HER SWINGIN' '60s CREDENTIALS: This dark-eyed intelligent beauty played the love interest in two of the decade's biggest films, The Graduate ('67) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ('69).
CATEGORIES OF SWINGIN' CHICK: Movie Star and TV Star
BIRTH: She was born in '42, making her a wise 25 for The Graduate, when she was supposed to be playing a character who was still an under-grad. Her exotic birthplace: Hollywood, California.
IMPACT ON THE '60s: Combining brains and beauty with sensitivity and subtle sexuality, Katharine Ross was an icon for young actresses of the late '60s. Her impact on Hollywood was swift and strong, coming full-force when she played Elaine in The Graduate. The sly comedy was one of the greatest movies of that or any decade, and Katharine was one of the hottest actresses of the year. In '68, when 20th Century Fox could've cast anyone it wanted for the high-profile Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the studio chose Katharine. Smart and sexy, she was a perfect match for the handsome, witty leads, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. As testament to her career, when the American Film Insitute ranked the hundred best American movies of all time, Katharine Ross had starred in two of them: The Graduate was number seven on the list, and Butch Cassidy was number fifty. In June of 2001 AFI listed the most thrilling movies of all time, and Butch was ranked #54, one spot ahead of Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn (Psycho with Janet Leigh was #1).
CAREER IN THE '60s: In her early twenties she was a busy TV actress, usually appearing in Westerns like "The Virginian," "Gunsmoke," and "The Wild, Wild West." She then made a couple of minor movies in the mid-'60s before The Graduate launched her to stardom.
CAREER OUTSIDE THE '60s: After Butch Cassidy, more Westerns carried her into the '70s and beyond: Redford's Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here in '69, and the TV movies Wanted: The Sundance Woman in '76, The Shadow Riders in '83, Red-Headed Stranger in '86, and Conagher in '91, which she co-wrote. Other notable post-60s credits include The Stepford Wives in '75, Voyage of the Damned in '76, Irwin Allen's The Swarm in '78, The Final Countdown with Kirk Douglas in '80, and the part of Francesca on "The Colbys" from '85 to '87. Late in 2001 Katharine made a well-received return to the big screen with a role as a therapist in the black comedy Donnie Darko.
TALENT: She got an Oscar nomination for playing Elaine in The Graduate, and she won the '68 Golden Globe as the Most Promising Newcomer. She also won a Golden Globe in '77 as Best Supporting Actress in Voyage of the Damned. On the subject of acting, she told Biography magazine in February 2001 that she's come to realize that acting is like eating a rich dessert: "You love the first two bites, but then you don't want to eat much more or you'll get sick." Her stature now is such that "If something comes along that appeals to me, I do it. If it doesn't, don't."
HER '60s LOOK: With her unique cleft chin, those big brown eyes, that great smile, and that long, lustrous hair, she was one of the most appealing young actresses of the late '60s. Hers was a natural, youthful beauty, but it also radiated intelligence. She was a believable college student in The Graduate, and a worthy foil for Newman's quick-witted Butch Cassidy (note that she teaches the boys Spanish, and she and Butch try to reign in the impulsive Sundance, who calls her his "teacher lady"). Her no-nonsense manner made her a believable pioneer women in her many Westerns. She could make even a traditional farm dress look sexy, as evidenced by the long slow disrobing scene in Butch Cassidy that makes Sundance a hardened criminal indeed.
LIFESTYLE: Supposedly married five times (though we couldn't find confirmation on all those), since '84 Katharine has been married to actor Sam Elliott, the mustached star of Mask ('85) and Tombstone ('93). He also had a small role at the beginning of Butch Cassidy as one of the sepia-toned card players. Besides Butch Cassidy, he and Katharine have been in six movies together: The Legacy ('79), Murder in Texas ('81), Travis McGee ('83), The Shadow Riders, Houston: The Legend of Texas ('86), and Conagher (on which they both got writing credits). Her kids have dominated her life in recent years, as she told Biography in February 2001:
"I had a child in 1984, and she was just a few months old when I started a television series ['The Colbys']. It was great the first year, because I could take my baby to work. I had a girl with me to help care for her and I had a wonderful trailer and I thought, 'I've got it all. I'm not missing a thing.' Then she started walking and talking and it seemed that a trailer on the Paramount lot was not the place to raise a child. But if I didn't take her with me, I was missing everything. So when the series was not picked up for a third season, I decided what I had to do was raise my daughter myself."
EXTRAS: The original screenplay for Butch Cassidy had a scene where she sits in a theatre with Butch and Sundance watching a movie about their lives and staring in shocked silence as the audience cheers when the bandits get gunned down ... like the great Katharine Hepburn, she spells her first name with two A's ... in The Graduate, Katharine played the daughter of Anne Bancroft's characterwhen the movie came out Katharine was 25 and Anne was 36 a photogenic pair, Katharine and Sam Elliott were on the cover of Playgirl in October of '79.