An actress whose specific strain of naturalistic performance and beauty Hollywood of the 1970s seemed to particularly appreciate, Brooke Adams (b. 1949) enchants audiences with an allure that is somehow both striking and nonchalant, that electrifies when she unleashes that smile, and that she never seems to flaunt. Her characters evince intelligence and self-possession while modestly revealing an undercurrent of self-doubt and vulnerability. Always playing characters to be taken seriously, Adams seems to drop so easily and fully into her parts that her nuanced restraint and her subtle, vast expressiveness may slip past entirely unnoticed.
Appropriately, her breakthrough was a role with relatively little dialogue: the unwittingly heartbreaking Abby in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. Her Abby is quietly bewitching, keeping her heart well tucked into her sleeve, revealing just enough to keep both Sam Shepard’s lovestruck farmer and the audience completely devoted despite her apparent duplicity. In the films that followed—whether horror, science-fiction, family drama or political thriller—she imports a grounding, empathetic warmth, bright mystery, subdued sophistication and steady pragmatism. She anchors even the most fantastic plots with a down-to-earth authenticity and a charisma capable of transforming the onscreen romances into credible, meaningful relationships.
She has since brought that believability to an extensive range of roles in cinema, on television, on the Internet and in the theater, where she has taken on challenging parts in everything from The Heidi Chronicles to Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, in which her loquacious character spends the length of the play buried in a pile of sand. – Brittany Gravely
The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to present a program of some of her most memorable roles, including Michael Roemer’s rediscovered Vengeance is Mine, also showing as part of his retrospective this fall. Brooke Adams will be joining the director to discuss that film and will appear again for the now legendary Days of Heaven.