Since she devoted herself almost entirely to the stage, and willingly cut her career short when she was at her zenith, Stanley is little remembered today. But during her heyday, she was one of the most revered actresses in America, heralded for her realistic portrayals.
Stanley, who died in 2001 at the age of 76, distinguished herself in the 1950s in William Inge's Picnic and Bus Stop on Broadway. Her Best Actress Tony nominations came in 1959 for A Touch of the Poet and in 1962 for A Far Country. She was Academy Award-nominated for "Seance on a Wet Afternoon" and for playing Frances Farmer's mother in "Frances." Stanley won an Emmy Award for playing Big Mama.
When she died, she had not acted on a New York stage in 36 years, having spent her final years as a recluse. Nonetheless, she is still regularly cited by many actors as a huge influence and the greatest actress America has produced.
Jon Krampner wrote the new biography. The book purports to answer the question "What happened? 'Female Brando' answers that question with a meticulously researched, empathetic biography that tells all—not only about her colorful and cautionary personal life, but about her unrivaled theatrical brilliance and what became of this stage legend when the house lights went dark."
Krampner is the author of "The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television."