Nina Foch (1924 - 2008)
She was born Nina Consuelo Maud Fock on April 20 1924, at Leyden in the Netherlands. Her mother had acted in some early silent films as Consuelo Flowerton, and her father was musical director and composer Dirk Fock. Nina was raised in New York City and received training in concert piano, sculpture, painting and acting. She later studied "method" acting with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler and had her fist role in the 1944 Lugosi film Return of the Vampire.
She toiled in a B-film career until the 1950s where she moved into support roles in big budgeted movies such as the wealthy art collector who tries to capture Bill Holden in An American in Paris (1951). She had an Oscar-nominated role as the executive secretary in Executive Suite (1954) which also starred Bill Holden. She moved on to parts in high profile films like The Ten Commandments (1956) and Spartacus (1960).
She continued in live theatre, working in Shakespeare and many other parts. Her long resume of parts (126 listed parts on IMDB) in television. Her last screen credit was as recent as 2007 for appearances in The Closer.
Her death on December 4, 2008, is attributed to complications from myelodysplasia, a blood disorder.
Nina Foch was recently honored for her 'noir' role in My Name is Julia Ross (1954) at the UCLA September 2008 film series called "Cool Drinks of Water: Columbia's Noir Girls of the '40s and '50s" which featured Sony owned Columbia film restorations. (Screen Shot Image below of the catalog description)
Foch did an interview with Los Angeles Times writer Patrick Goldstein talking about the UCLA series and her work as an actress:
When Nina Foch recently went back and watched her breakthrough B-movie classic, "My Name Is Julia Ross," she was, well, astounded. "I hadn't seen the film in years," she told me. "I saw this tall, skinny girl with her back to the camera, with this ridiculously tiny waist, and she finally turns around and I went, 'Oh, my God — that's me!' "
Now 84, Foch is one of the few survivors of Hollywood's golden age of film noir, which is being celebrated by a new 12-film series at the UCLA Film and Television Archive called "Cool Drinks of Water: Columbia's Noir Girls of the '40s and '50s."
...Film noir created bigger stars than Foch, but no one had a more fascinating career. After seven years of making what she bluntly calls "crappy B-movies" at Columbia Pictures, she flew the coop, playing Cordelia in "King Lear" on Broadway, landing parts in "An American in Paris" and "Spartacus" and working regularly in TV, doing everything from "Playhouse 90" and "Your Show of Shows" to "Bonanza," "I Spy" and "Mod Squad."
...She has little patience for all of us film-school geeks who romanticize the film noir era. It was barely a cut above factory work, with studios like Columbia churning out movies like cars on an assembly line. "It's extraordinary how fast we made them," she recalls. "You'd shoot an entire picture in 10 or 12 days. We worked six days a week. There was no turn-around time back then, so you'd work into the evening, go home for six hours and then come back to work again." She laughs. "The movies were called noir because no one had the time to light anything."
She was 19 when Harry Cohn signed her to a contract to Columbia, where she made nearly all of her B-movies. "I wasn't very happy at Columbia," she says. "I didn't like Harry Cohn and his ilk. They wished I was prettier, had luscious lips and big tits, but I didn't. But when you were under contract to a studio, you were stuck.
It is an interesting interview, with the anecdote about Kubrick directing Olivier in Spartacus that stands out.
A 1986 interview and story by Charles Champlin with Foch about her work as an acting coach is republished at the LA Times blogs:
The Dutch-born actress Nina Foch, whose film credits include "A Song to Remember," "An American in Paris," "Executive Suite" and "The Ten Commandments," has been a private acting coach in Hollywood for 15 years.
The accent is on private because many of her established clients would as soon not have it known they were brushing up. What is particularly aggrieving to some of her star students is that they are boning up on cold readings because they are having to audition for a generation of young executives whose memories don't reach back much beyond "Sesame Street."
For Foch, preparation is all. The performance comes from inside, from a thorough understanding of the character and of the character's relationship to the whole shape of the drama.
"As an actor, you're servicing the writer, the playwright-which is our business, of course," Foch says.
"The actor has to know the story absolutely and decide what the movement of the piece is, how the character changes from beginning to end and in each scene. You're preparing to play a grandmother; not that many lines, perhaps. As homework you have to discover where she is at that moment, where she may have been. You have to prepare a context in your head for your movements and your postures.
"I never tell people what to do. But I ask them every possible question, and I get them to ask themselves every possible question. When they leave me, it's unlikely they'll be asked any questions they're not prepared to answer. They're prepared.
The Los Angeles Times Obituary from Nina Foch from Dec 7, 2008, written by Elaine Woo, included quotes by Foch's former students about the impact her teaching had:
She was one of those few teachers who was truly life-changing," said [director Marshall] Herskovitz, who with Zwick created and produced the critically acclaimed television shows "thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life" and "Once and Again."
"She had a point of view that was so profound and so provocative that it forced you to really reassess not just your thoughts about filmmaking but your whole approach to life and relationships," he said.
Herskovitz, who met Zwick in Foch's class at AFI in the 1970s, said her philosophy was difficult to boil down because it stemmed from her insights into how people behave and think and what they believe. "She had a wonderful phrase that used to torment us -- "idiosyncratic contrapuntal juxtaposition," he recalled Friday. "What it meant was what happens in life is often the opposite of what you think would happen, so the way you play a scene is often the opposite of the way you would think. . . . I'm not exaggerating when I say that what she taught us comes up literally weekly in our careers. She so influenced us in our way of looking at material, directing, even writing.
The obit also included these quotes by Foch herself on her teaching:
Foch taught two classes a week at USC, where her course was a requirement in a master of fine arts program.
"Believe it or not, teaching is the most rewarding thing I do," Foch told United Press International in 1994. "It has been the most successful thing I've done in my life.
Original Page Dec 2008 | Updated Dec 20127