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by Sharad Raj June 14 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 41 secs

From the enigmatic Evelyn Mulwray in "Chinatown" to the ambitious Diana Christensen in "Network," Faye Dunaway's unforgettable performances define a stunning career in Hollywood, writes Sharad Raj.

Faye Dunaway is a Hollywood icon whose career spans several decades, marked by powerful performances and unforgettable roles. With immense talent, she has left an indelible mark on the film industry, starring in some of the most acclaimed movies of all time.

The first time I saw Hollywood star and actor Faye Dunaway was with Jack Nicholson in Roman Polanski’s brilliant neo-noir Chinatown (1974). A tall woman, Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) with a no-nonsense straight face comes to meet detective JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) and what unfolds is a tale of crime and deceit. Dressed in a well-fitted suit, Faye looked more of a stuck-up aristocrat than a woman with a throbbing spirit. The new femme fatale makes things difficult for the detective until her dark truth, "my daughter is my sister," is revealed.

Faye has a throbbing screen presence indeed. And she is a consummate actor.
Chinatown that one has seen repeatedly many times was followed by Sidney Lumet’s masterpiece Network (1976) where Faye plays a ruthless and unscrupulous news television executive (Diana Christensen) to perfection! Diana would do anything to get to the top and in the process keep her network on top. It is Faye’s natural demeanour and body type, along with her enormous talent, that makes these films and her characters unforgettable. I regret having discovered her body of work and range rather late.

Before embarking on something of my own, I wanted to see Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Though I had seen the film long back, I had no memory of it. Lo and behold, I discovered it is Faye Dunaway who is the legendary Bonnie Parker in the film! By now, with Chinatown and Network, Faye had won me over, so I was looking forward to watching Bonnie and Clyde even more.

Artists from Titian to Henry Matisse have painted “nudes” as some of their best works. Who can undermine the greatness of Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) and Matisse’s Large Reclining Nude (1935)? But cinema artists are not far behind.

Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde begins with a lazy, languid, but elegant nude of Faye Dunaway, and it is here that Penn does full justice to Faye’s pulsating spirit that makes her body, her face, and movement so sensuous and captivating. Faye is the perfect Bonnie Parker in this Warren Beatty produced film where Beatty himself is Clyde Barrow.

Who will not be envious of an artist like Faye Dunaway who has worked in three great films of three outstanding filmmakers, Polanski, Lumet, and Penn? Take a few more films from her filmography and Ms. Dunaway sure has an illustrious body of work.

Faye Dunaway's legacy in Hollywood is not just a testament to her acting skills but also to her ability to captivate audiences with her powerful presence and unforgettable characters. From her breakout role in Bonnie and Clyde to her iconic performances in Chinatown and Network, Dunaway continues to mesmerize, proving herself as one of the true greats of cinema.

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