02 April 2017

Imported from the USA: Tina Louise

American actress, singer, and author Tina Louise (1934) began her career on stage during mid-1950s and became a popular pin-up model, before landing her breakthrough role in the film drama God's Little Acre (1958). She received the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year and landed starring roles in Hollywood movies, like The Trap (1959), The Hangman (1959), and For Those Who Think Young (1964), and several Italian films. She is now best remembered for the TV comedy series Gilligan's Island (1964-1967).

Tina Louise
Yugoslavian postcard by Studio Sombor. Photo: publicity still for The Hangman (Michael Curtiz, 1959).

It's Time for Tina

Tina Louise was born Tina Blacker in 1934 in New York City. An only child, she was raised by her mother, Betty Horn (born Myers) Blacker, a fashion model. Tina's father, Joseph Blacker, was a candy store owner in Brooklyn and later an accountant.

Only two years old, Tina got her first role, after being seen in an ad for her father's candy store. She played numerous roles until she decided it was best to focus on school work. The name ‘Louise’ was allegedly added during her senior year in high school when she mentioned to her drama teacher that she was the only girl in the class without a middle name. He selected the name ‘Louise’ and it stuck.

Tina Louise attended Miami University in Ohio. By the age of 17, she began studying acting, singing and dancing. She studied acting under Sanford Meisner at the prestigious Neighbourhood Playhouse in Manhattan.

Her acting debut came in 1952 in the Bette Davis musical revue Two's Company, followed by roles in other Broadway productions, such as John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953) with Harry Belafonte, The Fifth Season (1953), and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1955).

She appeared in such early live television dramas as Studio One (1956), Producers' Showcase (1956), and Appointment with Adventure. In 1957, she appeared on Broadway in the hit musical Li'l Abner, based on the famous comic strip character created by Al Capp. Her album, It's Time for Tina, was released that year, with songs such as Embraceable You and I'm in the Mood for Love.

During her early acting years, she was offered modelling jobs, including as a rising starlet, who along with Jayne Mansfield, was a product advocate in the 1958 Frederick's of Hollywood catalogue, and appeared on the cover of several pinup magazines such as Adam, Sir! and Modern Man. Her later pictorials for Playboy (May 1958; April 1959) were arranged by Columbia Pictures studio in an effort to further promote the young actress.

Tina Louise
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 997. Presented by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Hangman (Michael Curtiz, 1959).

Viva l'Italia!

In 1958, Tina Louise made her Hollywood film debut in God's Little Acre (Anthony Mann, 1958), based on Erskine Caldwell's 1933 novel of the same name. The film was an entry in the Venice Film Festival.

She became an in-demand leading lady for major stars like Robert Taylor in The Hangman (Michael Curtiz, 1959), Richard Widmark in The Trap (Norman Panama, 1959), and Robert Ryan in Day of the Outlaw (André de Toth, 1959).

She often played sombre roles quite unlike the glamorous pin-up photographs she had become famous for in the late 1950s. She turned down roles in Li'l Abner and Operation Petticoat taking roles in the Italian cinema.

She starred opposite Rossano Brazzi and Sylva Koscina in the historical drama L'assedio di Siracusa/Siege of Syracuse (Pietro Francisci, 1960), about the Roman Siege of Syracuse, which took place between 214 and 212 B.C., during the Second Punic War with Carthage.

Among her other notable Italian film credits was the historical epic Viva l'Italia!/Garibaldi (1960), directed by Roberto Rossellini, that concerned Italy's historic national hero Garibaldi's (Renzo Ricci) efforts to unify the Italian states in 1860.

When Louise returned to the United States, she began studying with Lee Strasberg and eventually became a member of the Actors Studio. She appeared in a 1962 episode of The Real McCoys, the Walter Brennan sitcom, and in the beach party film For Those Who Think Young (Leslie H. Martinson, 1964), with Bob Denver, prior to the development of Gilligan's Island.

In 1964, she co-starred with Carol Burnett in the Broadway musical Fade Out – Fade In. She left the musical to portray movie star Ginger Grant on the situation comedy Gilligan's Island (1964-1967), after the part was turned down by Jayne Mansfield. The role did make Louise a pop icon of the era, and one of the greatest of television's all-time sex symbols.

However, Louise was unhappy with the role and worried that it would typecast her. After the series ended in 1967, she continued to work in film and made numerous guest appearances in various television series. She appeared in the Matt Helm spy spoof The Wrecking Crew (Phil Karlson, 1969) with Dean Martin and Elke Sommer. Louise played a doomed suburban housewife in the original The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes, 1975), and both the film and her performance were well received.

Tina Louise
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/63.

Grittier roles

Tina Louise attempted to shed her comedic image by assaying grittier roles, including a guest appearance as a heroin addict in an episode of the TV series Kojak (1974), as well as a co-starring role as an Southern prison guard in the women-in-prison TV movie Nightmare in Badham County (John Llewellyn Moxey, 1976). Her other television films of the period included Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (Sam ‘O Steen, 1976), SST: Death Flight (David Lowell Rich, 1977), and Friendships, Secrets and Lies (Marlene Laird, Ann Zane Shanks, 1979).

She played J.R. Ewing's secretary on the first season of the legendary soap opera Dallas (1978–1979). Her character was finally killed off. In France, she appeared in the crime film Canicule/Dog Day (Yves Boisset, 1984) with Lee Marvin and Miou-Miou. In the fall of 1984, she replaced Jo Ann Pflug as Taylor Chapin on the syndicated soap opera Rituals after Pflug refused to do love scenes with co-star George Lazenby due to her religious beliefs. After a few months, however, Louise did not renew her own contract and the character was written out.

She later made cameo appearances on the network daytime soaps Santa Barbara and All My Children. Louise declined to participate in any of the three reunion television films for Gilligan's Island. Despite maintaining an adequate career after the show's run, she kept claiming that the show actually ruined her career. The role of Ginger was recast with Judith Baldwin and Constance Forslund.

Although she did not appear in these television movies, she made brief walk-on appearances on a few talk shows and specials for Gilligan's Island reunions, including Good Morning America (1982), The Late Show (1988) and the TV Land award show (2004) with the other surviving cast members.

Wikipedia: “In the 1990s, she was reunited with costars Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, and Russell Johnson in an episode of Roseanne. She did not reunite with them for the television film Surviving Gilligan's Island (2001), co-produced by Wells. She was portrayed by Kristen Dalton in the television film. Her relations with series star Denver were rumoured to be strained, but in 2005, she wrote a brief, affectionate memorial to him in the year-end farewell issue of Entertainment Weekly.

Later film roles included a co-starring appearance in the Robert Altman comedy O.C. and Stiggs (1987) as well as the award winning satire Johnny Suede (Tom DiCillo, 1992) starring Brad Pitt, and the Australian comedy Welcome to Woop Woop (Stephan Elliott, 1997) starring Johnathon Schaech and Rod Taylor. In 2014 she appeared in the horror film Late Phases by Spanish director Adrián García Bogliano, in which a blind war veteran becomes the victim of a werewolf attack.

From 1966 to 1974, Tina Louise was married to radio and TV announcer/interviewer Les Crane, with whom she has one daughter, Caprice Crane (born 1970), who became an MTV producer and a novelist. Tina Louise now resides in New York City. She has written three books including Sunday: A Memoir (1997) and the children’s books When I Grow Up (2007) and What Does a Bee Do? (2009).

Tina Louise dances in L'assedio di Siracusa/Siege of Syracuse (1960). Source: galesayers (YouTube).

Trailer Late Phases (2014). Source: Light Movies (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

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