Mercedes McCambridge won her Oscar for playing the hard-boiled and conniving political aide in "All the King's Men," which also won an Academy Award for best picture and a best actor Oscar for Broderick Crawford as the corrupt Southern governor Willie Stark.
A versatile, radio-trained character actress with a strong, resonant voice, McCambridge specialized in playing forceful, domineering characters on screen.
Orson Welles, who once called McCambridge "the world's finest radio actress," was the person who talked her into doing her most unusual role: providing the guttural voice of the demon that possessed young Linda Blair in the 1973 film "The Exorcist."
"I didn't think I wanted to do it," McCambridge told the Hartford Courant in 1993, "and Orson said, 'Listen, you began in radio. This is a 100% radio performance. You go ahead and do it.' And I'm awfully glad I did. I loved it."
She was born in Joliet, Ill., on St. Patrick's Day in 1916, although most references list her birth date as 1918, and grew up on the family farm in Blackstone, Ill., until attending Catholic high school in Chicago.
While majoring in English and theater at Mundelein College in Chicago in 1936, she caught the attention of NBC Radio's Chicago program director and was signed to a five-year-contract.
On radio, she played roles on "Inner Sanctum," "Dick Tracy," "Bulldog Drummond, "The Thin Man" and many other programs.
"I was all the women on 'I Love a Mystery,' " she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1992. "Sometimes, in the same episode, I would not only be two women arguing with one another, but also a third woman trying to break up the argument."
After graduating with honors from college in 1937, she lived briefly in Mexico, then moved to California and, in 1942, to New York, where she continued to work in radio.
She made her Broadway debut in 1945 in "A Place of Our Own," which closed after eight performances. After two more flops on Broadway, she opened in the 1948 drama "The Young and Fair" but withdrew at the end of the first week to leave for Hollywood to make "All the King's Men."
|1949||Best Supporting Actress||All the King's Men||Win|
|1956||Best Supporting Actress||Giant||Nomination|