Lee Grant
Birth Date:
October 31, 1927
Birth Place:
New York, New York, USA
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“The 'Oscar' has endured because of our yearning for excellence. Getting one is like being appointed valedictorian from the bottom of the class. The 'outs' like me, get their moment to be 'in' for as long as it lasts.” Lee Grant

Academy Award and Emmy-winning American actress of film, television and stage, and a director who performed as a ballerina with New York's Metropolitan Opera when she was a little girl, Lee Grant made an auspicious film debut as a shoplifter in William Wyler's superb, “Detective Story” (1951), from which she took home a Cannes Film Festival Award and her first Oscar nomination. She originated the role in Sidney Kingsley's Broadway production of the same name in 1949 where her bright performance was handed a Critics Circle Award. Grant was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in 1950s, but made a strong comeback in the mid-1960s with her Emmy-winning turn as Stella Chernak in the TV series “Peyton Place” (1965-1966). By the time she had won her second Emmy Award in the NBC film “The Neon Ceiling” (1971), the attractive actress had experienced a resurgence in her film career thanks to her noteworthy performances in Norman Jewison's “In the Heat of the Night” (1967) and “The Landlord” (1970, earned a second Oscar nomination). She further built a good reputation when she picked up an Academy Award for her work in “Shampoo” (1975), where she played the supporting role of a Beverly Hills matron, and received her next nomination in “Voyage of the Damned” (1976). Her more recent credits include “Teachers” (1984), “Defending Your Life” (1991), “It's My Party” (1996), “Dr T and the Women” (2000), “Mulholland Dr.” (2001) and Henry Jaglom's “Going Shopping” (2005). On the small screen, she collected Emmy nominations for her roles in “Ransom for a Dead Man” (1971), “The Shape of Things” (1973), the short-lived series “Fay” (1975) and “Citizen Cohn” (1992).

Since the 1980s, Grant has concentrated more on her career as a director. Noted for her work in documentaries, she made her feature directorial debut with “Tell Me a Riddle” (1980) and was handed a Directors Guild of America Award for her work in the CBS TV-film “Nobody's Child” (1987). Other directorial credits include the Oscar winner “Down and Out in America” (1986), “Staying Together” (1989, netted a Deauville Film Festival nomination), “Say It, Fight It, Cure It” (1997), “Intimate Portrait” (2000-2004) and “... A Father... A Son... Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2005).

As of 1962, Grant has been married to producer Joseph Feury. She has a daughter, actress Dinah Manoff, from her previous marriage to playwright/screenwriter Arnold Manof (together from 1951 to 1960).

Dinah Manoff's Mom

Childhood and Family:

Lyova Haskell Rosenthal was born on October 31, 1927, in New York, New York. She later used the stage name Lee Grant, which is a combination of the two preeminent U.S. Civil War generals. Daughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants A. W. Rosenthal, an educator and real estate agent, and Witia, a teacher, she studied acting and dance throughout her childhood and received musical training from Juilliard. After graduating from high school in 1941, she won a scholarship to New York's Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, in which she trained as an actress with classmate Sanford Meisner. Later, she also attended the renowned Actors Studio in New York and studied directing at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California.

Lee was married to blacklisted screenwriter/playwright Arnold Manof from 1951 to 1960. The marriage produced one daughter, Dinah Manoff, an actress who was born on January 25, 1958, in New York, New York. Two years after her divorce, Lee tied the knot with producer Joseph Feury in 1962. Together, they established an independent film company in 1982.

The Neon Ceiling


Starting out as a child performer, Lee Grant made her stage debut when she was four years old in a show at the Metropolitan Opera. A ballerina, she joined the American Ballet Theater seven years later before making a switch to acting and trained at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Landing her first professional acting job as an understudy in a touring production of “Oklahoma” (1944), Grant was soon seen on the Broadway stage with a part in the 1948 production of “Joy to the World.” It was not until she was spotted by stage director Sidney Kingsley that the appealing beauty hit the big time. Brilliantly portraying a character in Kingsley's Broadway production of “Detective Story” (1949), she was handed a Critics Circle Award and created a reputation for herself as an impressive Broadway talent.

The success put Grant on the radar of film producers and directors in Hollywood and in 1951 she was hired to reprise her breakthrough stage role for the big screen version of the same name. Directed by William Wyler, the film was a huge critical success and received four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Supporting Actress for Grant. The role also brought the actress a Cannes Film Festival for Best Actress and a Golden Globe nomination. Unfortunately for Grant, she was blacklisted after she refused too testify against husband Arnold Manoff, who had already been blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. This subsequently set her career back.

Grant returned to New York and found herself working in such TV programs as the daytime soap opera “Search for Tomorrow” (1953-1954) and in stage productions like “A Hole in the Head” (1957) and “Two for the Seesaw” (1959). She also sporadically appeared in films such as Cornel Wilde's “Storm Fears” (1955) and the based-on-play “Middle of the Night” (1959). In 1963, she won an Obie award for her stage performance in the Off-Broadway production of “The Maids,” by Jean Genet. After the praised performance, Grant received a revival on television when she was hired as a cast member of the primetime soap “Peyton Place,” playing Stella Chernak from 1965 to 1966. She netted an Emmy in 1966 for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama for her work on the series and was honored with an Emmy nomination for her guest role as Kay Gould in “The Gates of Cerberus,” a 1968 episode of “Judd for the Defense.”

After TV, Grant went on to revitalize her film career by nabbing a Golden Globe nomination for her scene-stealing role of the wife of a murder victim in the Norman Jewison-helmed “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), which collected five Academy Awards. 1967 also saw Grant appear in Bud Yarkin's comedy “Divorce American Style” and play a role in the Oscar nominee “Valley of the Dolls.” Grant further proved she was outstanding with her notable performances in the film “The Landlord” (1970), from which she netted a second Oscar nomination for her comic portrayal of Beau Bridges' society matron mom, and the NBC TV-film “The Neon Ceiling” (1971), where her starring turn as an escaped housewife and mother brought her an Emmy Award.

Grant costarred with Walter Matthau, Maureen Stapleton and Barbara Harris in “Plaza Suite” (1971), a comedy/drama adapted from Neil Simon's play, portrayed Mother Sophie Portnoy in Ernest Lehman's big screen version of Philip Roth's book “Portnoy's Complaint” (1972, opposite Richard Benjamin and Karen Black), as well as acted in several TV films, including “Ransom for a Dead Man” (1971, earned an Emmy nomination), “The Shape of Things” (1973, won an Emmy nomination) and “The Seagull” (1975), and headlined her own TV series, the short-lived sitcom “Fay” (1975), before becoming the center of attention with her Oscar-winning performance in Hal Ashby's “Shampoo” (1975), starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn. It was followed by a profoundly touching portrayal of a Jewish expatriate in the Stuart Rosenberg-directed drama “Voyage of the Damned” (1976) where she was handed an Oscar nomination for her work in the film.

The rest of the decade found Grant in such movies as “Airport '77” (1977), “Damien: Omen II” (1978), “The Swarm” (1978), “The Mafu Cage” (1978) and “When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder” (1979). On the small screen, after receiving an Emmy nomination for her series “Fay” (1975), she offered a good performance as First Lady Grace Coolidge in the NBC miniseries “Backstairs at the White House” (1979).

Grant, who had experience behind the camera as a director for the TV film “For the Use of the Hall” (1975) and the short film “The Stronger” (1976), started to focus more on her new career in the 1980s. With the release of “Tell Me a Riddle” (1980), a drama starring Melvyn Douglas and Lila Kedrova, the former student of the American Film Institute professionally emerged as a motion picture director. Subsequent projects included the acclaimed documentary “The Wilmar 8” (1981) and its TV film adaptation, “A Matter of Sex” (1984), “Down and Out in America” (1986), which won an Oscar for Best Documentary, Features, the comedy/film “Staying Together” (1989), from which she earned a Critics nomination from the Deauville Film Festival, and the CBS TV-film “No Place Like Home” (1989). Grant won a Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials for her direction in the fact-based drama “Nobody's Child” (CBS, 1987), which won star Marlo Thomas an Emmy Award.

In the meantime, Grant maintained her presence in front of the camera by making several TV movies, films and miniseries. For her costarring performance as Deborah Ballin, opposite Michael Ironside, in the horror/thriller film “Visiting Hours” (1982), she was nominated for a Genie for Best Performance by a Foreign Actress. She was also seen in the comedy/drama film “Teachers” (1984), with Nick Nolte, the CBS biopic “Will There Really Be a Morning?” (1983, as the mother of actress Frances Farmer) and Marilyn Klinghoffer in the Emmy-nominated drama “The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro” (1989).

During the 1990s, Grant continued alternating between directing and acting. After performing in Albert Brooks' “Defending Your Life” (1991) and the HBO biopic “Citizen Cohn” (1992), she returned to the director's chair in 1994 for the documentary “When Women Kill” and three TV films, including “Reunion” and “Seasons of the Heart.” Grant made her last film appearance of the decade in “It's My Party,” playing the mother of Eric Roberts, “The Substance of Fire” and “Under Heat” (all 1996) before directing the documentaries “Say It, Fight It, Cure It” (1997, also served as producer and host) and “Confronting the Crisis: Childcare in America” (1999).

Returning to film acting after nearly a four year absence, Grant appeared in the based-on-novel “Poor Liza” (2000), which was filmed in Moscow, Russia, had a prominent part as Dr. Harper in the Robert Altman-directed ensemble “Dr T and the Women” (2000), opposite Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern and Shelley Long, and portrayed Aunt Spendora in the drama “The Amati Girls” (2000), where her real-life daughter, Dinah Minoff, also acted in the film as Denise. The same year, she also helmed Kimberly Elise in the sport-themed TV film “The Loretta Claiborne Story.” Next, Grant was cast as Louise Bonner in “Mulholland Dr.” (2001), a drama/mystery film directed and written by David Lynch.

From 2000 to 2004, Grant directed the Lifetime documentary series “Intimate Portrait,” and went on to helm the 2005 documentary “... A Father... A Son... Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” The same year, she was also seen in “Going Shopping,” directed by Henry Jaglom. Among her costars in the drama/romance film were Victoria Foyt, Rob Morrow and Bruce Davison.


  • Hamptons International Film Festival: Distinguished Achievement, 1997

  • Laurel: Women in Film Crystal, 1988

  • Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials, “Nobody's Child,” 1987

  • Oscar: Best Actress in a Supporting Role, “Shampoo,” 1976

  • Emmy: Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, “The Neon Ceiling,” 1971

  • Emmy: Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama, “Peyton Place,”1966

  • OBIE: “The Maids,” 1963

  • Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, “Detective Story,” 1952

  • Critics Circle: “Detective Story,” 1948

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