakdown in "A Woman Under the Influence" - is unparalleled.
Now 85, the four-time Emmy- and two-time Golden Globe-winner, who has been nominated twice for a Best Actress Oscar, was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with its Governors Award for lifetime achievement on Saturday, November 14, 2015.
Virginia Cathryn Rowlands was born on June 19, 1930 in Cambria, Wisconsin. After studying at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she entered the spotlight in the 1950s by way of television (including appearances on "Top Secret," "Robert Montgomery Presents," "The United States Steel Hour" and "Goodyear Playhouse") and the stage, appearing in the Broadway and touring productions of "The Seven Year Itch."
In 1956 she starred opposite Edward G. Robinson in the original Broadway production of Paddy Chayefsky's "Middle of the Night," about a middle-aged man's affair with a younger woman.
John Cassavettes and Gena Rowlands
In 1954, Rowlands married legendary actor/director John Cassavetes. In addition to appearing together on television in Cassavetes' series, "Johnny Staccato" (left), the couple would make 10 films together, many directed by him: "A Child is Waiting" (1963), "Faces" (1968), "Machine Gun McCain" (1969), "Minnie and Moskowitz "(1971), "A Woman Under the Influence" (1974), "Two-Minute Warning" (1976), "Opening Night" (1977), "Gloria" (1980), "Tempest" (1982), and "Love Streams" (1984).
"The High Cost of Loving"
Rowlands starred opposite actor-director José Ferrer as Ginny Fry in "The High Cost of Loving" (1958), her first film role.
Rowlands as Teddy Carella, the deaf-mute wife of detective Steve Carella (Robert Lansing), in the police procedural series, "87th Precinct" (1961-1962).
"The Alfred Hitchcock Hour"
Gena Rowlands and Hugh O'Brian star in "Ride the Nightmare," a 1962 episode of "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour." The story depicts the disintegration of a couple's happy suburban life after receiving a discerning and possibly life-threatening phone call.
"Lonely Are the Brave"
Kirk Douglas as uncompromising cowboy drifter John W. "Jack" Burns and Rowlands as his confidante Jerry Bondi in "Lonely Are the Brave" (1962).
"The Spiral Road"
Rowlands played Els, the wife of Anton Drager (played by Rock Hudson), a doctor studying leprosy in the jungles of Java, in "The Spiral Road" (1962). Burl Ives costarred.
"A Child Is Waiting"
In "A Child is Waiting" (1963), Gena Rowlands made her first appearance (apart from a small, unaccredited role in "Shadows") in a film directed by her husband, John Cassavetes.
Cassavettes, who had broken out as an independent filmmakers, made two films in the Hollywood studio system. After clashing with his producer, who edited his cut, Cassavettes disowned the film and returned to shooting movies on his own.
"Won't It Ever Be Morning?"
Playing character Lois Baxter in a 1965 episode of the TV series "Kraft Suspense Theatre," entitled "Won't It Ever Be Morning?"
In 1967, Rowlands had a recurring role on the popular prime-time soap opera, "Peyton Place." Her character, Adrienne Van Leyden, a widowed seductress-for-hire introduced at the end of season 3, becoming central to the narrative in season 4.
As Jeannie Rapp in Cassavetes' bleak meditation on love and aging, "Faces" (1968).
"Minnie and Moskowitz"
In the title role of Minnie in "Minnie and Moskowitz" (1971), another Cassavetes love story about a museum curator who falls for an eccentric parking attendant.
"A Woman Under the Influence"
Cassavetes' landmark 1974 film, "A Woman Under the Influence," is the seminal American portrait of domestic upheaval and the illusion of the American Dream. In arguably her most renowned role, Rowlands plays Mabel, a housewife and mother living in an idyllic Los Angeles, whose exhibition of increasingly psychotic behavior threatens to destroy her marriage and her family to the point of no return.
"A Woman Under the Influence"
"A Woman Under the Influence" received two Academy Award nominations (to Gena Rowlands for Best Actress and John Cassavetes for Best Director). In 1990 it was selected for preservation on the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
As Elizabeth Van Wick alongside Peter Falk's eponymous detective in a 1975 episode of the detective series, "Columbo."
"A Question of Love"
In "A Question of Love" (1978), Gena Rowlands starred as a woman battling her ex-husband for custody of her child owing to her romantic relationship with another woman (Jane Alexander).
"Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter"
Iconic Hollywood actress Bette Davis and Gena Rowlands star as an estranged mother and daughter, who rebuild their relationship upon learning of the daughter's terminal illness, in "Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter" (1979). Davis won an Emmy for her performance.
"You let a WOMAN beat ya, huh?"
In her Academy-Award nominated role as Gloria Swenson in "Gloria" (1980), directed by John Cassavetes, Rowlands played a former mobster's girlfriend who helps a young boy escape a mob hit on his family, and protects him from underworld elements in pursuit.
Cassavetes as Antonia Dimitrius and Rowlands Phillip Dimitrius in 1982's "Tempest," Paul Mazursky's modern telling of the Shakespeare play centering on marriage, mid-life crisis and maturity.
In Paul Mazursky's modern-day revisiting of Shakespeare's "Tempest," John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands starred along with Molly Ringwald, Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia.
"An Early Frost"
In "An Early Frost" (1985), Rowlands starred opposite Ben Gazzara and Aidan Quinn in the groundbreaking TV film that was one of the first to deal candidly with the AIDS crisis. Rowlands was nominated for an Emmy Award and Golden Globe for her performance.
The husband-and-wife duo John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands starred in "Love Streams" (1984) as siblings Robert Harmon and Sarah Lawson, whose tumultuous personal lives bring them together to undergo an emotional and painful reunion.
"Light of Day"
Rowlands co-starred with a fresh-faced Michael J. Fox in the rock drama "Light of Day" (1987). Also starring was Joan Jett of The Runaways.
"The Betty Ford Story"
Rowlands won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Betty Ford in the 1987 made-for-TV movie about the former first lady's life, "The Betty Ford Story."
Rowlands with director Woody Allen while filming "Another Woman" (1988). Rowlands delivers an incisive performance as an aging writer/professor whose mid-life crisis prompts her to rent an office next to a psychiatrist's, where she overhears a little too much.
"Night on Earth"
Rowlands as one of the taxi passengers whose encounter with driver Winona Ryder may lead to a career-changing decision, in maverick independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch's anthology film, "Night on Earth" (1991).
"Something to Talk About"
With Julia Roberts in the romantic comedy-drama, "Something to Talk About" (1995).
"Unhook the Stars"
Nick Cassavetes, son of Rowlands and John Cassavetes, directed "Unhook the Stars" (1996), a character study revolving around an older woman (Rowlands, pictured with Marisa Tomei) and her newly-discovered independence after spending the majority of her life as a caregiver.
"She's So Lovely"
Rowlands and Sean Penn in "She's So Lovely" (1997), directed by her son Nick Cassavetes, working off an unproduced script by the late John Cassavetes.
With Sandra Bullock in the tearjerker romantic drama, "Hope Floats" (1998).
"Playing by Heart"
Rowlands starred alongside Sean Connery and Angelina Jolie in the ensemble drama "Playing by Heart" (1988), a multi-perspective examination of love and infidelity.
Sundance Film Festival
Actresses Gena Rowlands (left) and Juliette Lewis (right) arrive with film director Mira Nair for the premiere of the film "Hysterical Blindness" at the Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2002, in Park City, Utah.
Rowlands is pictured with a poster of a new stamp showcasing her late husband, director John Cassavetes, in 2002. The stamp was featured as part of a series of stamps honoring "behind the scenes" work in the filmmaking industry.
With Angelina Jolie in the 2004 serial killer thriller, "Taking Lives."
Gena Rowlands and James Garner starred in the sweeping romantic drama of a '40s-era love story retold, "The Notebook" (2004), based on Nicholas Sparks' bestseller and directed by her son, Nick Cassavetes.
"The Skeleton Key"
With Kate Hudson and John Hurt in the spooky 2005 horror film, "The Skeleton Key," set in the ominous bayous of Louisiana.
"Paris, je t'aime"
Ben Gazzara, Gerard Depardieu and Gena Rowlands in the "Latin Quarter" segment of the anthology film, "Paris, je'taime" (2006), a cinematic portrait dedicated to love in, and for, the city of Paris.
Rowlands appeared in a 2009 episode of the acclaimed series, "Monk," about a detective (Tony Shalhoub) whose obsessive compulsive disorder helps rather than hinders him in solving mysteries in San Francisco.
2013 Governors Awards
Rowlands with Angelina Jolie and at the 2013 Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood.
Roalands presented the Jean Hersholt Humantarian Award to her "Playing by Heart" costar, praising her for her work in and out of the industry: "How does she have time to do all this? She acts, writes and directs and she has a large family, about 20 at last count. And she has to keep that smile on Brad's face. I take my hat off to her."
Actress Gena Rowlands stands on a block of cement at her Hand and Footprint ceremony in front of the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, on December 5, 2014, where the actress was introduced by her son, director Nick Cassavetes.
Honorary Oscar recipients Gena Rowlands and Spike Lee at the 2015 Governors Awards, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, Calif,, on Saturday, November 14, 2015.
Actress Gena Rowlands poses for a portrait at the London West Hollywood hotel on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in West Hollywood, Calif.
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By Lauren Treihaft and David Morgan