How about Amanda Blake? We knew her as Kitty Russell on Gunsmoke. She was only 27 years old when she took on the role, and for 20 years she enjoyed her reign as a household name. Gunsmoke was the longest running Western ever. As far as I knew, she and Matt Dillon never kissed, but boy, I sure hoped they would.
Perhaps it’s not surprising with a reign that long, that she tired of the role, saying, “God, if I have to put on that damn bustle and those curls one more time, I’m gonna snap. Nineteen years is a hell of a long time for someone to be stuck behind a bar.”
She married five times, was a longtime heavy smoker who underwent oral cancer surgery, then had to have therapy to regain her ability to talk. Her fourth husband was openly bisexual and died of AIDS; she in turn died of AIDS complications in 1989 at the age of 60.
And then there was Linda Cristal. Remember her? She played Victoria Montoya Cannon on High Chaparral (loved that show!). Beautiful and flamboyant, she had a turbulent childhood. Though born in Argentina, her family was exiled to Uruguay due to her father’s involvement in a political dispute. Tragically, her parents were killed in a car crash in 1947. The crash was billed as a suicide pact as a result of her mother becoming comatose from lack of insulin and her father’s distress from his inability to support his family while in exile.
Like Amanda Blake, Linda married five times, and despite her beauty, her luck ran bad with men. Her first marriage lasted 5 days, her second 11 months, her third 6 years, her fourth ( ? Well, I’m not sure but she married him in 1968 and had husband #5 in 1972.) She enjoyed her tenure on High Chaparral, claiming she ‘got along with all of the cast members because I was the only woman, and that made it easier.’
Here’s one to jog your memories. Gail Davis. She played Annie Oakley on television and became well-known for her signature pigtails and pistols. Weighing all of 95 lbs. and reaching only 5 ft. 2 ins., she got her start in a supporting role with Roy Rogers, then went on to appear in well over 30 films, all but three which were westerns. She appeared with Gene Autry in 14 films. She was a great trick rider and shot and once commented, “I’ll be Annie Oakley for the rest of my born days.” I think she was right.
After she left the entertainment business, she toured western film shows and memorabilia festivals. She died from cancer in 1997. In 2004, she was inducted posthumously into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
Inger Stevens. Ah, doesn’t that face bring you back? She had a rough life, though, being born in Sweden and starting out as an often-ill and insecure child. She left home at age 16, headed to NYC and began a life in show business.
She was best known for her leading role in the television series, The Farmer’s Daughter, but she landed roles on Bonanza and in Hang ‘Em High with Clint Eastwood. She had numerous affairs with Hollywood’s leading men, including Bing Crosby and Burt Reynolds, then committed suicide in 1970 by flinging herself through a glass screen while gripped in the throes of an overdose of drugs.
How sad is that?
Now, I’m wondering – Why do we have this fascination with movie stars? Even more, why were/are their lives often turbulent? Why do they have commitment issues?
How do you think you’d like a life in the limelight? Maybe the money and glamour would be worth it. Or not. Is it possible a normal childhood would shield a person from a high-profile life? Help them commit to one man as a forever mate?
Any ideas? I’d love to hear them!
Written by Pam Crooks
Pam has written 14 western romances, most with Harlequin Historicals. She has recently re-released four titles by ebook. Her newest releases include HER MOTHER'S KILLER, a romantic suspense, and THE SPYGLASS PROJECT, Book One of her new Secret Six series, historical suspense set in the 1920s and written under her new pseudonym, Frankie Astuto!
Visit Pam Crooks's website