Nina Foch, the Oscar-nommed, Dutch-born actress who often played cool, calculating women in films, theater and television and was a respected coach of aspiring actors and directors, died Friday in Los Angeles of complications from the blood disorder myelodysplasia. She was 84.
She became ill last week while teaching the “Directing the Actor” class at USC.
Foch taught at USC for 40 years and also taught at the American Film Institute. Her distinctive teaching methods were cited by directors including Amy Heckerling, Randal Kleiser, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. Zwick and Herskovitz met in her class at the AFI. At the time of her death, Kleiser was working on compiling a DVD of her classes.
“She was able to take the things she learned working with directors like Vincente Minelli and Stanley Kubrick and combine them with her own style,” said Kleiser, who took her class in 1965. Foch was known to her students for her pithy “Foch-isms” such as “I don’t take pain killers. It keeps me sharp and mean” and “Amateurs do what they love. Professionals work.”
In her youth, she was a concert pianist and painter before taking up acting studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She also studied with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. After appearing in summer theater productions and touring companies, she moved to Hollywood and signed a contract with Columbia Pictures, where she made her movie debut in 1943’s “Wagon Wheels West.”
Although she never achieved star status, Foch became a distinguished supporting player, often as “the other woman” or figures of wealth and connivance in B-movie classics like “My Name Is Julia Ross.” Her film credits include “A Song to Remember,” “An American in Paris,” “Scaramouche,” “Spartacus,” “Rich and Famous,” “The Ten Commandments” and “Sliver.” She was nominated for an Academy Award for supporting actress for “Executive Suite” in 1955.
On Broadway, she performed in “Tonight at 8:30,” “A Second String,” “Twelfth Night” and “King Lear,” and on television she appeared in “Murder, She Wrote,” “The Outer Limits,” “Hawaii 5-0,” “L.A. Law” and “Just Shoot Me.” Foch earned an Emmy nomination for best supporting actress in a drama series in 1980 for her work on an episode of “Lou Grant.” One of her most recent appearances was in an episode of “The Closer” last year.
Foch was born Nina Consuelo Maud Fock in Leyden, Netherlands. She was the daughter of conductor-composer Dirk Fock, who moved the family to New York when she was a child. Her mother, Consuelo Flowerton, became a well-known actress in New York, and Nina followed her into the theater world.
She tried directing, working as assistant director to George Stevens on 1959’s “The Diary of Anne Frank,” but decided to focus on teaching. “Believe it or not, teaching is the most rewarding thing I do,” Foch told United Press International in 1994. “It has been the most successful thing I’ve done in my life.”
Foch is survived by a son and three grandchildren.