Oscar Winner Louise Fletcher Dies, Aged 88

Louise Fletcher

by James White |
Published on

Louise Fletcher, who brought to life one of the most famous villains in movie history — One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest's Nurse Ratched – has died. She was 88.

The versatile Fletcher, though, was responsible for a variety memorable performances beyond that Oscar-winning role.

Born in 1934 in Birmingham, Alabama, Fletcher grew up as a hearing child with deaf parents — and used sign language to include them in her Academy Award acceptance speech. She and her siblings went to stay with a hearing aunt for a year and some subsequent summers, to fine-tune their speech. The relative introduced her to acting and it lit a fire within the young Fletcher.

After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles and began scoring guest spots on shows including Bat Masterson, Maverick, The Untouchables and 77 Sunset Strip.

While her TV career blossomed, she initially appeared in one movie, 1963's A Gathering of Eagles before deciding she needed to focus on her family for a time. Robert Altman lured her back to acting for 1974's Thieves Like Us, which in turn led Milos Foreman to consider her for the role of Ratched in the 1975 drama.

The result was a huge success at the box office and in terms of the Oscars, but that didn't necessarily lead to the most fruitful period of Fletcher's career, and she followed it up with the likes of Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Cheap Detective, The Lady In Red, Brainstorm, though she had more luck with Blue Steel and Cruel Intentions.

She had more luck on the small screen, winning plaudits for her performance as the strict mother of Karen and Richard Carpenter in the 1989 TV-movie The Karen Carpenter Story. And Star Trek fans will always remember her as the calculating Kai Winn from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Elsewhere, she scored an Emmy nomination for playing the estranged mother of the town mayor (played by fellow Oscar winner Marlee Matlin) on Picket Fences and was nominated again for her role as an elderly music teacher on a 2004 episode of Joan Of Arcadia.

Fletcher would go on to reoccur on the US version of Shameless as the meth-cooking mother of William H. Macy’s Frank Gallagher, and made her final TV appearance on the 2017 Netflix comedy Girlboss.

The actor died in her sleep at the French farmhouse she owned, and our thoughts are with her family.

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