Barbara Herzstein in Hollywood, California, 5 February 1948.
Lived with the actor David Carradine, 1969–75, one son (Free, who
changed his name to Tom at age nine); married Stephen Douglas, 1992
Attended Hollywood High School.
1966–67—regular on TV series
; 1968—made screen debut in
With Six You Get Eggroll
; 1973—changed name to Barbara Seagull, a name she kept for two
years; 1979—in TV mini-series
A Man Called Intrepid
From Here to Eternity
; 1993—in TV mini-series
Return to Lonesome Dove
Best Actress, Cannes Festival, for
, 1987; Co-Best Actress, Cannes Festival, for
A World Apart
, 1988; Emmy Award, Best Dramatic Actress, for
A Killing in a Small Town
Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA
(as Barbara Hershey)
With Six You Get Eggroll (Morris) (as Stacey Iverson); Yours, Mine and Ours (Shavelson)
Heaven with a Gun (Katzin) (as Leloopa); Last Summer (Perry) (as Sandy)
The Liberation of L. B. Jones (Wyler) (as Nella Mundine); The Baby Maker (Bridges) (as Tish Gray)
The Pursuit of Happiness (Mulligan) (as Jane Kauffman)
Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (Williams) (as Susan); Boxcar Bertha (Scorsese) (title role)
Time to Run (Adamson)
(as Barbara Seagull)
The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder ( Vrooder's Hooch ) (Hiller) (as Zanni)
Love Comes Quietly ( Angela ) (van der Heyde) (as Angela); You and Me (Carradine); Diamonds (Golan) (as Sally)
(as Barbara Hershey)
Dirty Knight's Work ( Trial by Combat ; Choice of Weapons ) (Connor) (as Marion); The Last Hard Men (McLaglen) (as Susan Burgade); Flood! (Bellamy—for TV) (as Mary Cutler)
In the Glitter Palace (Butler—for TV) (as Ellen Lange); Just a Little Inconvenience (Flicker—for TV) (as Nikki Klausing); Sunshine Christmas (Glenn Jordan—for TV) (as Cody)
The Stunt Man (Rush) (as Nina Franklin); Angel on My Shoulder (Berry—for TV) (as Julie)
Take This Job and Shove It (Trikonis) (as J. M. Halstead); Americana (Carradine—produced in 1973) (as Jess's daughter)
The Entity (Furie) (as Carla Moran); The Right Stuff (Kaufman) (as Glennis Yeager)
The Natural (Levinson) (as Harriet Bird)
My Wicked, Wicked Ways . . . The Legend of Errol Flynn (Taylor—for TV) (as Lili Damita); Passion Flower (Sargent—for TV) (as Julia Maitland)
Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen) (as Lee); Hoosiers ( Best Shot ) (Anspaugh) (as Myra Fleener)
Tin Men (Levinson) (as Nora); Shy People (Konchalovsky) (as Ruth Sullivan)
A World Apart (Menges) (as Diana Roth); The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese) (as Mary Magdalene); Beaches (Garry Marshall) (as Hillary Whitney Essex)
Tune in Tomorrow ( Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter ) (Amiel) (as Aunt Julia); A Killing in a Small Town ( Evidence of Love ) (Gyllenhaal—for TV) (as Candy Morrison)
Paris Trout (Gyllenhaal—for TV) (as Hanna Trout); Defenseless (Campbell) (as T. K. Katwuller); Julia Has Two Lovers (Shbib)
The Public Eye (Franklin) (as Kay Levitz); Stay the Night (Winer—for TV) (as Jimmie Sue Finger)
Swing Kids (Carter) (as Frau Muller); Falling Down (Schumacher) (as Beth); Splitting Heirs (Robert Young) (as Duchess Lucinda); A Dangerous Woman (Gyllenhaal) (as Aunt Frances)
Abraham (Sargent—for TV) (as Sarah)
Last of the Dogmen (Murphy) (as Lillian Sloan)
The Pallbearer (Reeves); Portrait of a Lady (Campion) (Madame Serena Merle)
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (Ivory) (as Marcella Willis); Frogs for Snakes (Poe) (as Eva); The Staircase (Arthur) (as Mother Madalyn)
Drowning on Dry Land (Colpaert); Breakfast of Champions (Rudolph) (as Celia Hoover); Passion (Duncan) (as Rose)
Interview, in Look Magazine (New York), 3 November 1970.
"Barbara Hershey," interview with L. Geller, in Interview (New York), March 1986.
"The Fall and Rise of Barbara Hershey," interview with Ron Rosenbaum, in American Film (Washington, D.C.), May 1986.
Interview with Jeff Silverman, in Chicago Tribune , 22 March 1987.
Interview with Myra Forsberg, in New York Times , 29 March 1987.
"20 Questions: Barbara Hershey," interview with D. Rensin, in Playboy (Chicago), May 1987.
"Stretching Out," interview with M. Gray, in Photoplay Movies & Video (London), August 1987.
Interview with Mike Downey, in GQ (New York), November 1987.
Interview, in Film Directions (London), vol. 9, no. 34, 1988.
"The Portrait of a Hollywood Lady," interview with L. Grobel, in Movieline (Escondido), November 1996.
"The Lady Vanquishes. Call Me Madame," interview with Geoff Andrew, in Time Out (London), 12 February 1997.
"La vedette de la semaine," in Ciné Revue (Brussels), 25 June 1987.
Kearney, Jill, in American Film (New York), December 1987.
Gray, M., "Barbara Hershey," in Photoplay Movies & Video (London), March 1988.
Canby, Vincent, "Stardom Seen in Light of the 80's," in New York Times , 17 July 1988.
"Fanfair—Hershey Bliss," in Vanity Fair (New York), October 1988.
Current Biography 1989 , New York, 1989.
Drucker, Elizabeth, " Paris Trout : Barbara Hershey Is Not Herself," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), April 1991.
Clements, Marcelle, "Decent Exposure," in Premiere (New York), October 1993.
Hemple, H. S., filmography in Premiere (New York), October 1993.
* * *
Barbara Hershey is a generally fine actress who, too often, has been wasted in films not worthy of her talents. Her critical reputation was resuscitated in the late 1980s when she accomplished the feat of winning back-to-back Best Actress prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.
Hershey was a gifted drama student at Hollywood High School when she obtained a talent agent through a teacher. The good-looking 17-year-old brunette quickly found regular work on the television series The Monroes , and later in other small-screen shows before making her big-screen debut as Brian Keith's possessive daughter in the Doris Day comedy With Six You Get Eggroll .
In 1969, Hershey played the first important lead of her career as Sandy in Last Summer , Frank Perry's artful and controversial study of four upper-class teenagers idling away a summer in a beach community. Here, Hershey was cast as a vivacious, willful beauty who manipulates her two male friends and taunts a plain-looking, less sexually experienced female. Observed the Variety critic, "Barbara Hershey has the sexual provocativeness and hoydenishness that is not calmed by any perceptive maturity."
Another significant early role for Hershey came in Martin Scorsese's first studio production, Boxcar Bertha . In this low-budget drama about the Great Depression, shot in 24 days in Arkansas, she appears in the title role, an orphaned vagrant who hops one freight train after another with her derelict lover, an embittered ex-labor agitator (David Carradine) and his band of train robbers. In retrospect, given the director with whom she was working, Hershey's presence becomes notable and even historic, but at the time of its release the movie was criticized as being excessively violent and was not a success.
In the 1970s, when Hershey was an attractive young actress who should have been peaking in popularity, her marketability was limited. This was partly because she had acquired a reputation as a hippie, which, in the eyes of many industry powers and moviegoers, meant she was flaky. Hershey was a flower-child, living out-of-wedlock with David Carradine and naming their baby boy "Free." She had changed her own name to Barbara Seagull sometime after the making of Last Summer , during which she accidentally was involved in the killing of a seagull. Furthermore, she put off audiences by taking roles considered outrageous. For instance, in The Baby Maker , Hershey played a nonconformist hired to be impregnated by a man whose wife was sterile. And so, for the rest of the decade, she appeared mainly in minor and forgettable projects.
Then in 1980, director Richard Rush chose her for the outstanding black comedy The Stunt Man . This bit of casting took Hershey out of the second-rate ingenue roles to which she had been relegated, and placed her in her first womanly part. She played a quirky motion picture actress who appears to give her heart to a fugitive Vietnam veteran hiding on a set, when she actually is having an affair with the film's egomaniacal director (Peter O'Toole). The Stunt Man received critical accolades, and has become something of a cult film. Hershey's performance may have been passed over or panned by the reviewers, but it nonetheless pulled her out of a casting rut.
Two years later began a string of interesting roles in significant films by leading directors. In The Right Stuff , she is the wife of astronaut Chuck Yeager; in The Natural , she is the personification of evil, an erotic mystery woman who comes on to baseball phenom Roy Hobbs, then shoots him and commits suicide. Her dark sexual appeal was exploited further in Hannah and Her Sisters , in which she plays the pivotal part of Lee, the girlfriend of a moody artist, who becomes the love object of her brother-in-law; and again in the black comedy Tin Men , where she appears as the wife of an aluminum siding salesman who is seduced by her husband's arch enemy. During the making of Boxcar Bertha , Hershey gave Martin Scorsese the idea of filming Nikos Kazantzakis's controversial novel The Last Temptation of Christ . When he made the film 16 years later, the filmmaker handed her the coveted role of Mary Magdalene. But for many fans of three-handkerchief weepies, Hershey's most dynamic role came playing opposite Bette Midler in the quintessential woman's film Beaches .
The apex of three decades of filmic output came for Hershey when she was awarded the Best Actress Prize at Cannes two consecutive years. In 1987 she earned the award for Shy People , playing the head of a backwoods bayou clan. The following year, she was recognized for a riveting performance as a political zealot dedicated to the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa in A World Apart .
Hershey's more notable recent roles have been as characters who are secondary to the film's primary focus: Michael Douglas's estranged wife in Falling Down ; a mystery woman opposite Joe Pesci in The Public Eye ; and Debra Winger's sister in A Dangerous Woman .
—Audrey E. Kupferberg