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Happy Birthday, Julie Christie, Oscar-Winning Actress and ‘60s Icon

April 14, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
Julie Christie is an award-winning British actress and timeless beauty who spent much of the 1960s and 1970s in the spotlight, starring in memorable films such as “Dr. Zhivago,” “Darling,” and “McCabe and Mrs. Miller.”

Julie Christie’s Early Days

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Julie Frances Christie was born in Assam, India, on April 14, 1941, to an English tea planter father and a Welsh mother who was a painter. She studied in England at Brighton College and the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, where she starred in a school production of  “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Christie’s Notable Accomplishments

After landing the lead role in the BBC series “A for Andromeda,” Christie made her film breakthrough in 1963 with the lead role in “Billy Liar,” a film directed by John Schlesinger, with whom Christie worked several more times, notably on “Darling” and “Far from the Madding Crowd.”

In 1965, Christie starred opposite Omar Sharif in “Dr. Zhivago,” the Boris Pasternak novel of Russia before and after the revolution. The film won six Academy Awards. The following year, she received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as a social-climbing fashion model in “Darling.”

Christie emerged as an icon of the swinging ‘60s. “She represented the spirit and style of her era, but not in a way that was forgotten in a month or two. … She seemed to speak a language of her own, a language her contemporaries instantly understood, in the way she carried herself and the way she dressed,” writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.

But Christie possessed a down-to-earth humanism that kept her levelheaded and unaffected by stardom. “At the peak of her popularity, Christie made it a point to resist easy money and to be leery of fame,” says Encyclopedia Britannica. “Often shunning the lure of mediocre Hollywood projects, the actress opted instead to play interesting roles in a series of films by respected international directors.”

She has been unreservedly cynical in her descriptions of fame, telling Interview Magazine in 1997, “I see stardom very clearly as a construct that's been created in order to sell things. The more I meet other actors, the less the idea of the mythical movie star—an imaginary desire object who conforms to a certain ideal—makes sense to me at all. … It's sad that they get fooled into buying magazines and seeing films when so much of it is … a sort of fabrication.”

In the 1970s, she spent time with the Royal Shakespeare Company interspersed with several film roles, including “Don’t Look Now,” a mind-bending thriller set in Venice and co-starring Donald Sutherland. She also starred alongside boyfriend Warren Beatty in several films, including “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (for which she won her second Oscar), “Shampoo,” and “Heaven Can Wait.”

Christie retreated somewhat from the public eye and from mainstream films. She moved back to England in the early 1980s and became an important activist for causes like nuclear disarmament and animal rights.

She returned to prominence playing Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film adaptation of “Hamlet.” She received her third Best Actress Oscar nomination for 1997’s “Afterglow,” in which she played an aging movie star who falls for a younger man, played by Nick Nolte.

The Rest of the Story

In the decade following “Afterglow,” Christie chose only small roles before accepting a leading role as a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in “Away From Her,” a film directed by her friend Sarah Polley, a young Canadian actress. She received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Christie is married to the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, whom she wed in a secret ceremony in India in 2007 (they have been together since 1977). They live in England.
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