LOS ANGELES – Eva Marie Saint has a perfect right to act like Hollywood royalty.
She won an Oscar for her film debut in On the Waterfront, holding her ground against Marlon Brando in his prime. She was Cary Grant’s dangerously sexy squeeze in North by Northwest, conquered Paul Newman in Exodus and counts greats Alfred Hitchcock and Elia Kazan among her directors.
But Saint is winningly candid in a Turner Classic Movies special and an interview, a contrast to her luminous screen presence and stellar career. She remains a working actress as she nears her 90th birthday this summer, on July 4.
The industry has changed during her more than six decades in it, but Saint said she takes it in stride.
You know how to stay young? Go with the flow, she said. She also keeps in mind advice that she heard from film great and mentor Lillian Gish, whom Saint worked with in The Trip to Bountiful on TV and onstage in the early 1950s.
It’s today and tomorrow, and don’t get cranky, Gish would advise actresses worried about their future, Saint recalled.
Eva Marie Saint: Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival, a conversation between Saint and TCM host Robert Osborne, airs 8 p.m. today as part of a TCM tribute that includes showings of On the Waterfront (1954), North by Northwest (1959) and Raintree County (1957).
Saint, who spoke to Osborne at the 2013 TCM festival in Los Angeles, is charmingly direct about her film and TV career, her colleagues and how she combined family life with her demanding profession.
Director Jeffrey Hayden, her husband of more than 60 years, offered support from the audience.
There are no small roles, he called out when Saint mentioned a lesser part she had played.
For Saint, there were certainly no minor leading men.
She appeared with the most enviable list of co-stars of any actress of her time, Osborne said, including Gregory Peck, James Garner and Warren Beatty (in Saint’s personal favorite, All Fall Down, 1962). She’s also a wonderful storyteller and has great tales to tell.
Saint proves that in the TCM special. At one point, she delightedly recounts how Exodus director Otto Preminger took over from Newman in one scene to demonstrate how better to give her a smooch.
I mean, he’s telling Paul Newman how to kiss? she said, laughing.
Brando, she recalls, was both really adorable and a little frightening during filming of On the Waterfront.
I felt that he could see right through me, Saint said of The Godfather star that she considers one of the finest actors ever.
I don’t know what happened to Marlon, she added, referring to his late career decline. I think he lost – possibly, I’m not a psychiatrist – the joy of acting.