In 1954, the actress co-starred with Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden in the offbeat western drama, Johnny Guitar, now regarded as a cult classic. McCambridge and Hayden publicly declared their dislike of Crawford, with McCambridge labeling the film's star "a mean, tipsy, powerful, rotten-egg lady."
McCambridge played the supporting role of "Luz" in the 1956 George Stevens classic Giant, which starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. She was nominated for another Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress but lost to Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind.
McCambridge was well-known for providing the dubbed-in voice of the demonically possessed character in The Exorcist, acted by Linda Blair. McCambridge was promised a screen credit for the film's initial release, but she discovered at the premiere that her name was absent. Her dispute with director William Friedkin and the Warner Bros. brass over her exclusion ended when, with the help of the Screen Actors Guild, she was properly credited for her vocal work in the film.
In the 1970s, she toured in a road company production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Big Mama, opposite John Carradine as Big Daddy. She appeared as a guest artist in college productions such as El Centro College's 1979 The Mousetrap, in which she received top billing despite being murdered (by actor Jim Beaver) less than 15 minutes into the play. El Centro brought her back the following year as title role in "The Madwoman of Chaillot."
McCambridge has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures, located at 1722 Vine Street, and one for television located at 6243 Hollywood Boulevard. She told the story of her life in The Quality of Mercy: An Autobiography (Times Books, 1981), ISBN 0-8129-0945-3.
In 1950, McCambridge married Canadian Fletcher Markle, a radio director. Her son, John, later took Markle's name, thereafter being known as John Markle. During the marriage and afterward, McCambridge battled alcoholicism, often hospitalized after episodes of heavy drinking. She and Markle divorced in 1962. In 1969, after years with Alcoholics Anonymous, she achieved sobriety.
McCambridge's son, John Markle, a UCLA graduate, had a PhD in Economics. After being fired from his position as a futures trader at Stephens and Company for mishandling funds, a $5 million lawsuit was filed against him and McCambridge. Although some of the mishandled funds had been handled under McCambridge's name through Markle's power of attorney, she was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing. Markle killed his family and then himself in a murder/suicide in 1987. He reportedly left a bitter thirteen page note to his mother.
|1949||All the King's Men||Sadie Burke||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; Golden Globe|
|1951||Inside Straight||Ada Stritch|
|The Scarf||Connie Carter|
|Lightning Strikes Twice||Liza McStringer|
|Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Awards||Herself||short subject|
|1954||Johnny Guitar||Emma Small|
|1956||Giant||Luz Benedict||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1957||A Farewell to Arms||Miss Van Campen|
|1958||Touch of Evil||Gang leader||uncredited|
|1959||Suddenly, Last Summer||Mrs. Grace Holly|
|1960||Cimarron||Mrs. Sarah Wyatt|
|1961||Angel Baby||Sarah Strand|
|1965||Run Home Slow||Nell Hagen|
|1968||The Counterfeit Killer||Frances|
|1969||99 Women||Thelma Diaz|
|1971||The Last Generation||archive footage|
|1972||The Other Side of the Wind||Maggie||unreleased - scheduled for 2008 release|
|The Exorcist||Pazuzu||voice only|
|1979||The Concorde: Airport '79||Nelli|
|1992||Amazing Stories: Book Two||Miss Lestrange||voice - segment "Family Dog"|