An update to this BLog of last week.
A Blog or two ago I mentioned the 3-Girls-3 TV series Bracken’s World (1969-1971). This was a sort of waterdowned version of Valley of the Dolls that looked at life at a Hollywood movie studio through the eyes of 3 struggling actresses: Karen Jensen as the grasping glamour girl, Laraine Stephens as the icy sophisticate, and Linda Harrison as the put-upon ingenue. The studio was replete with the work-alcoholic director (Peter Haskell), the dedicated assistant to the studio head (Eleanor Parker), the lonely talent school coordinator (Elizabeth Allen), the arrogant leading man (Dennis Cole), and the domineering mother (Jeanne Cooper).
Karen Jensen (above) wowwed the producers at her audition. Though she auditioned for the rich girl, she was offered the bad girl part. She at first did not want to play such a vile character but she relented. “Rachel Holt was every actress’s dream role,” remarked Karen in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema. “Rachel was very ambitious and would do anything to get a part. As the series progressed, the character stayed bitchy but they tried to show why she was like that—she had a terrible childhood living with foster parents and came from a very poor background. Her vulnerability began to surface, which I thought was interesting. I learned after doing the role that the bad girls are the best parts. I’m glad I got that part.”
Linda Harrison (see pic below) recalled in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema the shock of going from playing mute Nova in the Planet of the Apes movies to Bracken’s World. “I quickly agreed to do this series because I could be dressed beautifully and I could speak! I finally had lines and could be more diversified. But I remember clearly having to go from Beneath the Planet of the Apes with essentially no lines to having lots of dialogue in Bracken’s World. I was not prepared my first day of shooting and got a verbal reprimand by my producer. That entire weekend Dick Zanuck [Fox studio head and Linda’s boyfriend] rehearsed my lines with me.”
As a footnote, Celeste Yarnall won the role of the rich girl but real-life studio politics played a part in her not getting to do it. Per Celeste, producer David Gerber maneuvered his then girlfriend (and later his wife) Laraine Stephens into the role.
Bracken’s World should have a been a very popular camp fest riot but it seems the producers did not have faith in the talented cast. Instead each week’s contained episode focused on a big name guest star rather than the regular cast ala Peyton Place. Eleanor Parker quickly became dissatisfied and quit the show mid-season. Leslie Nielsen was brought in at the start of season two as the previously unseen studio head but he was not able to help Bracken’s World conquer its competition Love, American Style and the series came to an end in January 1971.