Bravely facing illness was the last role for lovely Lee Remick Appreciation

July 03, 1991|By Charles Champlin | Charles Champlin,Los Angeles Times

Hollywood -- The actors and actresses we watch on screens large and small are sometimes love objects, occasionally role models, but perhaps most often simply figures of fascination who lead us to wonder what they are really like in their private lives (when we haven't been told by the checkout stand tabloids, or even more so when we have).

Lee Remick, who died from cancer yesterday, became a role model of a special and remarkable kind in her real life, offering us a profile in courage as she both accepted and, as long as she could, defied the terrible medical news.

When I last talked with Lee Remick a year and a half ago, she had been battling kidney cancer for nearly a year. Her silent struggle had been, as she said, "drastic and horrible -- and successful." Now that she had conquered it, she felt free to go public with the fight, for the encouragement of others, and to get on with her career.

She was no longer the sensual but somehow innocent 22-year-old cheerleader marrying Andy Griffith in the Elia Kazan-Budd Schulberg "A Face in the Crowd," her unforgettable film debut. But she was a breathtakingly beautiful mature woman, whose ordeal could be seen only in a kind of deeper wisdom in her eyes.

In the picture gallery of fine American actresses, she holds a special place. She was always, indubitably, Lee Remick; her beauty, both perky and patrician, and her obvious intelligence were hers alone. But her gift as a superior actress was to move so far into the role that she ceased to be the actress acting and became the character.

The range was wonderful, from the sexy and teasing young things of "The Long Hot Summer" and "Anatomy of a Murder" to the alcoholic wife in "Days of Wine and Roses" and the elegant and somehow mysterious lady in "The Europeans."

Once in a while there is a beautiful concurrence between the private person and the public performance. As an actress, Lee Remick was a role model to inspire any young performer. As a private woman confronting the hardest news of all with courage and dignity, Lee Remick was a model for the world.

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