She was known for possessing the “saddest eyes in Hollywood.” (There she is above looking unhappy opposite Paul Lukas.) She excelled at “victim parts” but tired of being asked to cry on cue.
Sylvia Sidney also had an extraordinarily long career (nearly 70 years), a star in the Thirties and early Forties and then a reinvention as a successful character actress on tv thereafter. A lifelong smoker (see above), she defied the odds and died in 1999 at the age of 88.
Sidney excelled in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1936 thriller, Sabotage, who as Mrs. Verloc famously takes a carving knife to her nefarious husband played by Oscar Homolka. She was a favorite of director Tim Burton, who cast her in supporting roles in Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks!, the latter her final movie.
Ok, so how much did you know about Sylvia Sidney?
1) Question: Sylvia worked with some of classic Hollywood’s finest directors. Which one of the following is NOT among this select group of Sidney collaborators? a) Alfred Hitchcock; b) Henry Hathaway; c) Fritz Lang; or d) George Stevens.
1) Answer: d) George Stevens did not work with Sidney. As mentioned above, she worked with Hitchcock, with Henry Hathaway (1936’s The Trail of the Lonesome Pine), and Fritz Lang (1936’s Fury, his first American film).
2) Question: Sidney was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in which one of the following titles? a) Damien — Omen II; b) Mars Attacks!; c) Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams; or d) The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
2) Answer: Sylvia was nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actress for her work in c) 1973’s Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, directed by Gilbert Cates and starring Joanne Woodward. Sidney plays Joanne’s mother, who drops dead in a movie theater, precipitating her daughter’s mid-life crisis.
3) Question: Sidney had a habit of marrying famous men. Her three husbands included which of the following? a) Bennett Cerf; b) Carlton Alsop; c) Luther Adler; or d) Tim Burton.
3) Answer: a) Bennett Cerf, the pubisher and tv personality, was husband No. 1. Then came actor Luther Adler. Finally, husband No. 3 was producer Carlton Alsop. Director Tim Burton, at least a generation younger than Sidney, admired Sylvia, and, as mentioned above, cast her in two of his pictures, Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks!. About his one-year marriage to Sidney, Cerf said: One should never legalize a hot romance.
4) Question: Sidney was known for her unusual hobby. What was it? a) Juggling; b) Pole Dancing; c) Needlepoint; or d) Cigarette smoking.
4) Answer: Sylvia loved smoking cigarettes, to be sure, but was passionate about c) needlepoint. She was expert, and wrote two books on the subject in the 1970’s.
5) Question: Sidney made many television appearances later in her career. Which one of the following series did she NOT appear in? a) WKRP in Cincinnati; b) Thirtysomething; c) Fantasy Island or d) Life With Father.
5) Answer: Sidney appeared in a ton of tv shows but not on the Fifties series, d) Life With Father.