As the co-star of the landmark Bonnie and Clyde, actress Faye Dunaway helped usher in a new golden era in American filmmaking, going on to appear in several of the greatest films of the 1970s. Born January 14, 1941, in Bascom, FL, Dunaway was the daughter of an army officer. She studied theater arts at the University of Boston and later joined the Lincoln Center Repertory Company under the direction of Elia Kazan and Robert Whitehead. Between 1962 and 1967, she appeared in a number of prominent stage productions, including A Man for All Seasons and Arthur Miller's After the Fall, playing a character based on Marilyn Monroe. Dunaway's breakthrough performance came in an off-Broadway production of Hogan's Goat, which resulted in a contract with director Otto Preminger. She made her film debut in his 1967 drama Hurry Sundown, but the two frequently clashed, and she refused to appear in his Skidoo; after a legal battle, Dunaway was allowed to buy out the remainder of her contract, and she then starred in The Happening (1967).
Still, Dunaway was virtually unknown when she accepted the role of the notorious gangster Bonnie Parker opposite Warren Beatty in Arthur Penn's 1967 crime saga Bonnie and Clyde. The picture was an unqualified success, one of the most influential films of the era, and she had become a star seemingly overnight, earning a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her sexy performance. Dunaway's next major role cast her with Steve McQueen in 1968's The Thomas Crown Affair, another major hit. However, her next several projects -- Amanti, a romance with Marcello Mastroianni, and the Kazan-directed The Arrangement -- stumbled, and although 1970's Little Big Man was a hit, Puzzle of a Downfall Child (directed by her fiancé, Jerry Schatzberg) was a disaster. Quickly, Dunaway was reduced to projects like the little-seen 1971 thriller La Maison Sous Les Arbres and the Western Doc. When they too failed, she retreated from films, first appearing on-stage in Harold Pinter's Old Times and then starring in the made-for-television The Woman I Love.
After portraying Blanche du Bois in a Los Angeles stage adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, Dunaway returned to the cinema in Stanley Kramer's 1973 drama Oklahoma Crude. Subsequent to her appearance in Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers, she made headlines for her marriage to rocker Peter Wolf and was then cast in Roman Polanski's 1974 noir Chinatown. The performance was her best since Bonnie and Clyde, scoring another Academy Award nomination, and the film itself remains a classic. The success of The Towering Inferno later that same year confirmed that Dunaway's star power had returned in full, and she next co-starred with Robert Redford in the well-received thriller Three Days of the Condor. In 1976, Dunaway starred as an ambitious television executive in Sidney Lumet's scathing black comedy Network, and on her third attempt she finally won an Oscar. A British feature, Voyage of the Damned, and a TV-movie, The Disappearance of Aimee, quickly followed, and in 1978 she starred in the much-maligned thriller The Eyes of Laura Mars.
After 1979's The Champ, Dunaway starred with Frank Sinatra in The First Deadly Sin. An over-the-top turn as Joan Crawford in the tell-all biopic Mommie Dearest followed in 1981, as did another biography, the TV feature Evita Peron. Her career was again slumping, a fate which neither the Broadway production of The Curse of an Aching Heart nor another telefilm, 1982's The Country Girl, helped to remedy. After 1984's Supergirl, Dunaway spent much of the decade on the small screen, appearing in a pair of miniseries -- Ellis Island and Christopher Columbus -- and in 1986 appearing as the titular Beverly Hills Madam. The 1987 feature Barfly found a cult audience, but almost without exception, Dunaway's subsequent films went unnoticed; even the 1990 Chinatown sequel The Two Jakes was a failure. In 1993, she starred in a short-lived sitcom, It Had to Be You, and continued to appear in little-seen projects. Dunaway's most prominent roles of the mid-'90s included a supporting turn as the wife of psychiatrist Marlon Brando in 1995's Don Juan DeMarco and as a barmaid/hostage in the directorial debut of actor Kevin Spacey, Albino Alligator (1996). In 1999, Dunaway gave a nod to her screen past with a cameo appearance in the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. That same year, she took on the more substantial role of Yolande d'Aragon in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.
As the new century began she had parts in The Yards and Festival in Cannes. In 2002 she had a part in the big-screen adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' The Rules of Attraction. She had a brief part in Tim Burton's Big Fish.
In 2005 she appeared for one season as the lead judge on the acting reality series The Starlet, where she repeated the painful catchphrase, "don't call us, we'll call you," every time a contestant was dismissed from the program.
She continued to work steadily in a variety of projects including Flick, Midnight Bayou, and 2010's A Family Thanksgiving.
~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi