One thing I can say about Lee Grant from my brief encounters with her over the last 48 hours is that she says what she means and means what she says.
As part of the TCM Classic Film Festival, this Oscar-nominated redhead was very candid with Host/Film Critic Leonard Martin about the Blacklist, plastic surgery, Sidney Poitier and the love of her life daughter Dinah Manoff. Her documentary “What Sex Am I” was groundbreaking in terms of dealing with the issue of being transgender.
Grant was one of many stars that graced the red carpet for the Opening Night Gala “In the Heat of the Night” and here it was she said when I had an opportunity to chat with her about the Blacklist, Donald Trump and Sidney Poitier.
A member of the famed Actors Studio, when Billy Wilder adapted “Detective Story” for the silver screen, only Grant and two of her Broadway co-stars would make the move to recreating their roles – Joe Wiseman (Dr. No) and Michael Strong. Her secret advice to young thespians of this generation, she simply stated, ” I said YES to everything”. Saying yes not only landed her in Broadway show, but snagged a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as the mousey shoplifter.
The joy would be short-lived when the boom was lowered on her career finding herself on the Hollywood Blacklist. Was she a communist? No, but her husband was and she was guilty by association. She was 24 years old and would not be allowed to work again for 12 years. “Actors Equity was the only union that didn’t honor the blacklist, which is why I worked primarily in the theatre for that period of time…” Grant went on to share “Kim Hunter was placed on the Blacklist after she won the Oscar and was humiliated into apologizing for even being in the room with others who were communists in order to be taken off the list…John Garfield died at 38 probably from the stress of it all and Dorothy Comingore (Citizen Kane) lost her mind never to be seen or heard from again”
Ironically, the first gig secured after the blacklist was “In The Heat of the Night” with her dear friend Sidney Poitier. “He came from another country with nothing and had an indomitable spirit,” Grant lovingly recalled.
Being an avid proponent of plastic surgery she joked when she finally found a surgeon she liked at 31 years old, she simply said, “Just make everything go up!”
Always having been a woman very passionate about the women’s right and politics, she produced the “Battered: The Assault on Hillary Clinton”, which is currently available via YouTube. “She was attacked, lied about and discarded as a woman”.
About fellow actress and daughter Dinah Manoff, Grant gushingly remarked, I’m so in love with her…you have to have someone beside yourself to take care of to make you grow up”.
More info about the TCM Classic Festival, log onto www.filmfestival.tcm.com.