Louise Fletcher, Oscar Winner for ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ Dies at 88

Louise Fletcher, who won a best actress Oscar for her unforgettable 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 representative. She was 88 years old.

The classic film, based on the novel by Ken Kesey and exploring the oppressive nature of authority through the story of the patients and staff of a psychiatric ward, won five Oscars in 1976, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Jack Nicholson.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was the first film in more than four decades to sweep the top categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. It was nominated for an additional four Oscars and was also a box office hit.

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

Ironically, the Ratched character was softened in the script compared to Casey’s original, and Fletcher gave a very nuanced performance, often conveying the character’s emotions through facial expressions, which led to her being in the first place. And she deserved her Oscar. Indeed, the actress makes us feel sorry for Ratched at more than one key moment in the film.

In a 2003 review of “Cuckoo’s Nest”, Roger Ebert declared that despite the Oscar, Fletcher’s performance “isn’t quite admirable. That may be because his nurse Ratched is completely obnoxious, and because he fully embodies the qualities we’ve all (men and women) been taught to fear in a certain type of female authority figure—a woman who embodies sexuality and humanity. duty and piety.”

However, it can be argued that the role of Nurse Ratched and the Oscar the actress earned for that performance ultimately did Fletcher more harm than good: in a review reviewing the horror film Flowers in the Attic, in which the actress had acted In 1987, a frustrated and sympathetic Washington Post writer opined, “Fletcher should talk to her agent about these stereotypical ‘evil’ roles, in which she has become tiresome.”

But Fletcher may have pleaded with his agent for a variety of roles, to no avail.

He most recently appeared in the 2013 feature “A Perfect Man,” starring Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

TV Fletcher played family matriarch Peggy “Grammy” Gallagher on Showtime’s “Shameless,” a wily ex-con who still wanted a relationship with her grandchildren. The actress recurred on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” from 1993-99 as the scheming, duplicitous spiritual leader Vin Adami, the cult scientist “VR.5” from 1995-97 and on “ER” in 2005.

She received Emmy nominations for guest roles in “Picket Fence” in 1996 and “Joan of Arcadia” in 2004.

Fletcher returned to acting in 1974 after more than a decade raising a family and gave a supporting performance in Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us, which Pauline Kell called “impressively strong”. But the actress didn’t have a high profile in Hollywood when she was cast as Ratched.

Angela Lansbury, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Colleen Dewhurst and Geraldine Page all turned down the role of Ratched, fearing the possible impact on their careers.

Director Milos Forman gave Fletcher a chance to star in “Thieves Like Us.”

“It was all wrong for him [Ratched] role, but there was something about him,” Foreman later wrote in his memoir. “I asked him to read with me and suddenly, beneath the velvety exterior, I found a toughness and willpower that seemed tailor-made for the role.”

Fortunately, there were few opportunities to avoid typecasting.

He acquitted himself well in the 1978 noir spoof “The Cheap Detective” starring Peter Falk.

In the 1979 drama “Natural Enemies,” he starred opposite Hal Holbrook, playing a husband who murders his family. Critic Richard Winters wrote that Fletcher “plays the polar opposite of her Nurse Ratched character. Here she is vulnerable and fragile rather than stern and authoritative, and there is also a scene inside a mental hospital as a patient. The fact that she The fact that she can play such a variety of characters proves what an amazing actress she is.

In 1999’s “Cruel Intent,” he played a kind, warm-hearted Long Island aristocrat.

Other film credits include “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” starring Richard Burton and Linda Blair; sci-fi “Brainstorm” with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood; “Firestarter,” starring a young Drew Barrymore; and “2 Days in the Valley.”

Estelle Louise Fletcher was born in Birmingham, Alabama. His parents were speechless; She was introduced to acting by her aunt who taught her to speak at the age of 8. Fletcher attended the University of North Carolina; After taking a cross-country trip, she landed in Los Angeles and soon stumbled into acting.

The young actress made her screen debut in 1958 in “Playhouse 90,” among other television shows. The following year he made guest appearances on “Maverick”, “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Untouchables”. She appeared twice in “Perry Mason” in 1960, but by 1963 had given up her career, at least temporarily, after making her feature debut in “A Gathering of Eagles.”

In 1973, after raising her children, she resumed her profession as a guest on “Medical Center”. After doing a TV movie, she was cast in a supporting role in “Thieves Like Us” – a movie her husband, Jerry Bick, was producing.

Fletcher’s life story helped serve as the inspiration for one of the main characters in Robert Altman’s classic 1975 film “Nashville,” and he was set to play the character when Bick and Altman collided.

Fletcher was married, from 1959–78, to Bick, a Hollywood literary agent who later became a producer. He died in 2004. She is survived by her sons John Dashiell Bick and Andrew Wilson Bick.

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