Sandy Dennis

Sandy Dennis, Actor. Hastings, NE.

Sandy Dennis, Actor. Hastings, NE.

Sandra Dale Dennis (April 1937 – March 1992) was born in Hastings, Nebraska. Her family later moved to Kenesaw and Lincoln where she attended Lincoln High School with Dick Cavett. Her passion for acting grew and grew while still at home. A college student at both Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska, she eventually found her career direction after appearing with the Lincoln Community Theater Group.

The toothy actress left Nebraska and towards the Big Apple at age 19 just to try her luck. An intense student of acting guru Uta Hagen, Sandy made her New York stage debut in a Tempo Theatre production of “The Lady from the Sea” in 1956 and that same year won her first TV role as that of Alice Holden in the daytime series “Guiding Light” (1952).

Along with fellow newcomers Gary Lockwood and Phyllis Diller, Sandy made her movie debut in playwright Inge’s Splendor in the “Grass” (1961), a movie quite welcoming of Sandy’s neurotic tendencies. In the minor but instrumental role of Kay, she is an unwitting instigator of friend Deanie’s mental collapse. Despite this worthy little turn, Sandy would not make another film for five years. Returning to film in 1966, Sandy seemed to embellish every physical and emotional peculiarity she could muster for the role of the mousy wife Honey in the four-character powerhouse play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966).

A life member of The Actors Studio and an advocate of method acting, Dennis was often described as neurotic and mannered in her performances; her signature style included running words together and oddly stopping and starting sentences, suddenly going up and down octaves as she spoke, and fluttering her hands. Walter Kerr famously remarked that she treated sentences as “weak, injured things” that needed to be slowly helped “across the street”