Great Mad Women in Cinema

Some of these women probably would not qualify for a diagnosis from the psychiatric profession. And perhaps their madness is actually a heightened level of sanity, as is often the case. Nevertheless, they are mad.

Wonderfully mad.


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29 Responses to Great Mad Women in Cinema

  1. JessicaR says:

    Terrific, and wonderful choice of movies too. Living Out Loud needs to go on a shortlist of movies more people need to know about and see.

  2. red says:

    Jessica – TOTALLY agreed. It’s on my very long list of movies I need to write about. Brilliant acting, and heartwrenching story. She is so so good. Loneliness can make one mad.

    Glad you like! This is a list I need to add to!

  3. jennchez says:

    I love that pic of Vivien Leigh, it captures the internal demons she is fighting. Sadly, she had to fight those same demons offscreen too.

  4. Catherine says:

    Literally, as I was scrolling down through the photos, every second or third screengrab I was like “I love that movie!” and “That’s my favourite!” and “Her!”. I’m just really into films about lunatic women, hahaha.

  5. red says:

    Jennchez – I know – beautiful and tragic.

  6. red says:

    Catherine – I love lunatic women, too. I am looking to expand the list. I have more in mind. What are yours?

  7. Doc Horton says:

    Re Gena Rowlands. On hulu I just watched her in a 1963 ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’. (1st season, 2nd page of episodes if you’re interested) I already watched all the half hour ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ from the mid-’50s. You’ll find baby Cassavetes and baby Bronson in those, plus a lot of the old pros (Claude Raines, Henry Jones, Ralph Meeker, Mildred Natwick, Percy Helton!, etc.)

  8. Catherine says:

    Hmmm. Aside from the ones you’ve posted;

    Holly (Dianne Weist in Hannah and her Sisters)
    Gloria (Gena Rowlands in the eponymous film)
    Meg Swan (Parker Posey in Best In Show)
    Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara in For Your Consideration)
    Ada (Holly Hunter in The Piano)
    Sally (Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives)
    Judith Anderson (Mrs Danvers in Rebecca)
    Morticia Addams (…duh)
    Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom

    Pretty much everyone Julianne Moore has ever played. You mentioned Carol White in [safe], but there’s also her hilarious avant-garde artist in The Big Lebowski, Amber Waves in Boogie Nights, etc.

    I’ll think of more later, hopefully.

  9. I loved seeing Frances Farmer and Jessica Lange posted together. By pure coincidence, I have a review of a Korean horror film that fits in with your theme here, to be posted Tuesday.

  10. Rocket Ray says:

    It’s a total miscarriage of justice if you don’t mention Kathryn Hepburn as “The Madwoman of Chaillot”. Just sayin’…

  11. Rocket Ray says:

    …Or *Katharine*, as she was known to all of you who weren’t CLOSE PERSONAL FRIENDS WHO HAVE EVEN SEEN HER NAKED… …

  12. phil says:

    None madder than Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under The Influence.
    I found myself fist-clinched while watching.

  13. red says:

    Rocket Ray – calm down with the all caps. I’m not sure I even understand your second comment.

    These lists are never meant to be exhaustive. I didn’t say ‘greatest’ – just ‘ great ‘. I want to do more of it. It’s fun for me. A jumping-off point for discussion. There’s a way for you to express your love for Katharine in Madwomen of Chaillot without being so … all-cappish about it.

    I like to discuss things. Not defend and retaliate. That’s no fun.

    Take a look at how other people are responding, to get the lay of the land here. And no more shouting incomprehensible things using all caps, please?

  14. red says:

    Phil – I could almost have chosen any of the movies Rowlands did with Cassavetes – I had the same response you did to Women Under the Influence. It’s nearly unwatchable at times. How about the scene when he takes his construction buddies home for an impromptu lunch???

    I think, for me, though, her performance in Opening Night is her at her most batshit crazy. It’s cooler than Women Under the Influence – she the character has more success in life, she’s a star … but underneath that, is just a MESS.

    She’s so damn good.

  15. red says:

    Catherine – Morticia! hahahaha She is wonderfully beautifully mad. I love that character.

    You’re right on with your addition of Catherine O’Hara – she is so amazing … she’s pretty nuts in Waiting for Guffman too.

  16. red says:

    Doc Horton – thanks for the tip, I will have to check it out.

  17. red says:

    Peter – Oooh, looking forward to it!!

    Jessica Lange really does look uncannily a lot like Frances Farmer. I wanted to find a still from the film where she is brought into the police station for hitting that cop – and she says, when asked her profession, “Cocksucker” (something that actually happened). Lange looks so ROUGH in that scene, her hair wild, her eyes in a RAGE – but I couldn’t find a still of it. However, there are lots of images out there of Farmer’s arrest that night – I kept mistaking it for a still from the film because they look so much alike.

  18. Anne says:

    Who is the crying one near the bottom with the cross at her throat?

  19. Emily says:

    This is my favorite screen shot from Frances, just before she makes a run for it.

  20. red says:

    Anne – that’s Mimi Rogers in The Rapture – I wrote about it here. Great and chilling performance.

  21. red says:

    Ooh Emily – that’s a great one!!

  22. Emily says:

    I just love how Jessica Lange plays it so that you really believe she’s going to stay behind and send Harry away until the second she bolts. “I don’t know, Harry. The baths are the best part…” You can see something wicked in her grin in that shot, but it isn’t until she starts running away that you know how her mind’s been made up.

  23. red says:

    I like the scene when she hauls off and belts that hairdresser. It’s terrible, of course you should never hit people, but boy, you can understand why she does.

  24. Iris says:

    How about another Kate Winslet character? April Wheeler from Revolutionary Road? Perfect blend of sanity and insanity…

    Sadie from Georgia was a *GREAT* choice! I haven’t seen that in ages! Thanks for reminding me of her.

    And… is that Isabelle Huppert? What movie is that from?

  25. red says:

    Iris – yes, that’s Huppert, from The Piano Teacher. (shivers) SO GOOD.

    I actually wasn’t that wacky about Winslet in Revolutionary Road, believe it or not! I am a big Winslet fan but that wasn’t my favorite of hers – I thought Leo gave a much better performance.

    I actually was going to put Winslet’s Ophelia on here – her wonderful haunting mad scene in that film is something that has stayed with me – but for this first go-round, I wanted to limit it to one role per actress.

    And you’re welcome, with Georgia! That movie made me so uncomfortable to watch (and I mean that in the best way!)

  26. phil says:

    I’ve never seen Opening Night, Red.

    Thanks!, I hope to see it one day soon.

  27. red says:

    Phil – thrilling to think of someone seeing that for the first time! It’s probably the most META thing he ever did – a movie about acting – but gee whiz, it’s some great stuff. Let me know what you think when you see it!

  28. Catherine says:

    Fun fact: the first time I watched Opening Night, I hadn’t set up my dvd player properly and the whole thing played in b&w. It wasn’t til the last ten minutes that the colour switched on. I was under the assumption that the whole thing was shot in b&w so I was baffled!

  29. Kinezoe says:

    I love femme fatale women at the movies. Jessica Lange, Barbara Stanwyck… They looked oh so pretty (and terribly mad too)…

    Great post Sheila. Greetings!

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