The early 1970s were a great time for American movies, but one segment of the Hollywood population wasn't benefiting: actresses. The scarcity of roles for women was such that in 1975 there was speculation that Marilyn Hassett might necessarily be nominated for the best actress Oscar for her role in The Other Side of the Mountain; there were hardly five other lead performances by a woman that year. Remember that movie? Remember her? Louise Fletcher took the statue home in the end, for a performance in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest that in any other year would have been a supporting role.
So it was that Ellen Burstyn, following her performance as Regan's frantic mother in The Exorcist in '73, couldn't find work. Couldn't find work, that is, unless she was willing to play a caretaker for the leading man, a weak accessory to the leading man, in need of his protection, or a whore. In interviews at the time she said that she realized that the same was true in her own life: She made her husband's life easier, accessorized it, but wasn't this her life she was leading?
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