Geraldine Page, the movie and theater star who won a best-actress Oscar last year for her portrayal of a widow searching for her Texas roots in “The Trip to Bountiful,” was found dead in her Manhattan home Saturday. She was 62.
She was found by her son, Anthony, and apparently died of natural causes, police said.
Page, best known for bringing depth to simple, small-town characters, had been nominated for an Academy Award on seven occasions without winning before her victory in 1986.
She previously was nominated for best actress for “Summer and Smoke” in 1961, “Sweet Bird of Youth” in 1962 and “Interiors” in 1978; and for best supporting actress for “Hondo” in 1953, “You’re a Big Boy Now” in 1967, “Pete ‘n’ Tillie” in 1972 and “The Pope of Greenwich Village” in 1984.
On television, she won an Emmy for outstanding single performance by an actress in a leading role in a drama for “A Christmas Memory,” an ABC presentation in 1966. She won a second Emmy for outstanding single performance in “The Thanksgiving Visitor” on ABC the following year.
She became a major star of the New York stage in a 1952 Off-Broadway production of “Summer and Smoke,” a role she remembered so fondly that tears came to her eyes at the memory of the landmark role in the Tennessee Williams play when she discussed it in an interview last year.
“I have always had a great will to work. From the minute I found how pleasurable acting was, I have been greedy for more,” she said.
After graduating in 1945 from Chicago’s Goodman Institute, Page appeared in hundreds of plays in stock companies throughout her native Midwest before going to New York.
“If I read a part and think I can connect to it, that I can touch people with it, I will do it no matter what its size. And if I think I can’t do something with a part, I don’t take it.”
She pointed out that she turned down an offer to play the judge in the film version of “The Madwoman of Chaillot” because “I knew I hadn’t the authority to tell Katherine Hepburn and Maggie (Margaret) Leighton to sit down and shut up (in the film).”
But it was Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” that marked one of the few times that Page caught the full attention of the film world.
Critics from coast to coast called Page’s portrayal of Carrie Watts, an old woman trapped in a contentious Houston household who wishes to return home to the distant town of Bountiful, Tex., “the performance of a lifetime.”
“I love her stubbornness and conviction,” Page said of Carrie. “Like all my old ladies,” the character was closely modeled, physically and spiritually, on Page’s Aunt Lula.
“I love people who are told they cannot do something and then go ahead and do it anyway. By seeing Bountiful again, she comes to see that she’s part of the continuity of life, and this will enable her to live the rest of her life without hysteria and with serenity.”
Page, who was married to actor Rip Torn, failed to appear at either Saturday performance of “Blythe Spirit,” the Noel Coward production at the Neil Simon Theater in New York.
She had been with the production since it opened on Broadway in March and had been nominated for a Tony award.