Jill Clayburgh's Legacy: After 'An Unmarried Woman,' Actresses Redefine Independence

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Julianna Margulies.

But despite her professional successes, Margulies tells us, through her face, that her character is torn between a woman's traditional role to support the husband – no matter what – and to ditch him. Further complicating matters is that one of the law firm's partners has affections for her, and Alicia is interested. The CBS drama is now in its second season.

Meryl Streep in "It's Complicated."

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Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

Streep plays Jane Adler, a hugely successful pastry chef, long divorced from her husband (Alec Baldwin). But they meet up at a family event and before you know it, Jane and her former mate – who has remarried but is still in love with his ex – are between the sheets. Jane, enjoying her hot affair, must figure out whether she wants a repeat of the marriage that ultimately failed.

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Jessica Lange in "Grey Gardens."

Who says that relationship clinginess and fear of being without the love object applies only to sexual partners? In her Emmy award-winning performance in this HBO production, Lange plays Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale, the real-life aunt of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

"Big Edie" – perhaps out of fear of being alone, or envious of the ambitions of her daughter, "Little Edie" (Drew Barrymore) – cruelly wears down her offspring and persuades her to co-habit – for decades – the not-very-inhabitable Grey Gardens. In the early seventies, the pair faced eviction from their home.

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Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.

Fortunately, Jacqueline Onassis and her sister provided the funds for renovation. But as a precursor, in time, to "An Unmarried Woman," "Grey Gardens" attests to the fear many women had that they could never thrive on their own.

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