Eva Marie Saint (born 4 July 1924) is an American actress. In a career spanning over 75 years, she is best known for starring in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954) and in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959). The former won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Upon the death of Olivia de Havilland in 2020, she became the oldest living and earliest surviving Academy Award winner and one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.
She received Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations for A Hatful of Rain (1957) and won a Primetime Emmy Award for the television miniseries People Like Us (1990).
Eva Marie Saint was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Quaker parents. She studied acting at Bowling Green State University. During this time she played the lead role in a production of Personal Appearance. She was an active member in the theater honorary fraternity, Theta Alpha Phi, and served as record keeper of the student council in 1944.
Saint's introduction to television began as an NBC page. In the late 1940s, she continued to make her living by extensive work in radio and television.
She appeared in a 1947 Life Magazine special about television, and also in a 1949 feature Life article about her as a struggling actress earning minimum amounts from early TV while trying to make ends meet in New York City.
In 1953, she won the Drama Critics Award for her Broadway stage role in the play The Trip to Bountiful (1953), in which she co-starred with such formidable actors as Lillian Gish and Jo Van Fleet.
In 1955, Saint was nominated for her first Emmy for "Best Actress In A Single Performance"for playing the young mistress of middle-aged E. G. Marshall in Middle of the Night. She won another Emmy nomination for the 1955 television musical version of Our Town, in which she do-starred with Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra. Her success and acclaim in TV productions were of such a high level that "One slightly hyperbolic primordial TV critic dubbed her 'the Helen Hayes of television.'"
Saint made her feature film debut in On the Waterfront (1954), starring Marlon Brando and directed by Elia Kazan—a performance for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and also a British Academy of Film and Television Award nomination for "Most Promising Newcomer." The film was a major success and launched Saint's movie career. She received $7,500 for the role.
Three years later, Eva Marie Saint received a nomination for the "Best Foreign Actress" award from the British Academy of Film and Television for her performance in A Hatful of Rain, the pioneering drug-addiction drama released in 1957.
"Short hair gives Eva a more exotic look, in keeping with her role of the glamorous woman of my story. I wanted her dressed like a kept woman—smart, simple, subtle and quiet. In other words, anything but the bangles and beads type."
But it is the femme fatale role she played in North by Northwest (1959) with Cary Grant and James Mason that makes her international star.
The film’s director Alfred Hitchcock's cut Saint's waist-length blonde hair for the first time in her career, which gained lots of publicity.
Hitchcock explained at the time, "Short hair gives Eva a more exotic look, in keeping with her role of the glamorous woman of my story. I wanted her dressed like a kept woman—smart, simple, subtle and quiet. In other words, anything but the bangles and beads type." The director also worked with Saint to make her voice lower and huskier, and personally chose costumes for her during a shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
North by Northwest became a box-office hit, a suspense classic and an influence on spy films for decades. The film ranks number forty on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time.
Although North by Northwest might have propelled her to the top ranks of stardom, Eva Marie Saint chose to limit her film work in order to spend time with her husband, producer and director Jeffrey Haydenwith whom she married on October 28, 1951, and their two children.
In the 1960s, Saint continued to distinguish herself in both high-profile and offbeat pictures, such as Exodus (1960), a historical drama about the founding of the state of Israel in which she starred with Paul Newman; Or the melodrama The Sandpiper directed by Vincente Minnelli, in which she appeared with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Because of the mostly second-rate film roles that came her way in the 1970s, Saint returned to television and the stage. She received an Emmy nomination for the 1977 miniseries How The West Was Won and a 1978 Emmy nomination for Taxi!!!.
After receiving five nominations, she won her first Emmy Award for the 1990 miniseries People Like Us. She was presented one of the Golden Boot Awards in 2007 for her contributions to western cinema.
On December 24, 2016, Eva Marie Saint’s husband Jeffrey Hayden died at the age of 90. They were married for 65 years.
Upon the death of Olivia de Havilland in 2020, Eva Marie Saint became the oldest living and earliest surviving Academy Award winner and one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.