Piper Laurie, born Rosetta Jacobs, Detroit, Michigan, January 22, 1932.
In 1950, Rosetta Jacobs began her Hollywood movie career. She was chosen for roles in the early years based on her cuteness and sex appeal. Her early resume with Universal Pictures consisted of formula musicals, comedies and costume "dramas" that were part of the 1950s Hollywood movie machine. Even her stage name, Piper Laurie, was chosen for its perky and perhaps suggestive nature.
In 1958 she would turn her career in a new, more serious nature, taking on dramas that were a departure from her past. Known as a cheesecake pin-up with the ability to make the fellas say "hubba hubba," she felt those years to be shallow and pointless. Breaking out of the ingenue mold, she starred in the 1958 television movie masterpiece, The Days of Wine and Roses. Playing the wife of young executive Cliff Robertson and sharing in his consumption by alcoholism, Piper Laurie made the statement that removed her from teddy bear sexy schoolgirl roles forever.
In 1961 she appeared in what could have been her breakout role, portraying the emotionally unstable girlfriend of Paul Newman in The Hustler, but she threw Hollywood another curveball by marrying a movie critic and retiring from the movies.
Fifteen years would pass before Piper Laurie returned to the world of movie making. She would not slink back in, chosing instead to roll the dice on a potential blockbuster project. Her return would come in the 1976 film Carrie, playing the religiously neurotic mother of Sissy Spacek to the hilt and receiving her first Oscar nomination for her performance.
After fifteen years of retirement, Piper Laurie found herself typecast again. This time, however, it was not as the sugar sweet bimbo, but as the scary, psychotic lady everyone knows not to mess around with. Her next notable role came in the 1979 Australian made for television movie Tim in which she portrayed a lonely middle aged woman who hires a retarded Mel Gibson to be her handyman. Thanks to the success of Mr. Gibson, the film is now available to the world, or at least to those who are interested in seeing a different shade of Mel.
A number of television movies and throw away projects littered Piper's resume over the next handful of years. Then she was tapped to play Auntie Em in Return to Oz and sends Dorothy to the mental hospital to "cure" her of the stories she's been telling about this Oz place she supposedly went to. Carrie, indeed.
In 1986 she would return to glory with an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Marlee Matlin's mother in Children of a Lesser God. Then she began treading water again until 1989 when she was cast in the role of Catherine Martell in Twin Peaks where she got the opportunity to be creepy and scary in a whole new way and secured Emmy nominations for the role.
In 1992 she would reunite with Twin Peaks writer Mark Frost for his feature film debut, Storyville. Then it would be on to appearances in such projects and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway with Robert Duvall and The Crossing Guard with Jack Nicholson. Piper had developed into an actress with a presence that added her own element to any film, yet she would never make the Hollywood "A List."
Other films would follow, and Piper Laurie took her position as valuable supporting actress with professional gusto. Films such as The Road to Galveston and The Faculty would be graced with her powerful presence. She continues to work as an actress to this day and remains one of the great underrated talents of multiple eras.
Background, timeline and film history researched at