Star Trek with Maggie Thrett: From Where No Man Has Gone Before to The Wild Wild West
In my upcoming book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies from BearManor Media, actress Maggie Thrett talks about her film appearances and especially about making the hit drive-in movie Three in the Attic (1968) written by Stephen Yafa and starring Christopher Jones, Yvette Mimieux, and Judy Pace. However, she is probably most remembered for her guest appearance in “Mudd’s Women” on Star Trek earlier in her career and some of her other TV roles.
Maggie Thrett was born Diane Pine in New York City. She had a natural gift for singing and in junior high school was chosen to be part of the All City Glee Club. She then attended the High School for the Performing Arts and began working as a model after accompanying a tall beautiful Israeli classmate to her modeling agency Plaza Five. One look at the attractive gal with long luxurious dark hair and they signed her as a client. Her first appearance in Harper’s Bazaar had her modeling street clothes accompanied by actor Michael J. Pollard. Soon after she was gracing their cover. She then signed with the more prestigious agency Eileen Ford while continuing her singing career. At age thirteen, she had a record out called “Your Love Is Mine” with the B-side “Lucky Girl.”
Bob Crewe (most famous for writing a number of hits for The Four Seasons) was taken with the aspiring singer when she was dancing at the Greenwich Village discotheque Trude Heller’s the year she graduated high school. He produced her next single called “Soupy” for his label DynoVoice Records, but he changed her name to Maggie Thrett because “he thought it sounded British and more with it for the time.”
During this period Maggie reveals that she was ensconced in an unhappy abusive marriage to a wannabe actor. He got an audtion for Universal Pictures and Thrett agreed to read opposite him when his partner dropped out at the last minute. As luck would have it, she got signed and sent to Hollywood, while he was sent packing.
With her long brown, hair which she refuse to cut, the beautiful actress was able to play various ethnic types such as Mexicans or native Americans mostly on television. Her first film for the studio was the beach/spy spoof Out of Sight (1966) starring Jonathan Pine, Karen Jensen, and Shindig dancer Carole Shelyne. Maggie played the karate-chopping F.L.U.S.H. assassin Wipeout who arrives in Malibu on a surfboard from Hawaii. They then gave her a role in an episode of Run for Your Life starring Ben Gazzara. There she met future husband actor Donnelly Rhodes. “We met at the Montecito Hotel where Universal Studios first put me up when I cam to Los Angeles. He was married at the time. We didn’t get together until later. He was nice and Ben was too.”
Next came her most notable role that of Ruth, a gorgeous alien humanoid, in “Mudd’s Women” on Star Trek for which she is most remembered for to this day. This episode was directed by Harvey Hart. It was one of three scripts submitted to be the second pilot however the adult content worried NBC. It was the sixth episode aired.
I was living in an apartment on Larrabee Street in Hollywood. Roger C. Carmel lived downstairs. It was a coincidence we both wound up cast. I had no idea what this show was because it was only the second episode they did [third if you count the original pilot with Jeffrey Hunter]. I had to read for the part and got it. I never got any role through connections. It was all by going in for the interview and auditioning.
The entire cast was really nice. I never saw any friction between any of the actors. William Shatner was very polite to me and a very pleasant guy. Susan Denberg was a German girl and she was a bit strange. Karen Steele was easier to get to know and her boyfriend actor Michael Rennie would visit her on the set. I thought he was actually there to see if he could get a job on the series. And of course I was already friends with Roger C. Carmel who was my neighbor. He was always very entertaining and a really good character actor. We had a good cast and a good director with Harvey Hart.
I thought this show was more adult then the other sci-fi shows on the air at the time. Our episode dealt with these women who was so desperate to remain young and beautiful that they would take a drug just to give them the illusion of beauty. They had no self-worth and thought their looks were the only thing going for them. [This episode smartly touched on the way women were made to feel as they matured. Hollywood was the worst offender and if an actress had not made it by thirty they were considered too old and put out to pasture.]
I had no complaints about my costume here and apparently nobody else did either. What they give you is what you wear but here it was better than usual. The makeup part was tough when we age. They put duo surgical paste on our faces—like six coats of it to shrivel you up. I remember getting it off at night was just raw. When we filmed these scenes I remember we hit Golden Overtime that day. We were there from about 4 in the morning to about 9 or 10 at night. You are passed regular overtime and are into triple overtime. They didn’t want to pay. I had to fight for it through the Screen Actors Guild. They don’t like when you do that and hurts your chances to be on the show again. I got my money and no surprise was never invited back. Years later I got a letter from Gene Roddenberry to forfeit my residuals and to donate them to his charity. I declined.
As Ruth, Maggie Thrett looked stunning in her tight emerald green sparkling gown as one of the three loveliest women (the others being Karen Steele and Susan Denberg) in the universe who mesmerize the male crew members of the Enterprise. The gals are cargo being transported by Roger C. Carmel’s Henry Mudd who acts an intergalactic pimp providing brides to lonely men. Ruth especially beguiles Dr, McCoy and drops in on sick bay to get information on the lithium crystal miners on the planet the Enterprise is en-route to. While there she inadvertently sets off McCoy’s medical scanner, which baffles him. Turns out the gals’ hypnotic effect on men comes from a Venus drug that transforms them from decrepit hags to glamour girls. When the drug begins to wear off, Ruth is desperate for Mudd to find the hidden pills so she can go back to the illusion of beauty to snare one of the miners. Maggie gives one of her finest performances here as the intense frantic Ruth who cannot bare to return to her true self.
I am shocked that years later I am best known for doing this episode. I am forever in TV history. At least it was not bad so I am not embarrassed by it. Some company contacted me to sell my autograph on these Star Trek cards. They pay me to and they resell at these Star Trek conventions. I was invited once but it didn’t work out. I think living in New York hurts because they are usually on the West Coast.
Maggie Thrett next turned up twice on The Wild Wild West but her time there was not as enjoyable due to star Robert Conrad:
He was the only lead actor I didn’t like and he was a real prick. You don’t have to be tall to be nice. He worked all the time and I do not know what his problem was about his height. Conrad also didn’t like to rehearse any scenes and wouldn’t run lines. He was only interested in the action scenes and those were the only scenes he would rehearse. I didn’t get it. Ross Martin, on the other hand, was a doll and he was the better actor. He was a professional and ran lines with us like you are suppose to do.
On the second episode that louse Conrad, who was married, came on to me. It was like you belong to me because you are on my show. I said, ‘I’m too old for you. I heard you like younger girls.’ I was eighteen at the time. When I wouldn’t go back to his trailer with him, he had me replaced in a love scene we were supposed to do in the moonlight where he kisses me. I didn’t care because I had enough scenes and it didn’t really matter.
Thrett’s two episodes were “The Night of the Freebooters” where she played soft-spoken Rita Leon, a Mexican whose husband is being held prisoner by the Freebooters, a renegade army led by Thorald Wolfe (Keenan Wynn) set to invade and claim Mexico’s Baja, California. “The Night of the Running Death” gave Thrett more to do as a dancer named Deirdre (a.k.a. Topaz) who has a passion for molasses-covered Cherries Jubilee and is the girlfriend of assassin Enzo (played by female impersonator T.C. Jones). She fakes her death in order to aid Enzo, masquerading as a female British schoolteacher, in killing a princess. As a disguised Dierdre goes to shoot her, agent Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) comes up from behind her and grabs her arm, deflecting the shot. He then says to his partner James West (Robert Conrad), “Let me present our dear friend Topaz to you James. We know her better as Deirdre.” Artemus then rips off her veil and quips, “And we gave you such a nice funeral.”
Continuing in the western genre she played Indian maidens on two TV shows. The long forgotten 1967 summer series Dundee and the Culhane starred John Mills as an English lawyer partnered with American Sean Garrison bringing “frontier justice” to folks in the Old West. Sort of a Perry Mason on horseback. Her episode was “The Death of a Warrior Brief” and also guest starred James Dunn and Gus Trikonis.
I remember this because I thought Sean Garrison was such a weird nasty guy. Also because we shot on location in Arizona and it was like 120 degrees. They hired real native Americans as extras. Flies were swarming around them and they were used to it. I couldn’t believe it. It was interesting interacting with them.
More remembered was Cimarron Strip starring Stuart Whitman (“another really nice guy,” exclaimed Thrett) as a US marshal enforcing the law in the Kansas territory. In “Heller” Thrett played Red Deer part of an Indian tribe being harassed by an outlaw gang. Tuesday Weld also appeared playing a woman who is part of the gang but turns against them to help Whitman’s marshal because as a child she was raised by Indians and has sympathy for them. As Red Deer, Thrett has one gripping moment when she shames the men in her tribe that won’t help the marshal track down the outlaw gang.
I lied to get this part. I said I had been on a horse and that I owned brown contact lens. That weekend before filming began I had to go out and buy a pair, and went to a stable to learn how to get on and off a horse. I got away with it.
Thrett also made appearances on the TV series I Dream of Jeannie; McCloud (“I played Godiva and rode through the park actually topless with my hair covering my breasts”); and The Most Deadly Game working once again with Yvette Mimieux (“I don’t remember her on this but do recall George Maharis because he wore false eyelashes. He was the first actor I ever worked with that wore them. It made him look pretty”).
Maggie Thrett’s last TV role was in an episode of the cult series Run, Joe, Run in 1974 with then husband Donnelly Rhodes about a military trained German Shepherd named Joe falsely accused of attacking his Sergeant. The canine goes on the run and winds up helping people he encounters while being pursued. It was like a four-legged version of The Fugitive. “Funny, I do not recall this show at all. Donnelly and I lived together first and then got married in Tijuana.”
Maggie Thrett then abandoned acting to concentrate on her musical career where as Diane Pine she was a very successful backup singer in the studio and on stage. She left show business the mid-eighties choosing a life of domesticity.
Maggie Three is also profiled in my and Louis Paul’s book Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Film and Television, 1962-1973.