Blanche Baker is an actress of stage, screen and television. Born Blanche Garfein in New York, her mother is actress Carroll Baker, who won a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Baby Doll (1956), several months after baby Blanche arrived. Her father is stage director Jack Garfein, who later went on to direct movies and teach acting.
After attending Wellesley College, she took her mother’s surname and made her television debut in the miniseries Holocaust (1978), for which she won an Emmy Award. Baker made her movie debut in The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), an A-List production featuring Alan Alda at the height of his popularity and another “Holocaust” co-star at the start of her career, Meryl Streep. She then appeared as the Holy Mother in the TV movie, Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith (1979).
Then came “Lolita.”
In 1980-81, the 24-year-old Baker originated the role of the preteen “nymphet” loved by a pedophile in Edward Albee’s stage adaption of Nabokov’s classic novel. The show was picketed during out-of-town tryouts and in New York by feminists outraged by the show’s depiction of pedophilia. More importantly, the show was pilloried by outraged critics in its out-of-town tryouts, giving “Lolita” a bad word of mouth.
After 31 previews, the troubled production opened on Broadway on March 19, 1981 and closed after only 12 performances.
She never appeared on Broadway again, despite critics calling her performance “breathtaking” and “beguiling.”
Blanche Baker has continued to work steadily in television and on the silver screen but has never again approached the heights she did in her early twenties.
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