Edie Sedgwick Biography

Home > Actresses > S > Sedgwick, Edie > Biography

Birth Name: Edie Sedgwick
Born: 04/20/1943
Birth Place: Santa Barbara, California, USA
Death Place: Santa Barbara, California, USA
Died: 11/16/1971

The archetypal Warhol Superstar, Edie Sedgwick became momentarily famous in the mid-1960s even though she did very little but look beautiful, glamorous and tragically sad in front of the camera. A troubled young woman born into a wealthy family who struggled with mental disorders throughout her short life, Sedgwick was better known for the people she hung around with, including Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, and Bob Dylan, than for her own accomplishments. However, a cult of personality grew around Sedgwick following her death in 1971, spurred in large part by the best-selling oral history Edie: An American Biography (1982) by Jean Stein and George Plimpton. Decades after her death, Edie Sedgwick remained a style icon for generations of emotionally fragile young women.

Edith Minturn Sedgwick was born into a prominent and wealthy family with deep roots in western Massachusetts. Raised in a home roiled by distant and at times emotionally abusive parents, Sedgwick was diagnosed with the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia by the time she was in her teens. After being shunted between boarding schools and mental sanitariums throughout her teenage years, Sedgwick landed in New York City in 1964 following a brief stint as an art student in Cambridge, MA. Living off a trust fund, Sedgwick aspired to become a model. The combination of her social connections, striking good looks and gossipy backstory made her the toast of the Manhattan social scene almost immediately.

Sedgwick met Andy Warhol in early 1965 and soon began appearing in the pop artist's films, starting with a brief appearance in "Vinyl" (1965). Sedgwick was the subject of Warhol's first two films in his "Screen Test" series, where he simply trained his camera onto a member of his inner circle and silently documented their reaction. Warhol planned a series of films documenting Sedgwick's life, beginning with "Poor Little Rich Girl" (1965), but that project faltered after the pair had a falling out. Sedgwick demanded that her scenes in Warhol's epic "Chelsea Girls" (1966) be edited out of the completed film; Sedgwick's footage was released separately under the title "Afternoon" (1965).

At the same time that Sedgwick was part of Warhol's inner circle, she embarked on an affair with Bob Dylan, whose distaste for the scene at Warhol's studio and meeting space The Factory was an ongoing problem in their relationship. At Dylan's urging, his manager Albert Grossman signed Sedgwick as a client, but nothing ever came of that professional relationship. After Dylan broke off their relationship and married Sara Lownds in November, 1965, Sedgwick took up for a period with one of Dylan's closest friends, singer-songwriter Bobby Neuwirth. Several of Dylan's best-known songs from this era are reputed to have been inspired by Sedgwick, most notably "Just Like A Woman" and the sneering "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat." In 1967, Warhol protégés The Velvet Underground released their song "Femme Fatale," which frontman Lou Reed had written about Sedgwick at Warhol's request.

In 1967, Sedgwick began filming a movie called "Ciao! Manhattan," written and directed by John Palmer and David Weisman. The film, starring Sedgwick as a lightly fictionalized version of herself named Susan Superstar, quickly ran into financing problems and was temporarily abandoned. As Sedgwick's drug addiction, eating disorders and mental problems deepened, she spent several years under medical supervision. In December, 1970, filming resumed on "Ciao! Manhattan" in California, where Sedgwick had been living. Sedgwick died of an overdose of barbiturates on November 16, 1971, while the film was in post-production. Although she was nominally playing a fictional character, the completed movie, released in 1972, ended with the announcement of Sedgwick's own death.

Particularly following the success of Edie: An American Biography (later republished under the title Edie: American Girl), Edie Sedgwick became a post-punk icon of damaged beauty. Bands including The Cult, The Adult Net and Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians wrote songs about her, and stills from Warhol's "Screen Test No. 1" (1965), featuring Sedgwick with her hair cropped short and dyed blonde, wearing a striped sweater, became a familiar motif on indie record sleeves and concert posters. In 1999, a Washington D.C. post-rock band named itself Edie Sedgwick, releasing several albums on Dischord Records. The biopic "Factory Girl" (2006) starred Sienna Miller as Sedgwick, Guy Pearce as Warhol and Hayden Christensen as a rock star based on Bob Dylan. A biography of Sedgwick, Edie: Factory Girl (2006), was written by Warhol's former studio assistant Nat Finkelstein and David Dalton.