In short, I think it goes without saying that few reach the level of acclaim that did Ms. Fletcher in her career. To play a memorable role or two is certainly laudable, but her Nurse Ratched from 1975's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest transcended the pictures of the day so much that it grew into its very own pop culture meme at a time when no one even knew what memes were (yet). Folks who were around in the day can certainly attest to that singular legacy, and I think she's a talent that genuinely deserves to be discovered and re-discovered in the pantheon of screen actresses.
Brief sidebar: I once was keenly misunderstood for my take on Nurse Ratched by a group of film nuts when I said that Fletcher's work in that film had an undercurrrent of sexiness. They thought I stated categorically that I thought Ratched was sexy, to which I had to explain further. Nurses are a sexual stereotype of heterosexual males (sorry, can't speak for the other persuasion), an archetype that's produced 'sexy nurse costumes' to perpetuate the fantasy even further. My point was -- much like the ladies of a certain era fell head-over-heels for Star Trek's Mr. Spock, thinking they could break through his sexless Vulcan exterior -- there were a contingent of males who concluded the same with Nurse Ratched. It didn't have anything to do with sex deliberately; it was that undercurrent of sexiness associated to nurses that I was trying to elaborate on, and I was misunderstood.
But, yes, Ratched -- in Fletcher's delicate hands -- was a phenomenon; and I think in many ways those lingering memories of such an incredible performance elevated the woman's status when she stepped into the shoes of Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For those who would claim otherwise, I'd tell you to ask your older Trek enthusiasts such as myself if the association went by unnoticed, and I trust you'll earn an earful.
This immeasurably talented lady was no stranger to genre projects. One of her earliest screen roles was a guest appearance aboard One Step Beyond (1959) ... and the opportunities only grow richer from that point forward.
In 1980, she headlined Mama Dracula, a rather obvious vampire comedy about bloodsuckers needing the blood of virgins to survive: since the Sexual Revolution, you can imagine those have been in short supply.
In 1981, she joined the cast of Strange Behavior for South Street Films. The dark SciFi/Fantasy explored one scientist's efforts of turning one town's teenagers into vicious murderers.
In 1983, she enjoyed two meaty appearances in genre films, one a bit campy and one a bit cerebral: Michael Laughlin's Strange Invaders saw aliens taking over a small midwestern town while Douglas Trumbull's Brainstorm had a team of specialists tapping into the human mind's potential.
And -- for what it's worth -- the list goes on and on. While some of the roles may've been small, they were certainly awarded a level of depth by the lady's gift at characterization. In fact, go back and watch any of her appearances aboard Deep Space Nine, and you can marvel at the way she almost effortlessly conveys both meaning and any number of possible subtexts to each and every scene she's in. I've always thought it the mark of a greater player who can make you think about the motivation ... and Fletcher always made me think.
Thoughts and prayers are extended to the friends, family and fans of Louise Fletcher. May she rest in eternal peace.