Happy Birthday Jeannine Riley!

ajeannineA busty brown-eyed blonde who resembled a cross between Carol Wayne and Deanna Lund, Jeannine Riley usually was cast as the naive hillbilly or slutty country girl on television and the big screen but she had the ability to do more. She is most remembered for TV’s Petticoat Junction as the rural comedy hit’s first Billie Jo from 1963 to 1965 (the b/w years that were rarely re-aired in syndication) or from TV’s corn pone Hee Haw beginning in 1969 as the first in a long line of scantily clad Daisy Mae types the Hee Haw Honeys. In between her many television appearances, Riley could be seen on the big screen in low budget drive-in fare such as Ted V. Mikel’s Strike Me Deadly (1963) and the race car drama Fever Heat (1968) to bigger budgeted movies which showcased her comedic abilities such as The Big Mouth (1967) with Jerry Lewis and The Comic (1969) with Dick Van Dyke.

Her most memorable movie with a big cult following was Electra Glide in Blue (1973) starring Robert Blake as a diminutive motorcycle cop of American Indian descent whose dreams of becoming a detective are realized when he questions rightfully an open-and-shut suicide.  However, now partnered with detective Mitchell Ryan, Blake’s integrity comes into play during the investigation of a murder as his adoration of Ryan turns to revulsion.  Riley surprises giving a poignant performance as Ryan’s embittered girlfriend who owns a dive bar where the walls are decorated with childhood pictures from her glory days in high school and as a young dancer who had dreams of going to Hollywood. More dramatic roles should have followed in the seventies but she was relegated TV only. She called it quits by 1980.

REad more about Jeannine Riley in my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood.



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