Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe winning American actress and writer Katherine Ross was thrust into the spotlight playing Elaine Robinson, the object of Benjamin Braddock's (Dustin Hoffman) romantic obsession, in “The Graduate” (1967), directed by Mike Nichols. For her performance, she was handed her first Golden Globe Award and a nomination at the Oscars. Ross continued to gain recognition by receiving BAFTA awards for her work in the films “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (both 1969), and a Golden Scroll award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for her acting in “The Stepford Wives” (1975). She picked up her next Golden Globe Award for “Voyage of the Damned” (1976), in which she offered the scene-stealing portrayal of a Jewish refugees' hooker daughter. However, her budding stardom seemed to decrease after the misfire “The Legacy” (1979), her first project with actor Sam Elliott, whom she later married. They co-won a Western Heritage award for their collaboration in the made-for-TV film “Conagher” (1991), which they starred in and wrote together. Ross' more recent film projects include “Home Before Dark” (1997), “Donnie Darko” (2001) and “Eye of the Dolphin” (2007).
Apart from her film and television work, Ross is known as the author of the children books “My Favorite Things” and “Little Ballerina.”
Ross has spent her life outside the limelight with her husband of over two decades, Sam Elliott, and their daughter, Cleo Rose Elliott. Her love life was once linked to cinematographer Conrad L. Hall (together in the late 1960s to early 1970s), who worked with Ross in the films “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
Childhood and Family:
Katharine Juliet Ross was born in Hollywood, California, on January 29, 1940, when her father was in the Navy. Her family later settled in Walnut Creek, California, which is east of San Francisco. Since the late 1960s, Katherine has resided in Malibu, California. She attended Santa Rosa College in Santa Rosa, California, and was trained at the San Francisco Workshop.
In 1984, Katherine married actor Sam Elliott (born on August 9, 1944). They welcomed their first child together, daughter Cleo Rose Elliott, in 1985.
Voyage of the Damned
Katharine Ross joined the San Francisco Workshop in 1962 and then appeared in a stage production of “The Devil's Disciple” at The Balcony Theater before emerging as a TV actress. She debuted as Teresa Parrelli on an episode of the NBC series “Sam Benedict” (1962) and followed the performance with a series of guest roles in series like “The Lieutenant” (1963), “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (1963), “Arrest and Trial” (1964), “Gunsmoke” (1964, 1965) and “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre” (1965). Her first film role arrived in 1965 when director Andrew V. McLaglen hired her to portray the daughter-in-law of James Stewart in “Shenandoah,” a Western that earned an Oscar nomination for Best Sound.
Following a few more guest stints and appearances in such movies as Debbie Reynolds' “The Singing Nun” (1966) and the Curtis Harrington directed “Games” (1967), opposite James Caan and Simone Signoret, Ross attracted wide public attention with her Academy Award nominated performance of Elaine Robinson in director Mike Nichols' “The Graduate” (1967). As a college student who finds out her mother (played by Anne Bancroft) and boyfriend (played by Dustin Hoffman) had an affair, she also won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer-Female and a Golden Laurel for Best Female Supporting Performance.
Ross' subsequent movie performances further cemented her status as a promising star. In the action adventure “Hellfighters” (1968), she memorably portrayed the daughter of John Wayne, Tish Buckman, while her role of Lola, Willie Boy's (played by Robert Blake) love interest in “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here,” won the actress a BAFTA for Best Actress in 1971. The latter film marked the blacklisted director Abraham Polonsky’s first project in 21 years. Ross worked again with “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here” costar Robert Redford in George Roy Hill's “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (also 1969), which saw her cast in perhaps her best known role as schoolteacher Etta Place. Also costarring with Paul Newman, she took home another BAFTA in 1971 for Best Actress.
Although many of her following film projects were in sub-standard features, Ross managed to give an impact to most of her performances. In 1972, she costarred with Tom Smothers and John Astin in Brian De Palma's “Get to Know Your Rabbit” (1972) and was a standout as a murder suspect in the modern mystery “They Only Kill Their Masters” (1972), opposite James Garner. Ross then netted the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films' Golden Scroll for her starring role of Joanna Ingalls Eberhart, a suburban housewife who discovers an awful secret about her community, in the sci-fi horror film “The Stepford Wives” (1975), which was directed by Brian Forbes. She was then seen as the prostitute daughter of Jewish refugees in the dramatic film “Voyage of the Damned,” starring Faye Dunaway and Oskar Werner. The role brought Ross a 1977 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role.
Still in 1976, Ross recreated her role of Etta Place for the ABC television film “Wanted: The Sundance Woman.” She then appeared as Rosa Mastrangelo in the miniseries “Roots of the Mafia” and returned to the big screen in 1978 with roles in “The Betsy,” opposite acting legend Sir Laurence Olivier, “The Swarm,” with Michael Caine, and the misfire “The Legacy,” alongside future husband Sam Elliott. She closed out the decade by starring as the faithless wife in the TV film “Murder by Natural Causes” (1979).
After supporting Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen in 1980's “The Final Countdown,” in which she portrayed the secretary of an American Senator in the 1940s, Ross focused her acting career on television. She rejoined Elliot for the NBC miniseries “Murder in Texas” (1981), playing the second wife of a Houston plastic surgeon who may have been involved in the death of his first wife, starred in the TV film version of “Wait Until Dark” (1982), based on a play by Frederick Knott, and teamed up with Tom Selleck and Elliott for the Western television movie “The Shadow Riders” (1982). From 1985 to 1987, she played the regular role of Francesca on the ABC primetime soap opera “The Colbys.”
Returning to film after 1986's “Red Headed Stranger,” Ross costarred as Grace Hines, opposite John Beck, in the independent drama “A Climate for Killing” in 1991. She subsequently revisited TV with the TNT film “Conagher” (1991), based on a novel by Louis L'Amour. Ross and her husband costarred and co-wrote the project and jointly netted a Western Heritage's Bronze Wrangler for Television Feature Film in 1992. She then disappeared from the public eye for several years until she was cast as Rose in the festival screened “Home Before Dark” (1997).
In 2001, Ross delivered a strong portrayal of the main character's psychiatrist in the cult film “Donnie Darko,” which starred Jake Gyllenhaal. She followed it up with a costarring role in the festival screened “Don't Let Go” in 2002 and a featured role in the unsold TV pilot “Capital City” in 2004. Her latest film, the independent drama “Eye of the Dolphin,” was released in the U.S. on August 24, 2007. Previously, it had been screened at several festivals, including the 2006 Bahamas International Film Festival and the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival in the U.S.
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Television Feature Film, “Conagher,” 1992
Golden Boot: 1990
Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role, “Voyage of the Damned,” 1977
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Golden Scroll, Best Actress, “The Stepford Wives,” 1976
BAFTA: Best Actress, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1971
BAFTA: Best Actress, “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here,” 1971
Golden Globe: Most Promising Newcomer - Female, “The Graduate,” 1968
Golden Laurel: Female Supporting Performance, “The Graduate,” 1968