By Richard Eric Weigle
In July of 2020, film legend, EVA MARIE SAINT, became our oldest living Academy Award winner and our earliest winner for 1954’s On The Waterfront, after the death of Olivia de Havilland in Paris. She also happens to be our oldest living Hitchcock Blonde having portrayed the mysterious Eve Kendal in North By Northwest. As close to Hollywood royalty as one can get, she is also one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.
In 1953, happily living on West 9th Street in Greenwich Village, Eva Marie cried as she left her apartment for her first day of filming On The Waterfront with Marlon Brando. She was content being a Broadway actress and a pioneer in the new medium of live television. The film, however, won her an Academy Award as well as one for Brando and one for Best Picture of the year and eventually led her and her husband to move to Hollywood. That decision turned out quite well leading to long successful careers for both of them. They both, however, always retained a soft spot for New York and returned whenever possible to attend as many Broadway plays as they could fit in during one visit and often to direct and perform in theater productions themselves.
With a career stretching 75 years in radio, theater, television, film and most recently, podcasts, few actresses have the need for an official archivist, but Miss Saint is certainly the exception. So that’s where I come in. A long time resident of Greenwich Village and a fan of Miss Saint’s since I saw her in Raintree County with Elizabeth Taylor in 1957, I got to meet her when she played Mary Todd Lincoln on Broadway in 1972. She is a very private person, but I slowly became her friend, archivist and later a producer of three documentaries about Broadway and Greenwich Village in which she appeared. So far Miss Saint has over 35 volumes of The Eva Marie Saint Archives that I have put together for her made up of reviews, photos and articles about her illustrious career.
Currently, at the age of 96 and having recently survived the death of her husband of 65 years, director, Jeffrey Hayden, Miss Saint lives independently in her beautiful Westwood, LA duplex condominium. Every day she still climbs the stairs, reads the LA Times and grows tomatoes on her terrace resulting in a friendly competition and rivalry with her daughter. They often get into lively debates as to whose vegetables are bigger and more delicious. With two grown children and four grandchildren not too far away, she is lovingly and protectively watched over and assisted with grocery deliveries and walks in the park, always masked and with as much social distancing as possible.
When my husband, Michael Anastasio, and I talk to Eva Marie on the phone, it is as if we are talking to a 40-year-old. She is sharp as a tack, witty, feisty, positive, and always living in the present. Her motto is “just keep moving” and she does so physically, creatively and mentally every day of her life. Reading good books and going through personal papers and fan mail also keep her busy, and she recently told me that she would like to live to be 100. She is optimistic about the new direction our country is taking and would like to continue working, which is an archivist’s dream and will certainly make her many fans happy.
Tennessee Williams once wrote: “I marvel at and envy happy people. I have met very few in my life: intelligent, sensitive people who are able to meet life in a positive and giving manner. Eva Marie Saint is the epitome of this person. Glowing with humor and talent and health and so kind and patient. I waited a long time for the mask to fall and there is no mask. There is only love. I would recommend to so many people that a stay by her side for a few months is better than any hospital for setting the neutrons in order.” The two had gotten to know each other when Eva Marie portrayed Alma in Summer and Smoke at The Kennedy Center and all across the country.
In a recent email I told her that many of her fans had written to me expressing their concern and wondering if she had been vaccinated yet.
She told me in a February email: “I’ll receive my second Moderna vaccination on March 7th. Tell my dear fans I am so happy they think of me and tell them to take good care of themselves.”
Someone recently suggested that I write a book about Miss Saint entitled The Golden Girl Who Had It All. I quickly had to answer that Miss Saint would not like that title, especially the word “had’ which denotes the past. No, Eva Marie Saint is very much an “in the moment” kind of person which makes her one of the most captivating, inspirational and exciting women I have ever met.
If you are interested in personally catching up with Eva Marie Saint, in addition to On The Waterfront and North By Northwest, check out All Fall Down, 36 Hours, Exodus, A Hatful Of Rain, The Russians Are Coming, Grand Prix, Superman Returns and many of her other wonderful film and television shows available on various streaming services.