Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Virginia Cathryn "Gena" Rowlands (born June 19, 1930) is an American film, stage, and television actress, whose career in the entertainment industry has spanned over six decades. A four-time Emmy and two-time Golden Globe winner, she is known for her collaborations with her late actor-director husband John Cassavetes in ten films, including A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980), which earned her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won the Silver Bear for Best Actress for Opening Night (1977). In November 2015, Rowlands received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of her unique screen performances.
Rowlands was born as Virginia Cathryn Rowlands in Madison, Wisconsin. Her mother, Mary Allen (Neal), was a housewife who later worked as an actress under the stage name Lady Rowlands. Her father, Edwin Myrwyn Rowlands, was a banker and state legislator. He was a member of the Wisconsin Progressive Party, and was of Welsh descent. She had a brother, David Rowlands.
Her family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1939, when Edwin was appointed to a position in the United States Department of Agriculture; moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1942, when he was appointed as branch manager of the Office of Price Administration; and later moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. From 1947-50, she attended the University of Wisconsin, where she was a popular student already renowned for her beauty. She left for New York City to study drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
In the early 1950s, Rowlands performed with repertory theatre companies and at the Provincetown Playhouse. She made her Broadway debut in The Seven Year Itch and toured in a national production of the play. Rowlands costarred with Paul Stewart in the 26-episode syndicated TV series Top Secret (1954-55), and she guest starred on such anthology television series as Robert Montgomery Presents, Appointment with Adventure, Kraft Television Theatre, and Studio One (1955). In 1956, she starred in Middle of the Night opposite Edward G. Robinson. She appeared alongside husband Cassavetes on an episode ("Fly Baby, Fly") of the 1959-60 NBC detective series Johnny Staccato. She also appeared on an episode of the NBC western series, Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin, and the ABC adventure series, The Islanders, set in the South Pacific. Rowlands made her film debut in The High Cost of Loving in 1958.
In 1961-62, she starred as Teddy Carella, the deaf-mute wife of Robert Lansing, on NBC's 87th Precinct. In that same season, she appeared on ABC's Target: The Corruptors!, starring Stephen McNally. She also guest starred in CBS's The Lloyd Bridges Show and ABC's Breaking Point. In 1963, she guest-starred in an episode on the NBC western series, Bonanza and The Virginian, and "The Lonely Hours" and "Ride The Nightmare" on CBS's The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. In 1967, she was cast as socialite Adrienne Van Leyden in the prime time ABC soap opera Peyton Place.
Rowlands and Cassavetes made ten films together: A Child is Waiting (1963), Faces (1968), Machine Gun McCain (1969), Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), A Woman Under the Influence (1974; nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress), Two-Minute Warning (1976), Opening Night (1977), Gloria (1980; nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress), Tempest (1982), and Love Streams (1984).
According to Boston University film scholar Ray Carney, Rowlands sought to suppress an early version of Cassavetes' first film, Shadows, that Carney says he rediscovered after decades of searching. Rowlands also became involved in the screenings of Husbands and Love Streams, according to Carney. The UCLA Film and Television Archive mounted a restoration of Husbands, as it was pruned down (without Cassavetes' consent, and in violation of his contract) by Columbia Pictures several months after its release, in an attempt to restore as much of the removed content as possible. At Rowlands' request, UCLA created an alternative print with almost ten minutes of content edited out, as Rowlands felt that these scenes were in poor taste. The alternative print is the only one that has been made available for rental.
In 1985, Rowlands played the mother in the critically acclaimed made-for-TV movie An Early Frost. She won an Emmy for her portrayal of former First Lady of the United States Betty Ford in the 1987 made-for-TV movie The Betty Ford Story.
In 1988, Rowlands starred in Woody Allen's dramatic film Another Woman. She played Marion Post, a middle-aged professor who is prompted to a journey of self-discovery when she overhears the therapy sessions of another woman (Mia Farrow). The review in Time Out described the character's trajectory: "Marion gets to thinking, and is appalled to realise that so many assumptions about her own life and marriage are largely unfounded: in her desire for a controlled existence, she has evaded the emotional truth about relationships with her best friend (Sandy Dennis), brother (Harris Yulin) and husband (Ian Holm)." Time Out praised the "marvellous" performances in the film, adding, "Rowlands' perfectly pitched approach to a demanding role is particularly stunning." Film4 called her performance "sublime", while Roger Ebert noted that it marked a considerable change in tone from her work with Cassavetes, thus showing "how good an actress Rowlands has been all along."
In 2002, Rowlands appeared in Mira Nair's HBO movie Hysterical Blindness, for which she won her third Emmy. She was later seen in The Notebook (2004), which was directed by her son Nick Cassavetes. The same year, she won her first Daytime Emmy for her role as Mrs. Evelyn Ritchie in The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie. In 2005, she appeared opposite Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Hurt in the gothic thriller The Skeleton Key.
In 2007, she played a supporting role opposite Parker Posey and Melvil Poupaud in Broken English, an independent American feature written and directed by her daughter Zoe Cassavetes. In 2009, she appeared on an episode of Monk ("Mr. Monk and the Lady Next Door"). On March 2, 2010, she appeared on an episode of NCIS as lead character Leroy Jethro Gibbs's former mother-in-law, who is embroiled in a murder investigation. In 2014, she starred in the film adaptation of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.
Rowlands was married to John Cassavetes from April 9, 1954, until his death on February 3, 1989. They met at the American Academy at Carnegie Hall where they were both students. They had three children, all actor-directors: Nick, Alexandra, and Zoe. Rowlands married retired businessman Robert Forrest in 2012.
Rowlands has stated that she was a big fan of actress Bette Davis while growing up. She played Davis's daughter in Strangers.
Rowlands has been nominated for two Academy Awards, eight Emmy Awards, one Daytime Emmy, eight Golden Globes, three Satellite Awards, and one SAG Award. Some of her notable wins are a Silver Bear for Best Actress; three Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy; two Golden Globes; two National Board of Review Awards; two Satellite Awards; and one Prize San Sebastián.
In January 2015, Rowlands was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association At the 2015 Governors Awards she received an Honorary Academy Award. The press release described Rowland as "an original talent" whose "devotion to her craft has earned her worldwide recognition as an independent film icon".
|1958||The High Cost of Loving||Jenny Fry|
|1959||Shadows||Woman in Nightclub Audience||Uncredited|
|1959||Laramie - The Run to Tumavaca||Laurel DeWalt|
|1962||Lonely Are the Brave||Jerry Bondi|
|1962||Spiral Road, TheThe Spiral Road||Els|
|1963||Child Is Waiting, AA Child Is Waiting||Sophie Widdicombe Benham|
|1967||Tony Rome||Rita Kosterman|
|1969||Machine Gun McCain||Rosemary Scott||Also known as Gli intoccabili|
|1971||Minnie and Moskowitz||Minnie Moore|
|1974||Woman Under the Influence, AA Woman Under the Influence||Mabel Longhetti||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
San Sebastián International Film Festival Prize for Best Actress
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
|1975||Columbo: Playback||Elizabeth Van Wick|
|1977||Opening Night||Myrtle Gordon||Silver Bear for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
|1978||Brink's Job, TheThe Brink's Job||Mary Pino|
|1978||A Question of Love||Linda Ray Guettner|
|1979||Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter||Abigail Mason|
|1980||Gloria||Gloria Swenson||Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
|1982||Faerie Tale Theatre||The Witch|
|1983||Thursday's Child||Victoria Alden||Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film|
|1984||Love Streams||Sarah Lawson||Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Actress|
|1985||Early Frost, AnAn Early Frost||Katherine Pierson||Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film
|1987||Light of Day||Jeanette Rasnick|
|1987||Betty Ford Story, TheThe Betty Ford Story||Betty Ford||Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film
|1988||Another Woman||Marion Post|
|1989||I'm Almost Not Crazy: John Cassavetes, the Man and His Work||Herself|
|1991||Once Around||Marilyn Bella|
|1991||Night on Earth||Victoria Snelling|
|1991||Ted & Venus||Mrs. Turner|
|1991||Face of a Stranger||Pat Foster||Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie|
|1992||Crazy in Love||Honora Swift||Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film|
|1993||Silent Cries||Peggy Sutherland|
|1993||Anything for John||Herself|
|1994||Parallel Lives||Francie Pomerantz|
|1995||Something to Talk About||Georgia King|
|1995||Neon Bible, TheThe Neon Bible||Mae Morgan|
|1996||Unhook the Stars||Mildred 'Millie' Hawks||Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role|
|1997||She's So Lovely||Miss Jane Green|
|1998||Hope Floats||Ramona Calvert||Lone Star Film & Television Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1998||Mighty, TheThe Mighty||Gram|
|1998||Playing by Heart||Hannah|
|1999||Weekend, TheThe Weekend||Laura Ponti||Nominated — Seattle International Film Festival Citation of Excellence for Ensemble Cast Performance|
|2000||Light Keeps Me Company||Herself - interviewee|
|2000||The Color of Love: Jacey's Story||Georgia Porter||Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film
|2001||Wild Iris||Minnie Brinn||Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie|
|2002||Charms for the Easy Life||Ms. Charlie Kate|
|2003||Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There||Herself|
|2003||Hysterical Blindness||Virginia Miller||Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|2004||The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie||Evelyn Ritchie||Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children/Youth/Family Special|
|2004||Taking Lives||Mrs. Asher|
|2004||The Notebook||Old Allie Calhoun||Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture|
|2005||Skeleton Key, TheThe Skeleton Key||Violet Devereaux||Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|2006||Paris, je t'aime||Gena||(segment "Quartier Latin")|
|2007||Broken English||Vivien Wilder-Mann|
|2007||Persepolis||Marjane's grandmother||Voice role, English dubbed version|
|2007||What If God Were the Sun?||Melissa Eisenbloom||Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
|2009||Monk||Marge Johnson||Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series|
|2011||Olive||Tess M Powell|
|2013||Parts Per Billion||Esther|
|2014||Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks||Lily Harrison|