Faye Dunaway has always felt unknowable. Did her coolly enigmatic beauty create this impression, or was it the complex, difficult women she played? I think both, but regardless, it's hard to argue that her essential mystery and barely contained intensity defined her unique allure.
 
Born in Florida in 1941, Dorothy Faye Dunaway was an army kid, and spent her life moving from post to post, before graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in theater. From there, like many of her Hollywood compatriots, she went to New York, where parts on Broadway, including Arthur Miller’s “After the Fall,” caught the attention of director Elia Kazan. But it was not until the latter half of the 1960s that Dunaway made her way towards acting on film.
 
Her big break came in 1967. First, a supporting role in Otto Preminger’s “Hurry Sundown” earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and then, the big fish: “Bonnie and Clyde.” Far from first choice, Dunaway was given the part of ultimate gangster’s moll Bonnie Parker only after director Arthur Penn convinced producer (and star) Warren Beatty that she was right for the part.

Controversial though her sassy, sexy depiction of  Parker was, it launched Dunaway into stardom. The next year, she became the face of an era, playing a chic yet super-tough insurance investigator opposite Steve McQueen’s sartorially splendid millionaire thief in “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
 
From there, notwithstanding her inspired turn in "Little Big Man" (1970), also directed by Penn, it would be several years until the run of hits that cemented Dunaway’s distinctive persona: complex, wily, determined, a woman who'll compete-and win-in a man's world.

In 1974, she was superb as quintessential femme fatale Evelyn Mulwray in Roman Polanski's "Chinatown." Two years later, Faye hit a career peak, snagging a Best Actress Oscar for playing Diana Christensen, the ruthless, over-caffeinated television executive in “Network” (1976).

Once the 80's hit, the leading roles in feature films dried up, but she kept working, for which we're all fortunate. As her mesmerizing beauty has mellowed in maturity, her gifts as an actress have only become more evident. She elevates most anything she's in.

As a tribute to the glorious Faye Dunaway, here are 17 pictures of the star in her prime. Prepare to be astonished all over again.



Projecting a signature '60s look, Faye looks perfect in paisley.


As Bonnie Parker in “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967). Dunaway’s wardrobe created a fashion frenzy.


A vision in violet.


Even with a slightly concerned expression, she projected strength.



With former lover Marcello Mastroianni. Is he going to throw her in?


Clutching a parasol...and Marcello.


Fur-get about it.


Girlish in pigtails. Nice tan too.

 Breathtaking. Who can forget her white hat in the “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)?


The famous chess game, where the real game was seduction. With McQueen in the “The Thomas Crown Affair.”


Don't let her elegant appearance fool you. She'll eat you for breakfast.


A midriff for the ages, don't you agree?


Going for the gold in curling. And behold those bigger-than-life lashes!


Nice work if you can get it. Kirk Douglas feeding grapes to Dunaway on the set of "The Arrangement" (1969).


Petal to her mettle: pensive in purple blossoms.


The life aquatic: Dunaway, anything but blue by the seashore.


From any angle, Faye is forever fab.


More:  The Field Guide to Cinema's 9 Prime Prima Donnas