An alumnus of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Wisconsin-born actress Gena Rowlands entered the Broadway talent pool in 1952. From 1955 through 1957, the blonde, frosty-eyed actress co-starred with Edward G. Robinson in the original Broadway production of Middle of the Night. She also did plenty of Manhattan-based television during this period, including a recurring role on the forgotten syndicated series Top Secret U.S.A.
Rowlands made her first film, The High Cost of Loving, in 1958, the same year that she married legendary actor/director John Cassavetes. The excellent response to her performance as the deaf-mute wife of a detective on the 1961 TV series 87th Precinct sparked a grass-roots campaign to have Rowlands appear on the series on a weekly basis, but her film commitments were such that she couldn't be confined to any one part for very long. Always a capable leading lady, Rowlands blossomed into full stardom in the films directed by her husband. She first collaborated with him on A Child Is Waiting (1963) and then starred as a prostitute in his 1968 film Faces. Rowlands went on to earn Oscar nominations for her work in two of her husband's other films, A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980).