Linda Manz, who as an androgynous teen captivated many with her performances in the films Days of Heaven (1978) and Out of the Blue (1980), died Friday, August 14, at 58.
The cause, according to extended family posting on social media, was pneumonia and lung cancer.
Born in NYC on August 20, 1961, Manz was cast at 15 to appear as the narrator of Terrence Malick's (b. 1943) period film Days of Heaven, which was released in 1978, two years after an arduous shoot and editing process. Initially received with mixed reviews, it has gone on to overwhelming critical acclaim. Manz's improvised narration as the kid sister of Richard Gere's (b. 1949) character is widely considered an essential aspect of what makes the film — which is preserved in the United States Film Registry — an artistic success.
Though some have come to think her arrival on the movie scene was as unique as her natural talent, Manz told The Village Voice in 2011 that the process was all too familiar:
“My mother had an idea of me being in movies — I never had an idea of me being in movies. She was a cleaning woman — she worked at the Twin Towers. Yeah, she always put me in drama classes, she put me in dancing schools, talent classes, she put me in Charlie Lowe’s professional whatever-it-was ... I think Elliott Gould went there, too. They taught you how to sing, how to dance, how to improv ... stuff like that.”
In 1979, Manz took on the fondly remembered supporting role of Peewee in the cartoonish hit film The Wanderers.
One of its stars, Ken Wahl (b. 1954), wrote of Manz on Facebook Friday:
“She was great to work with and I'm glad I got to speak with her before she passed.”
She also appeared on the regrettable sitcom Dorothy (August 8, 1979-August 29, 1979), playing a tomboy in an all-girls school.
The broad comedy — which today feels like an uncanny rip-off of The Facts of Life, though the latter first aired the week before Dorothy was canceled — starred Tony winner Dorothy Loudon (1925-2003) and featured such notable talent as Priscilla Morrill (1927-1994), Irene Tedrow (1907-1995), Kip Gilman (b. 1946) and Elissa Leeds (b. 1959).
One can't blame Manz for trying Dorothy, considering it was created, in part, by the legendary Madelyn Pugh (1921-2011) and Bob Carroll Jr. (1918-2007) of I Love Lucy (1951-1957) fame, along with Nick Arnold (b. 1947).
Manz's last starring role was in 1980's Out of the Blue, in which she was directed by, and acted alongside, Dennis Hopper (1936-2010). The highly influential film competed at Cannes, and Manz's performance as punker Cebe, as arresting and raw a teen portrayal as film has ever seen, inspired a generation of actresses. Chloë Sevigny (b. 1974) told Paper in 1995:
“As for acting, I’d like to have a career like Linda Manz. She’s my favorite actress. She did three movies and all of them are masterpieces, except for The Wanderers. Now she lives in a trailer park with three or four kids, I think. But I’d rather do that than do 10 movies and make millions of dollars and have them all be trashy films.”
Natasha Lyonne (b. 1979) told Interview in 2013:
“The world at large doesn’t always make sense to me, and there are safe havens. Linda Manz in Out of the Blue is one of them.“
Crowdsourcing raised over $60,000 in 2019 to restore Out of the Blue.
Manz's other credited acting appearances are few. She appeared in the films Boardwalk (1979), Longshot (1981), Mir reicht's - ich steig aus (1983) and David Fincher's (b. 1962) The Game (1997). On TV, she acted in the movie Orphan Train (1979) and on the “Snow Queen“ episode of Shelley Duvall's (b. 1949) highly regarded Faerie Tale Theatre (1985).
In 1997, Manz, appearing in a small role that year in Harmony Korine's (b. 1973) Gummo, told Time Out New York of her withdrawal from acting:
“There was a whole bunch of new young actors out there, and I was kind of getting lost in the shuffle. So I laid back and had three kids. Now I enjoy just staying home and cooking soup.”
She said in 2011 of her detachment from the world of film:
“I’m not a movie buff, I don’t go to movies ... I haven’t been to a movie in 20 years.”
Manz was preceded in death by her son Chris, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2018. She leaves behind her husband, Bobby Guthrie, their two surviving sons, and three grandchildren.
A GoFundMe has been set up for the late actor — whose married name was Linda Guthrie — to help cover final expenses.