Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Burstyn, Ellen

Model and actress Ellen Burstyn was born Edna Rae Gillooly on December 7, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan to Correine Marie (neé Hamel) and John Austin Gillooly. She attended Cass Technical High School where she studied fashion illustration. As a cheerleader, a member of student council, and president of her junior class, Burstyn dropped out of Cass after failing her senior classes. At the age of 18, Burstyn began modeling for J.L. Hudson, Detroit’s largest department store. Working as a model and burgeoning actress she sometimes went by other names including Erica Dean, Keri Flynn and Ellen McRae.

Burstyn left Detroit for Texas, and then New York, modeling until she was 23. She began her career as an actress on Broadway, debuting in 1957 in a comedy called Fair Game, where she met her second husband, play director Paul Roberts.

In the early 1960s, Burstyn went with her husband to Los Angeles, where Roberts was offered a job. Following a divorce, she returned to New York to work with Lee Strasberg in the Actor’s Studio. Since 2000 she has been a co-president of that organization. She also married her third husband, actor Neil Burstyn (originally Neil Nephew), and took the name Ellen Burstyn.

Once again, she followed a husband to California where this time, after a series of minor film roles, she hit it big in 1971 with The Last Picture Show, in the role of Lois FarrowOther noteworthy performances include: The ExorcistThe King of Marvin GardensAlice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress), Same Time, Next YearResurrection, and Requiem for a Dream. Burstyn has performed in almost 150 film and television roles over her long career. She has been nominated for an Oscar six times, for an Emmy eight, and seven times for the Golden Globe award.

Ellen Burstyn has one son, Jeff, adopted with her second husband. In 1997, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, and the Theater Hall of Fame in 2013.