Documentary Spotlight to Shine On the "Female Brando," Method Actress Kim Stanley

By Amy Asch
April 13, 2013

A documentary-in-progress will return attention to Kim Stanley, a major stage, film and television actress of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.



One of the Actors Studio's most lauded members, Stanley created roles in plays by William Inge (Millie in Picnic; Cherie in Bus Stop), Horton Foote (The Traveling Lady) and Eugene O'Neill (A Touch of the Poet). She was a Tony nominee in 1959 for A Touch of the Poet and in 1962 for A Far Country.

Today's audiences may best remember her as Frances Farmer's domineering mother in the film “Frances," starring Jessica Lange, a role that earned Stanley an Academy Award nomination. She was also the uncredited voice of the adult Scout in the classic film "To Kill a Mockingbird."

She played "Maggie, the cat" in the 1958 London premiere of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Peter Hall. In 1984 she won an Emmy in the role of Big Mama in a PBS/American Playhouse television production of the same play.

Stanley spent later decades out of the public eye, while teaching and inspiring younger actors, directors and writers — including Randall England, Dani Minnick, Melanie Jones and Alessandro Zezza, the team producing, directing and editing "The Needs of Kim Stanley: A Documentary."

The film's title comes from an acting exercise Stanley handed down to her students—wordlessly focusing on the primal needs to "charm, celebrate, seduce, entice, plead, accuse, destroy." In the documentary, Elaine Stritch, Ellen Burstyn, Jessica Lange, Sydney Pollack, Arthur Penn, Horton Foote, Estelle Parsons and Eli Wallach (among many others) testify to the power of Stanley's performances on stage and screen.

A Kickstarter campaign recently raised $27,000 towards the continuing costs of editing, music and rights clearances. Click here to donate.

Visit the Playbill Vault to explore more about Stanley’s work on Broadway.

For additional details about Stanley's life and career, see Playbill’s report from a 2001 memorial tribute.

A trailer for the film can be seen below: