Tag Archives: Hope Lange

Hope Lange–Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, v. 7 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006), p. 323-324

Hope Lange [DRAFT]

Lange, Hope (b. 28 November 1933 in West Redding, Connecticut; d. 19 December 2003 in Santa Monica, California), Emmy Award-winning actress, Academy Award nominee and humanitarian.

Hope Elise Ross Lange was the second of four children, and the cousin of Dorothea Lange, the photographer. Lange’s father, Lange, worked as a cellist, composer and music arranger for Florenz Ziegfeld while her mother, Minette von Buddecke Lange, was an actress and, later, a restaurateur.

John Lange worked in New York City so the family moved to Greenwich Village. When John died in 1942, Minnette opened a restaurant on MacDougal Street, “Minnette of Washington Square.” The restaurant became a center for the artistic community as Minnette fed struggling performers in return for their performing in the restaurant.

Lange made her acting debut at the age of 9 in the production of The Patriots (1943) at the National Theatre in New York City. At 14, Lange studied dance with Martha Graham. While attending Lodge High School, Lange modeled. Her lithe, naturally athletic figure and blond hair made her an excellent subject. Lange went to college for two years, first at Reed College in Portland, Oregon and then at Barmore Junior College in New York City.

It was at Barmore that Lange met her first husband, actor Don Murray. Lange never took her acting career seriously until she met Murray. Murray got Lange an understudy job in the play, The Hot Corner (1956) in which he starred. Lange’s break came in the Kraft Television Theatre episode “Snapfinger Creek” (1956). Director Josh Logan saw her and cast her in Bus Stop (1956) with Murray and Marilyn Monroe.

Murray and Lange were married on 16 April 1956 in a municipal court ceremony. Though raised a Christian Scientist, Lange never accepted all of its tenets but remained a spiritual person throughout her life.

Murray, a conscientious objector, became involved with homeless refugees in Italy when he was sent there during the Korean War. The refugees, from the Iron Curtain countries and Spain, were kept in prison camp-like conditions. They could not easily assimilate because of illiteracy, infirmities and/or disabilities. Determined to help, Lange and Murray joined with Belden Paulson in founding the Homeless European Land Program (HELP). HELP set up a free community for the refugees on the island of Sardinia. HELP served as a model for the United Nations for resettlement of refugees and it also influenced the creation of the Peace Corps.

Lange and Murray performed two benefits for HELP: a Playhouse 90 episode, “For I Have Loved Strangers” (1957) and an episode of This is Your Life honoring Paulson. The Playhouse 90 benefit was sabotaged by CBS executives who refused to air the phone number for donations, so Lange and Murray donated their salaries from the performance.

Lange achieved critical acclaim in Peyton Place (1957). She played Selena Cross, a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks who was raped by her stepfather and accused of his murder. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Their first child, Christopher Paton, was born in 1957. Lange and Christopher accompanied Murray to Ireland while he filmed A Hatful of Rain. Their daughter, Patricia Elda, was born there in 1958. Lange starred in The Young Lions (1958) and The Best of Everything (1959). During this time, Lange and Murray lived in Beverly Hills in a sparsely furnished home. From 1956 to 1958, Lange donated most of her salary to HELP.

Lange and Murray divorced 7 July 1961. She moved to Westwood with the children. On 19 October 1963, Lange married Alan J. Pakula and moved to Brentwood. Lange retired from acting.

While at a cocktail party, Lange heard about a new television series. NBC needed someone to play a widow raising two children and working as a writer who is haunted by a sea captain’s ghost. Lange agreed to read the script—and fell in love with the part. For her portrayal of Carolyn Muir in the television sitcom The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1968-1970), Lange won two Emmys. She also became close friends with co-star Charles Nelson Reilly.

Lange managed to keep former suitors and ex-husbands as friends long after the romances had ended. Regular visitors to her home included Reilly, Katherine Bard, Martin Manulis, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Christopher Isherwood, Mike Nichols, Glenn Ford and Lawrence Turman.

Pakula and Lange divorced in 1971. That same year, Lange became a regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-1974), playing Jenny Preston. She starred in Death Wish (1974). Lange performed on Broadway in Same Time, Next Year (1977) with Murray and The Supporting Cast (1981). Lange starred with Murray and her son in I Am the Cheese (1983).

Lange married her third husband, Broadway producer Charles Hollerith, Jr. on 29 January 1986. They split their time between California and Michigan, where Hollerith had a summer home, as well as New York City. Lange had maintained a permanent residence in Manhatttan for several years, the last being an apartment on the Upper East Side.

Lange continued to act, making guest appearances on television and playing small movie parts. In December 1988, Hollerith produced A Christmas Carol to benefit the Actor’s Fund of America, directed by Brother Rick Curry and starring Lange. Lange became friends with Curry and discovered his National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH). Lange made regular appearances at benefits for the NTWH. Lange was also known to send money to people she had heard about who had fallen on hard times.

In December 2003, Lange was admitted to St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica for diverticulitis. Post-operation, Lange caught an infection in the hospital and died. Her body was cremated according to her will. However, Lange made no provision for the disposal of her ashes, so they were given to her son Christopher. Because Lange liked Camden, Maine, where Peyton Place was filmed, plans to bury her there fell through. The chapel on the NTWH campus, located in Belfast up the coast from Camden, is in the building that served as the high school in Peyton Place. There are plans to bury Lange’s ashes under the altar and rename it “The Hope Chapel” in Lange’s honor.

Hope Lange’s acting career spanned decades. Her striking good looks and seemingly reserved nature belied a great sense of humor and a quick wit that endeared her to those who knew her. Lange valued friendship and always had visitors, stars and everyday people to her home.

Perhaps Lange’s legacy lies not in the films, television series and plays in which she starred, but what effect her actions had on the world around her. HELP allowed refugees to become self-sufficient and better their lives while the NTWH prepares handicapped people for the performing arts. Lange’s Carolyn Muir was a strong, independent woman who worked and raised her children without a man at a time when there were few such role models for women.

There is no biography of Hope Lange. Some articles about Lange have revealed the woman behind the actress. In a 1968 TV Guide article, Robert de Roos interviewed Lange about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (“Sometimes She’ll Have a Cigar,” 24 October 1968, p. 24-28). A New York Times article by Judy Stone about the series got Lange to discuss her life (“Nothing Haunted about Hope,” 16 February 1969, p. D19). A wonderful tribute to Hope Lange was written by her son, Christopher Murray, in a letter to Equity News (“Final Curtain: Hope Lange,” June 2004, p. 2). The Internet Movie Database has a brief biography and complete filmography of her career (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0486136/). The Internet Broadway Database has a list of her Broadway productions (http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=48909). Her obituary appeared in the New York Times (22 December 2003, p.B7).

Michael W. Handis

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