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The Mary Steenburgen Bio

The Mary Steenburgen Review –

by Nate Lee

Best Films:

Melvin & Howard
Parenthood / Joan of Arcadia

Winning an Oscar in the classic film about Howard Hughes’ mysterious will, “Melvin and Howard," says enough. Though she was but a part of a brilliant ensemble as Steve Martin’s wife in “Parenthood," that film most excellently revealed her at her best. Meanwhile, the idiots at CBS who cancelled the immensely popular series “Joan of Arcadia" because it catered to an older audience than they preferred have God to answer to. Though this site usually ignores the TV work of actors, Steenburgen really does her finest work as the mother of the girl who talks to God.
Great Performances You May Not Have Seen:
Goin' South (Golden Globe-nominated performance as an Eastern spinster, opposite director and cowboy Jack Nicholson)
Cross Creek (author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings)
Miss Firecracker (Holly Hunter's cousin and idol)
Dead of Winter (a kidnapped actress)
The Butcher's Wife (a frustrated singer, with Demi Moore)
Nobel Son (long-suffering wife of scientist and philanderer Alan Rickman)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (a housewife having an affair with Johnny Depp)
I Am Sam (a doctor)
Sunshine State (part of John Sayles' Florida beach ensemble)
In the Electric Mist (wife of detective Tommy Lee Jones)
Life as a House (Kevin Kline's neighbor)
Back to the Future, Part III (love interest of Christopher Lloyd)
Melvin and Howard (Oscar and Golden Globe-winning performance as Melvin's wife)
Philadelphia (the attorney opposing Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks)
Time after Time (opposite Malcom McDowell as H.G. Wells in pursuit of Jack the Ripper)
Ragtime (Golden Globe-nominated performance as Mother)
The Perfect Mom:
Parenthood (Steve Martin's wife)
Powder (surrogate mom to special boy)
Elf (surrogate mom to Will Ferrell's elf)
The Proposal (Ryan Reynolds' mom and Sandra Bullock's potential mother-in-law)
Step Brothers (Will Ferrell's mom and John C. Reilly's step mom)
Nixon (Nixon's mom, part of a SAG-nominated acting ensemble)
Four Christmases (Reese Witherspoon's mom)
The Real Mary Steenburgen:
A great daughter, too, Steenburgen produced the film "End of the Line," about railroad men losing their jobs, no doubt inspired by her father, a conductor on the Union Pacific.
Acting Style:
Understanding. While some actresses would prefer to walk through a role as the wife or mother, Steenburgen so emits the ideal of the kind, nurturing woman, her maternal roles are often in danger of stealing the scene from the leads. Meanwhile, whatever she is in, she still reigns as the closest embodiment yet of the ethereal Audrey Hepburn.
Bits and Quirks:
The frail, high-pitched, fragile, yet smoothly resonant voice. Accentuates her statuesque femininity by an arch of the neck and back, an arch of the eyebrows or an off-kilter stance. Even a small rise in volume or intensity conveys a lot because she is usually so quiet. With just a little pout, she becomes the perfect innocent.
Great Scenes:

> The final scene, with Jeremy running out into the storm
> Jeremy with the doctors
> In his basement, quizzing Jeremy on his books


> Revealing that she is pregnant to Steve Martin
> The school play
> The 'roller coaster' story with Martin's grandmother
> Walking to the car from the baseball game, and in the car afterward
> Arguing with Martin in front of the principal and the school psychiatrist

Back to the Future

> The runaway carriage rescued by Doc Brown
> On the train, overhearing about how much Doc loves her
> On Doc's train, at the end, as it explodes into hyper-speed
> At the finale of the series, with Doc and her boys

Melvin and Howard

> Dancing at the strip club and waving to Melvin
> Getting married, pregnant, in Las Vegas, and afterward as a witness, kissing all the couples
> Tap dancing on the TV show
> Saying good-bye once and for all


> With Will Ferrell at the table during meals and his peculiar eating habits