**** 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.