Louise Fletcher dies, 88; Oscar winner for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Louise Fletcher, the majestic, steel-eyed actress who won an Academy Award for her role as a tyrannical nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” died Friday at her home in the southern French town of Montdurausse. She was 88 years old.

Her agent, David Shaul, confirmed the death. Who did not give a reason. Mrs. Fletcher also had a home in Los Angeles.

Ms. Fletcher was 40 years old and was largely unknown to the public when she was cast as the chief administrative nurse in an Oregon mental institution in the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The film, directed by Milos Forman and based on a popular novel by Ken Kesey, won Best Actress for Mrs. Fletcher. And four more OscarsBest Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson, who starred as rebellious psychiatrist Mac Murphy) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Boo Goldman and Lawrence Hopper).

Mrs. Fletcher’s acceptance speech popped up That night—not only because she seductively thanked voters for their hatred of her, but also because she used American Sign Language to thank her parents, who were both deaf, for “teaching me to dream.”

The American Film Institute later named Nurse Ratched one of the most notorious villains in movie history and the second most notorious villain, surpassed only by the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”

But by the time “Cuckoo’s Nest” was released, Ms. Fletcher was frustrated by the cultivated nature of her character. “I envy the other actors so much,” She said in a 1975 interview with the New York Times, referring to her fellow cast members, most of whom were playing mentally ill. “They were very free, and I should have been very in control.”

Estelle Louise Fletcher was born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Ala. , one of four children who heard of Robert Capers Fletcher, an Episcopal pastor, and Estelle (Caldwell) Fletcher; Her parents were deaf since childhood. She studied drama at the University of North Carolina and moved to Los Angeles after graduation.

She later told reporters that she was so tall – 5 feet 10 inches – that she had difficulty finding work in anything but West, where her height was an advantage. Of her first 20 on-screen roles in the late 1950s and early 1960s, about half were in television Westerns, including “Wagon Train,” “Maverick,” and “Pat Masterson.”

Mrs. Fletcher married film director Jerry Peck in 1959. They had two sons, John and Andrew, and had retired from acting for over a decade to raise them.

Mrs. Fletcher and Mr. Beck divorced in 1977. Among the survivors are her two sons; her sister Roberta Ray; and granddaughter.

She returned to the cinema in 1974 in Robert Altman “thieves like us” Like a woman who coldly handed her brother over to the police. It was her appearance in this film that prompted Mr. Foreman to offer her the role in “The Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Mr Foreman remembers watching Thieves Like Us: “I was surprised when Louise appeared on screen.” “I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She had a certain mystery, which I thought was very, very important to Nurse Ratched.”

Reviewing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in The New Yorker, Pauline Kael declared Mrs. Fletcher a “witty performer”.

“We can see Virgo’s expectation – purity – transformed into bulging-eyed self-righteousness,” Ms. Kyle wrote. “She thinks she’s doing a good job for people, and she gets hurt – she feels offended – if her authority is questioned.”

Ms. Fletcher is often cited as an example of the Oscar curse—the phenomenon that winning an Oscar for acting doesn’t always lead to continued movie stardom—but she maintained a busy career in film and television into her late 1970s.

She played the lead role as the cute psychiatrist of Linda Blair’s character in “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977) and was prominent in the comedy blockbuster “The Cheap Detective” (1978), inspired by the film character of Ingrid Bergman. She also starred with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood as a workaholic scientist in Brainstorm (1983). But she has largely relegated her to roles with limited on-screen time, especially when her character was very different from that of Nurse Ratched.

After her role as a large UFO plane in “Strange Invaders” (1983), she appeared in Firestarter (1984) as a frightened farm wife. police drama “Blue Steel” (1990) as Jamie Lee Curtis’ monotonous mother; “2 Days in the Valley” (1996) as a kind-hearted landlady in Los Angeles; and “Cruel Intentions” (1999) as Ryan Phillip’s sweet aunt.

Only when she played on the sinister stereotype—as she did in Flowers in the Attic (1987), as an evil mother who sets out to poison her four inappropriately young grandchildren—she found herself in the title roles again. And this movie, I told the audience of Dragoncon In 2009, it was “the worst experience I’ve ever had in making a movie”.

Later in her career, she played recurring characters in several television series, including “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” (she was a strange cult leader from 1993 to 1999) and “Shameless” (as William H.’s mother. As the sweet mother of Liev Schreiber in the romantic drama A Perfect Man (2013), she recently appeared in two episodes of the Netflix comedy series “Girlboss”.

Although Mrs. Fletcher’s most famous character was an image of sternness, she often remembers smiling constantly and pretending that everything was perfect when she was growing up, in an effort to protect her unheard parents from bad news.

“It was too expensive for me,” She said in a 1977 interview with The Ladies ‘Home Journal. “Because I didn’t just pretend everything was fine. I came to feel it should be.”

However, she admitted that pretending wasn’t bad, at least in terms of her profession. That same year she told journalist Rex Reed, “I feel like I know real pleasure from fantasizing.”

Mike Ives Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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