|Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Courtesy Photofest.|
When she attended her first acting class with Lee Strasberg in 1964, Ellen Burstyn was 32 years old and was working on television under the name Ellen McRae. She was born Edna Rae Gillooly in Detroit, and it had taken her a lot of time and trouble to pull herself out of her hardscrabble milieu to become Ellen McRae, a pretty actress and model who smiled a lot. She was being limited by the girlish roles she was given on TV, and she sensed that instinctively, but it was only when Strasberg told her in his class that it was alright to make a mistake that her people-pleasing ingénue mask cracked and fell away. What was underneath that mask would take time and patience to excavate.