She’s won the triumvirate of acting awards (Emmy, Oscar, and Tony), as well as the Sarah Siddon Award, and she’s received further accolades in the form of nominations for Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards. And now, actress Ellen Burstyn stands poised to celebrate a very personal milestone.
Happy Birthday, Ellen Burstyn!
And that’s because she was born on December 7, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan, which means that this incredibly talented lady is turning 88 years old today! Christened Enda Rae Gillooly, Burstyn left high school during her senior year in order to work full time as a dancer and model.
While still in her early twenties, Burstyn relocated to Dallas, and then to New York City. Between 1955 and 1956, she found employment as an “away we go” dancing girl on The Jackie Gleason Show (under the stage name Edna Dean). One year later, Burstyn adopted the name Ellen McRae and made her Broadway debut.
Burstyn became a regular fixture on primetime TV throughout the late 1950s and ’60s. A small sampling of her guest appearances includes episodes of Kraft Television Theatre (1958), Michael Shayne (1961), Gunsmoke (1962), The Defenders (1963), Suspense Theater (1964), For the People (1965), and The Big Valley (1967).
Burstyn had a role on the daytime soap opera The Doctors from 1964 to 1965, and between 1967 and 1968, she co-starred opposite Dale Robertson in the ABC western, The Iron Horse.
Burstyn appeared in the Debbie Reynolds/Tony Curtis vehicle Goodbye Charlie in 1964, marking her motion picture debut. Small roles in For Those Who Think Young (1964) and Pitstop (1969) followed and Burstyn achieved leading lady status in both Alex in Wonderland (1970) and the controversial Tropic of Cancer (1970).
Good fortune abounded for Burstyn during the 1970s. She received significant praise for her work in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971) and Bob Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), and she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Chris MacNeal in the supernatural horror film The Exorcist (1972).
In 1975, Burstyn won the title part in the Martin Scorsese-directed feature Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. For her efforts, Burstyn was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress. Subsequently, Burstyn appeared in films such as Providence (1977), A Dream of Passion (1978), Same Time, Next Year (1978) – an adaptation of Broadway play which had previously netted her a Tony award – Resurrection (1980), Hanna’s War (1988), and Requiem for a Dream (2000), and made-for-TV movies like The Ambassador (1984), Twice in a Lifetime (1985), and Act of Vengeance (1986)
Burstyn starred in her own eponymous sitcom in 1986, as well as other primetime programs including The Book of Daniel (2006), Big Love (2007-2011), Political Animals (2012), and House of Cards (2016). For her guest stint as Elliot Stabler’s schizophrenic mother, Bernie on Law & Order: SVU, Burstyn won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Guest Star.
Burstyn also portrayed steely matriarch Olivia Foxworth in two adaptations of V.C. Andrews novels: Flowers in the Attic (2014) and Petal on the Wind (2014). Entertainment Hub would like to wish Ellen Burstyn a very happy birthday.