Played by: Valerie Perrine
Lenny, Bob Fosse’s searing interview-style biopic of the groundbreaking early-’60s comedian Lenny Bruce, boasts two great Oscar-nominated performances. Dustin Hoffman plays the outspoken and confrontational comic with a smoldering rage—you see the seeds of his self-destruction take root even as he angrily spurns mainstream success. For the role of Bruce’s stripper wife—his “Shiksa goddess”—the producers chose Valerie Perinne, an ex-showgirl with no dramatic training and only a handful of minor parts in film and TV. Perrine (who’d find fame as Miss Tessmacher in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies) was extraordinary in her first major role—she finds a level of emotional honesty and vulnerability that’s almost painful to watch.