**** for DIANE MCBAIN MEMOIR

Just finished reading Famous Enough: A Hollywood Memoir by Diane McBain and Michael Gregg Michaud. It has to be one of the most brutally honest memoirs I have ever read. It is a harrowing tale of what happened to Diane (and probably a lot of other 1960s female contract players) once the studios tossed them out without fanfare during the mid-1960s when the studio system was collasping. Surprisingly, Diane did not make a lot of money while working for Warner Bros. despite starring in a TV show (Surfside 6) and getting leads in motion pictures (Parrish; Claudelle Inglish; The Caretakers; A Distant Trumpet; etc.). Today, actors doing the same are millionaires 3 times over.

Grass is always greener on the other side, so when Diane refuses to play a small role in a Natalie Wood comedy she knew she would get the boot, but thought life as a freelancer would be better. She soon learned the harsh realities of going it alone in mid-sixties Hollywood. Always one of my favorite blondes of all-time (along with Carol Lynley and Yvette Mimieux), I found it mind boggling on why she did not do better. Though I love Diane in the Elvis musical Spinout and her AIP exploitation movies like The Mini-Skirt Mob, she should have still been getting studio A picture offers. Soon Diane would be joined by Sandra Dee and Connie Stevens who when their studios set them free in 1966 or so, they too could not land any more major motion pictures. The times they were a’changin’ and these gals were just not hip to the Free Love crowd.

Diane does not hold back in her book slamming actors she disliked (hear that Edd Byrnes); her sexual exploits (she had an itchin’ for unattainable men); her drug taking; and her brutal rape in the early 1980s. She also must be one of the unluckiest actresses in Hollywood in regards to roles that might have been and the number of times she was a victim of a crime. One of the book’s highlights is her documenting her two trips to Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 to entertain the troops.

Once the book passes 1970, my minor quibble is that though she mentions all the low-budget movies (Savage Season, Deathhead Virgin, etc.) and TV shows she appeared in they get short shrift. I really like hearing the back stories in depth. Instead, Diane concentrates on her life outside of acting as she needed to support herself and a child. While her contemporaries like Carol Lynley, Connie Stevens, Anjanette Comer, Sue Lyon and even Sandra Dee were landing leads in TV movies, Diane for some reason was barely getting supporting parts in episodic TV. For me Diane always had an air of glamour and sophistication. She was the Dina Merrill for the 1960s teenage set though most of her big screen charactes were usually icy and bitchy. Diane Baker had the same effect, but she came off like that even while trying to play the sweet ingenue. If she was able to get steady work through the 1970s, I have no idea why McBain was not as she had the ability to play sweet and not so sweet believably. In the book, Diane attributes her fading movie career to the New Hollywood of the independent filmmaker who shunned glamour for more real looking actors.

Diane McBain’s memoir was an eye opener for me and is truly recommended. And despite her struggles, it does have a well-deserved happy ending for the still gorgeous actress.

 

Comments: 12

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  • John Black

    The book sounds like a worthwhile purchase, so I think I’ll order a copy. I’d rather read a book by Chris Noel (who also toured South Viet Nam and even recorded an LP on that subject), but I’m sure that Diane’s book will be eye-opening.

     
     
     
  • Michael H

    Wow, I had no idea she was writing a book and I will order it today. For anyone who is interested in meeting her, she is scheduled to appear at the Hollywood Show in LA the weekend of July 18 -20 at the Westin Hotel. Diane had real presence on screen and even though her film career never really took off, I always enjoyed her work. Thanks for letting us know about the book.

    Michael

     
     
     
  • Michael H

    It’s interesting that many of the deposed starlets never graduated to A-list studio films and had to rely on TV films, series guest spots and small budget or European films to continue working. I can only think of a few who managed to carve out notable film careers after the studio contract system collapsed: Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, Raquel Welch, and to a lesser degree, Suzanne Pleshette and Paula Prentiss. Many others, including Diane, Carol Lynley, Sandra Dee, Pamela Tiffin and Yvette Mimieux never recovered, although they continued to work well into the 1970’s. Lynley, of course, had a huge commercial hit with Poseidon, but that was pretty much it for her as far as major film studio opportunities.

    One differentiator might be how tough or driven they were. Raquel Welch and Suzanne Pleshette had reputations for being self-starters who weren’t afraid of stepping on toes to get what they wanted. Ann-Margret, who was a triple-treat talent, was more reserved and shy, but she married Roger Smith who, in tandem with Allan Carr, helped turn her floundering film career around in 1971 with her Oscar nominated performance in Carnal Knowledge.

    I just think it’s a shame that some of these other women who had natural acting talent never connected with a manager or agent who could help them transition into quality projects when they became free agents.

    Michael

     
     
     
    • Personal bad decisions also cost their careers. Pamela Tffin ran off to Italy and Carol ran off to London while both were on the verge of super stardom as both scored with well-received adult roles: Pamela with Harper and Carol with Bunny Lake Is Missing. Sandra Dee, though supremely popular, was the least versatile so no surprise she crashed and burned. Connie Stevens too had thin acting talent and her film career petered out by 1966. Unlike Dee, she had a musical background to fall back on and was an astute businesswoman and not a mess like Dee.

       
  • Hi Tom,

    My copy arrived yesterday, and I’m already into it. As you probably know, I worked with Diane, twice. “Spinout,” and “Thunder Alley.” She was a total delight, with a delicious sense of humour. I wasn’t expecting that, and was pleasantly surprised.
    She’s VERY right about Edd Byrnes. I found him to also be surly, and extremely rude.
    At a recent Autograph show, I didn’t even bother trying to say, ‘hello.’
    Wish you could be with us all on the 26th at Larry Edmunds Book Shop. I have promised Michael that I will attend.
    So glad to know you liked the book.
    As always,
    Christopher

     
     
     
  • Grant

    In my real estate dealings with her several years ago.after leaving a career as an agent and personal manager and television prod. …..she was a total bitch, most unpleasant, and quite the diva….a very unpleasant experience for the RE office she tried working with……..at first meeting…quite pleasant and still quite beautiful if you didn’t mind the smell of smoke, as she was 1 cig away from being a chain smoker. Not untalented, but not liked by the those that could have, and tried to get her career going…….another case of her being “her own worst enemy”!!! with little charisma to overcome it….. not an unusual Hollywood story. p.s. If you ever saw Ann-Margret in person, you would know why she was the star she became……..plus, beyond thoughtful and sweet…….Alan Carr certainly managed her career brilliantly……but she was an undeniable STAR with Charisma to knock your socks off !!!! ……with or without him…….managers were lined up to sign her….

     
     
     
    • I interviewed Diane McBain in 1998 for my first book and found her quite pleasant. We lunched at Wolfgang Puck’s restauarant that I think was on the Sunset Blvd. I can’t comment on anything beyond that personally. However, I always liked Diane much more so than Ann-Margret. I think Pamela Tiffin, who worked with Ann-Margret twice, would disagree with her being “thoughtful and sweet” though few others I have interiewed would concur.

       
  • Michael H

    I’d love to hear what her contemporaries think of her book and if they relate to her experiences as former contract players. One question I have is, why isn’t she doing more publicity for the book? Aside from her upcoming appearance at the Hollywood Show, I can’t find any media interviews or press events. You would think her publisher could line-up a few gigs to drive sales.

    Regarding A-M, her film career was at a standstill until Roger Smith and Alan Carr took the reins. Agree that she was (and still is) a talented, charismatic performer but even with all that, she still needed guidance and a buffer to re-energize her film career in the early 70’s. I’ve never met her personally but everyone I know who has, says she is indeed a sweet woman who is kind and thoughtful.

     
     
     
  • Michael H

    I just finished it. Diane is very open about her mistakes and there were many of them. She takes responsibility for most of her misery but it baffles me why someone who invested so much time and energy into spiritual enlightenment kept repreating the same self- destructive behavior over and over. Still, I found myself liking her and wishing she has mustered enough self-esteem to have enjoyed a more successful acting career. Her recollections of her Richard Burton fling, her crazy marriage, her challenges with raising her son, and her financial struggles were compelling. Her extensive volunteer work was admirable too. I was astounded at how brave she was in recounting her rape without a trace of self-pity or avoidance of the unsavory details. There is lot to admire about her and I give her major props for writing an honest account of her experiences. Maybe the most impressive aspect is that she didn’t make excuses for her choices or try to scapegoat anyone else.

    Michael

     
     
     
    • Yes, I totally agree. She never plays the victim and accepts all responisibility for her mistakes. I think if she had a better agent in the late 60s/early 70s she would ahve gotten leads or 2nd leads in TV movies. Hell if Diane Baker aqnd Connie Stevens were still getting acting jobs Diane McBain should have easily too.

       
  • Michael H

    Speaking of Diane Baker, I caught “The Prize” on TCM recently with Paul Newman in the lead role. I had seen it as a kid in the theaters, but I had completely forgotten that Diane Baker was even in it. That’s how little she impressed me when I first saw the movie. Of course, the sight of Paul Newman walking around in a skimpy towel pretty much eclipsed everything else in that film anyway, but this confirmed how much of a void Diane Baker was an actress, in my opinion. Diane McBain, however, always made an impression. I’m glad she is finally getting a bit of the spotlight with her book.

     
     
     
    • Yes, it is mind boggling that Diane Baker had a 40 year career without making one standout impression. Even in her more famous movies, she is barely remembered (i.e. Diary of Anne Frank; Marnie; The Prize as you mentioned) and always over shadowed by the other lead actors. She also played the same ice queen role and did it blandly in my opinion.

       
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