Variety, January 6, 1998
Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Feb 3, 2010
The Evening Sun, Mar 26, 1973
The Indiana Gazette, April 13, 1964
Dame Edith Evans, nominated for her performance in Tom Jones (1963), on being recognized by the Academy.
The trade mags used to capitalize Fame as if it were a Biblical virtue.
Modern Screen, May 1940
“How do we visually portray the intoxicating power, mystique, and glamour of Rebecca de Winter?”
“Make her look like she’s got a bag over her head.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 9, 1998
Citizen-News, January 24, 1964
The Miami Herald, July 11, 1965
Taking suggestions for actresses or other lineups I should cover! I’m already writing a long post chronicling Joan Fontaine’s feud with Olivia de Havilland, and possibly reviewing the new
Mrs. de Winter Rebecca (2020).
The San Francisco Examiner, April 1, 1974
The Gazette, August 30, 1982
The Springfield News-Leader, March 29, 1987
Kathleen Turner and Tess Harper reacting to their Oscar nominations.
New York Times, December 13, 1970.
A profile of Tuesday Weld following her nonevent film I Walk the Line (1970). It summarizes her trajectory from a “scandalous” adolescence to a period of relative isolation in 1970, during which she denied interviews, spent evenings at home with her daughter, and had only “occasional flurries of what‐the‐hell.” She would later be nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards for her performance in Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977).
“Fans’ Forum,” Screenland, June 1943
Film Bulletin, February 29, 1960
Screenland, June 1944
the gossip mags of yore were so artfully composed. nearly every page had a unique composition and use of color. the cut-and-paste pastiche they use now has its own charm, but they really ate up saul bass back then
Photoplay, May, 1961
FYC ad for Kim Stanley in Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964).
FYC ad for Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. Print ad appeared in 1989.
New York Times, March 21, 1999
Box Office, April 15, 1963
Motion Picture Herald, February 26, 1955
Before she entered the national spotlight, attracting death threats and spending six months constantly flanked by security guards, Linda Blair was an anonymous child model. She posed in floral dresses for department store catalogues, her hair in pigtails, and coddled dolls in commercials. At that time, The Exorcist was just a manuscript on William Peter Blatty’s desk, and before most of the population would likely bar her from their houses out of fear, Blair innocuously appeared on their TV sets.
When The Exorcist hit, Blair became the ravaged face of a high-grossing phenomenon, weathering accusations of satanism while hanging out with her school friends. The film’s impressive box office performance made Warner Bros levy an Oscar campaign; here was a horror film that managed to transcend its shlocky genre origins, helmed by a director who’d recently been embraced for The French Connection (1971). And the year’s competition shaped out in such a way that its young star was the projected frontrunner for taking home gold.
Enter: Mercedes McCambridge.
At a preview screening, the veteran actress eagerly scanned the film’s credits. Seeing her name wouldn’t have been the usual acknowledgement; the experience now had a special weight. To McCambridge, it would’ve been the ultimate validation for what she considered the hardest job she’d ever done: producing a suitably demonic voice for Pazuzu. A devout Catholic, McCambridge was riddled with guilt, and to embody a demon she returned to liquor after years of battling alcoholism. (“I had to imagine Lucifer. I had to imagine the incredible, bottomless agony—the eternal agony of a lost soul. I drew on memory for that.”) McCambridge was newly sober when director William Friedkin approached her, seeking the androgynous vocals of whom Orson Welles considered “the world’s greatest living radio actress.” So, in the darkness of the theater, she waited. Name after name flashed on the screen. The reel came to an end. When the disappointment set in, the actress left in tears. “The man who supplied the jewels got a credit!”
McCambridge confronted Friedkin, who told her they’d rushed the print and forgot to add the credit he had promised her: “And Mercedes McCambridge.” She assumed it would be corrected. But on January 2, 1974, six days after The Exorcist’s wide release, Variety noted that her name was absent. And rather than adding it to the film, Warner Bros ran an ad in the trade press on January 22, in which they thanked McCambridge for her work. She considered the promise thoroughly broken. “It’s heartbreaking when someone you thought was a friend does that.” The actress would tenaciously seek her screen credit—though McCambridge was no novice at feuding. Just ask Cranberry about her Johnny Guitar nemesis.
On January 27, less than a month before the Oscar nominations announcement, the New York Times ran an article entitled “Will the Real Devil Stand Up? Yes!” It appeared on the page directly opposite a piece about the film’s popularity, the long lines that’d formed and the fights that had broken out as people waited to be scared. (One of the audience members who’d spoken to the paper: William Hurt, at that time a drama student.) McCambridge’s crusade had gone public.
The night before, Blair nabbed the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
(Left: Max von Sydow and Blair; Right: William Peter Blatty, Blair, and von Sydow. 31st Golden Globe Awards.)
(Blair promoting The Exorcist in the UK.)
McCambridge reportedly sounded “furious” as she told her story to the journalist. She figured Warner Bros wanted to keep mum about her contribution to improve Blair’s Oscar chances. “Maybe people will think the sound-effects people simply fixed her voice up—that it was her vocal performance,” she presumed. “But her vocal performance was laughable! I have nothing against the child. I’ve never even met her. But if people had heard her saying some of those obscenities, they would have fallen over laughing.” McCambridge continued to discredit the performance while criticizing Friedkin’s directorial decisions—during the dub, she allegedly asked Friedkin why he made “[Linda] garble her words,” telling him it was difficult to match dialogue to Blair’s ineffectual mouthing. The Pazuzu actress also divulged that, merely twenty minutes before the NYT interview began, she’d put her father’s crucifix to her forehead: “It was ice-cold, and I thought, God has deserted me.”
The piece then changed track to interview Blair—and it’s the kind of tonal whiplash that, say, switching from a Bergman chamber drama to New York Minute would be. Compared to McCambridge, who talks of “swallowing 18 raw eggs” and having the film crew tear up sheets to bind her with, Blair came across as youthfully candid and untouched by the experience. “I never gave a thought to the effect all this would have later,” the teen commented. “I knew Mercedes would dub [my lines]. And I haven’t had any emotional problems afterwards.” What she would’ve liked to act in next? Something involving horses. Perhaps a remake of Elizabeth Taylor’s National Velvet.
(The implicit vilification of Blair. She believes in devils!)
When the Screen Actors Guilds intervened, Warner Bros relented and McCambridge was credited in the film’s later prints.
Still, on February 24, Friedkin threw his hat into the NYT ring, appearing in a piece entitled “Three Movie Men Tell Their Side of the Story.” It was mostly damage control, an effort to salvage the reputation of Blair’s performance. Five days earlier, The Exorcist garnered 10 Oscar nominations, sharing the distinction of being the most nominated film with Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s The Sting (1973). In his section, Friedkin downplayed the importance of McCambridge’s performance; just as Blair’s was augmented by special effects and cameramen, the veteran actress had her voice electronically distorted and patchworked with Blair’s and (in one sequence) the director’s. He stated that McCambridge initially didn’t care about whether or not she was credited, and that because he valued her work, he “took it upon [himself] to prepare a solo credit,” but had been overruled by Warner Bros’ legal deparment. Weeks before McCambridge’s story appeared in the Times, the legal department changed their minds and permitted her to be included in the cast list. (And yet, despite their alleged change of heart, McCambridge had to bring the film studio to court.) Friedkin then got personal and called the McCambridge piece an “outrageous attempt to detract from Linda Blair’s protrayal and push [Mercedes] in the spotlight…the most unjustifiable and unprofessional action [he’d] ever encountered as a filmmaker.”
Eileen Dietz, Blair’s double, who is mentioned in the video above, tried to sue Warner Bros for her own credit but was unsuccessful. She was involved in scenes where Regan pukes and fistfights, as well as others that Blair omitted during the press tour.
At the Oscars, Blair lost to the other child actor in her category, Tatum O’Neal. A remake of National Velvet never came to fruition, though she would later share the screen with Richard Burton—by then a pearl in Taylor’s string of ex-husbands—in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977). Six months after the sequel’s release, Blair was arrested along with 31 other individuals (including the two children of a Florida state senator) for a drug investigation after $3 million in cocaine was seized in Florida and Texas. Her career would mostly consist of B-movies and exploitation flicks, and she’d make her return to TV as an ostensible guest star on numerous shows.
Linda Blair following her Oscar nomination for The Exorcist. New York Times, October 5, 1975
— Louella Parsons. Modern Screen, May 1958