Katharine Ross

Katharine Juliet Ross (born January 29, 1940)[1] is an American film and stage actress and author. She had starring roles as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate (1967), for which she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; as Etta Place in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), for which she won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress; and as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives (1975). She won a Golden Globe for Voyage of the Damned (1976).

Katharine Ross
Ross in Mister Buddwing (1966)
Katharine Juliet Ross

(1940-01-29) January 29, 1940
OccupationActress, author
Years active1962–present
Joel Fabiani
(m. 1960; div. 1962)

John Marion
(m. 1964; div. 1967)

Conrad Hall
(m. 1969; div. 1974)

Gaetano Lisi
(m. 1974; div. 1979)

Sam Elliott
(m. 1984)

Early life

Ross was born in Hollywood, California, on January 29, 1940, (though many sources cite 1942 or 1943[2][3][4][5][6]) when her father, Dudley Ross, was in the Navy.[7] He had also worked for the Associated Press.[8] Her family later settled in Walnut Creek, California, east of San Francisco, and she graduated from Las Lomas High School in 1957.

Ross was a keen horse rider in her youth[9] and was friends with Casey Tibbs, a rodeo rider.[10]


Early performances

She studied at Santa Rosa Junior College for one year (1957–1958) where she was introduced to acting via a production of The King and I. She dropped out of the course and moved to San Francisco to study acting.[9]

She joined The Actors Workshop and was with them for three years (1959–1962)[11] For one role in Jean Genet's The Balcony she appeared nude on stage.[11]

In 1964, she was cast by John Houseman as Cordelia in a production of King Lear.[12][13]

While at the Workshop, she began acting in television series in Los Angeles to earn extra money.[9] She was brought to Hollywood by Metro, dropped, then picked up by Universal.[14]


Ross unsuccessfully auditioned for West Side Story (1961).[15] Her first television role was in Sam Benedict in 1962.[16][17]

She was picked up by agent Wally Hiller,[18] and in 1964, Ross appeared in episodes of Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Lieutenant, Arrest and Trial, The Virginian, The Great Adventure, Ben Casey, Mr. Novak, Wagon Train, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Run for Your Life, Gunsmoke, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour ("Dividing Wall", 1963) as well as the love interest of Heath Barkley opposite Lee Majors on The Big Valley(Season 1 Episode 7 "Winner Loses All"). She screen tested for The Young Lovers."[19]

Ross made her first film, Shenandoah (1965) playing the daughter-in-law of James Stewart. She returned to guest starring on shows like The Loner," The Wild Wild West and The Road West." MGM put her in an unsold TV pilot about bible stories. She signed a long term deal with Universal who called her an "American Samantha Eggar".[20]

"I didn't want a contract in the movies but a lot of people convinced me it was a good thing to do," she later said.[21]


MGM borrowed her for supporting parts in The Singing Nun (1966) and Mister Buddwing (1966).[16]

At Universal she starred in a TV movie with Doug McClure, The Longest Hundred Miles (1967), then co starred in a thriller, Games (1967) with Simone Signoret and James Caan, which she later called "terrible".[21][9][22]


Ross had a breakout role as Elaine Robinson in the hugely popular The Graduate (1967) opposite Dustin Hoffman. She had been recommended to director Mike Nichols by Signoret. This part earned her an Oscar nomination[23] and a Golden Globe as New Star of the Year. She said, "I'm not a movie star...that system is dying and I'd like to help it along."[9]

She later said at this time "I got sent everything in town but Universal wouldn't loan me out."[21] After eight months she was in Hellfighters (1968) playing the daughter of John Wayne who romances Jim Hutton.

She won a BAFTA for her part as an Indian in Universal's Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969), starring Robert Redford.[24] In August 1968, she signed a new contract with Universal to make two films a year for seven years.[25]

She turned down several roles (including Jacqueline Bisset's role in Bullitt[26]) before accepting the part of Etta Place in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), co-starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, which was another massive hit.[27] She was paid $175,000.[28]

She was meant to make The Public Eye for Ross Hunter but it was never made.[29]

She was dropped by Universal in the spring of 1969, for refusing to play a stewardess in Airport, another role that went to Jacqueline Bisset.[14] She eventually got out of her Universal contract. However this meant later on she lost out to Tuesday Weld on a film she really wanted to do, an adaptation of Play It As It Lays, because it was a Universal movie.[21]

She did star in Fools (1970) with Jason Robards.


Ross dropped out of Hollywood for a while after marrying Conrad Hall.[21]

She occasionally acted, appearing in Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972), They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) with James Garner and Chance and Violence (1974) with Yves Montand. She turned down several more roles,[30] including a part in The Towering Inferno.[31]

Preferring stage acting, Ross returned to the small playhouses in Los Angeles for much of the 1970s.[30]

"I'm aware that I have the reputation of being difficult," she later said.[32]


One of her best-known roles came in 1975's film The Stepford Wives, for which she replaced Tuesday Weld at the last moment and won the Saturn Award for Best Actress.[33]

She reprised the role of Etta Place in a 1976 ABC TV movie, Wanted: The Sundance Woman.[27] She won a Golden Globe for best supporting actress for her part in 1977's Voyage of the Damned.[34] She was also in The Betsy (1978), The Swarm (1978), and The Legacy (1979).

Television movies

She starred in several television movies,[35] including Murder by Natural Causes in 1979 with Hal Holbrook, Barry Bostwick and Richard Anderson,[36] Rodeo Girl in 1980,[37] Murder in Texas (1981) and Marian Rose White (1982).[26] She had a support role in The Final Countdown (1980) and Wrong Is Right (1982) but focused on TV movies: The Shadow Riders (1982), a remake of Wait Until Dark (1983), Travis McGee (1982) with Elliot, Secrets of a Mother and Daughter (1983), Red Headed Stranger (1986), and Houston: The Legend of Texas (1986) with Elliot.[38]

She had a role in the 1980s television series The Colbys opposite Charlton Heston as Francesca Scott Colby.[39]

Later career

Ross wrote and starred in Conagher (1991) alongside Sam Elliott and was in A Climate for Killing (1991), and Home Before Dark (1997).[40]

She played Donnie's therapist in the 2001 film Donnie Darko.[41] She was in Don't Let Go (2002), and Capital City (2004) and played Carly Schroeder's grandmother in the 2006 independent film Eye of the Dolphin. She was in Slip, Tumble & Slide (2015).

In 2017, she appeared as Sam Elliott's former wife in The Hero, in which he played an aging Western star.

Ross has established herself as an author, publishing several children's books.

In January 2015 she appeared at the Malibu Playhouse in the first of a series titled A Conversation With, interviewed by Steven Gaydos.[15][18] That February, she appeared with her husband Sam Elliott in Love Letters, also at the Malibu Playhouse.[19]

Personal life

Ross has been in four short marriages, with her current and fifth marriage now being over 35 years-old. Her first marriage was to actor Joel Fabiani[11] from 1960 to 1962. She was then married to John Marion 1964 to 1967.[42] In 1969, Ross married cinematographer and three-time Oscar-winner Conrad Hall after meeting him on the set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.[30] They separated in 1973.[43] She was married to Gaetano "Tom" Lisi from 1975 to 1979; they met when he was a chauffeur and technician on the set of The Stepford Wives.[44][45]

Ross is married to actor Sam Elliott, whom she originally met on the set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). It is his only marriage. The couple met again when they co-starred in The Legacy (1978). They soon became a couple and married in May 1984, four months before the birth of their only child, daughter Cleo Rose Elliott.[46][47]



Year Title Role Notes Awards
1965 Shenandoah Ann Her feature film debut, with James Stewart.
1966 The Singing Nun Nicole Arlien With Debbie Reynolds.
1966 Mister Buddwing Janet With James Garner.
1967 The Longest Hundred Miles Laura Huntington
1967 Games Jennifer Montgomery
1967 The Graduate Elaine Robinson With Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman. Golden Globe-Best New Starring Actress. Laurel Award-Best Supporting Actress.
Nominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and BAFTA-Best Newcomer.
1968 Hellfighters Tish Buckman Credited above the title, with John Wayne and Jim Hutton.
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Etta Place With Paul Newman and Robert Redford. BAFTA Award for Best Actress (also for Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here)
1969 Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here Lola With Robert Redford. BAFTA Award for Best Actress (also for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
1970 Fools Anais Appleton
1972 Get to Know Your Rabbit Nameless Woman
1972 They Only Kill Their Masters Kate With James Garner.
1974 Chance and Violence Docteur Constance Weber (Limited release)
1975 The Stepford Wives Joanna Eberhart Saturn Award for Best Actress
1976 Voyage of the Damned Mira Houser Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1978 The Betsy Sally Hardeman With Laurence Olivier.
1978 The Swarm Helena
1978 The Legacy Margaret Walsh With Sam Elliott.
1980 The Final Countdown Laurel Scott With Kirk Douglas, Charles Durning and Martin Sheen.
1982 Wrong Is Right Sally Blake With Sean Connery.
1986 Red Headed Stranger Laurie (Limited release)
1991 A Climate for Killing Grace Hines (Straight to video)
1997 Home Before Dark Rose (Straight to television)
2001 Donnie Darko Dr. Lilian Thurman (Limited release)
2002 Don't Let Go Charlene Stevens (Unreleased)
2006 Eye of the Dolphin Lucy (Limited release)
2013 Wini + George Wini (short)[48]
2017 The Hero Val With Sam Elliott.


Year Title Role Notes
1962 Sam Benedict Teresa Parelli Episode: "A Split Week in San Quentin"
1963 Kraft Suspense Theatre Janet Bollington Episode: "Are There Any More Out There Like You?"
1963 The Lieutenant Elizabeth Episode: "Fall from a White Horse"
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Carol Brandt Episode: "The Dividing Wall"
1964 Arrest and Trial Marietta Valera Episode: "Signals of an Ancient Flame"
1964 Ben Casey Marie Costeau Episode: "The Evidence of Things Not Seen"
1964 The Virginian Jenny Hendricks Episode: "The Dark Challenge"
Gunsmoke Susan
Liz Beaumont
Episode: "Crooked Mile"
Episode: "The Lady"
1965 Mr. Novak Mrs. Bellway Episode: "Faculty Follies: Part 2"
1965 Wagon Train Bonnie Brooke Episode: "The Bonnie Brooke Story"
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Gloria Episode: "Terror Island"
1965 Run for Your Life Laura Beaumont Episode: "The Cold, Cold War of Paul Bryan"
1965 The Big Valley Maria Montero Episode: "Winner Lose All" S. 1 Ep 7
1965 The Loner Sue Sullivan Episode: "Widow on the Evening Stage"
1965 The Wild Wild West Sheila Parnell Episode: "The Night of the Double-Edged Knife"
1966 Preview Tonight Asenath Episode: "Great Bible Adventures: Seven Rich Years and Seven Lean"
1966 The Road West Rachel Adams Episode: "To Light a Candle"
1976 Origins of the Mafia Rosa Mastrangelo Mini-series
1976 Wanted: The Sundance Woman Etta Place / Mrs. Sundance / Annie Martin / Bonnie Doris TV movie
1979 Murder by Natural Causes Allison Sinclair TV movie
1980 Rodeo Girl Sammy Garrett TV movie
1981 Murder in Texas Ann Kurth Hill TV movie with Sam Elliott.
1982 Wait Until Dark Suzy Hendrix TV movie
1982 Marian Rose White Nurse Bonnie MacNeil TV movie
1982 The Shadow Riders Kate Connery/Sister Katherine TV movie with Sam Elliott.
1983 Travis McGee Gretel Howard TV movie with Sam Elliott.
1983 Secrets of a Mother and Daughter Ava Price TV movie
1985–1987 The Colbys Francesca 'Frankie' Scott Colby Hamilton Langdon 49 episodes
1986 Gone To Texas aka Houston: The Legend of Texas Susannah Dickinson TV movie with Sam Elliott.
1988 ABC Afterschool Specials Maggie's Mother Episode: "Tattle: When to Tell on a Friend"
1991 Conagher Evie Teale TV movie with Sam Elliott.
2004 Capital City N/A Unaired pilot
2016 American Dad Angela, Sickly Lady (voices) 2 episodes


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