Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Sprinkle of Cinnamon!

When the DVD format came about, but I still had a standard style TV, it would annoy me that movies played in (sometimes very narrow) letterbox format. This is a situation that has mostly remedied itself thanks to the new widescreen televisions. Anyway, at the time, I discovered that the real gems on DVD were old television series. One could get the whole screen filled, with exceptional picture quality and not a commercial to be seen, nor a cut made to the running time!

The first series I began to collect was Mission: Impossible (1966-1973.) The show went off the air when I was not yet six, so it had mostly been something I'd only ever heard about or perhaps seen clips of here and there. I'd only seen one episode in my life that had aired on LATE night TV and was grainy and hacked to pieces. So it was with great pleasure that I discovered M:I on DVD and got to witness aspects of it that made it "must see" television back in its day. I already did a post about the show many years back, but today wanted to zero in on one aspect, agent Cinnamon Carter (portrayed by Barbara Bain.)

The year before Mission, Anne Francis had starred in a female spy series called Honey West, which was a cult favorite, yet unable to sustain enough ratings to continue. It's almost a certainty that the lush name of Honey West (along with the suggestive ones given to various Bond girls) helped to inspire the unusual name of Cinnamon Carter and perhaps even inspired her eventual look.

One thing that sort of intrigued me when it came to Bain was the fact that she'd managed to win THREE back-to- back Emmys for her work on Mission: Impossible (equaling the number of seasons she appeared on the show) at a time when such things were not as predictable as they later became (Candice Bergen finally taking herself out of contention after winning five for Murphy Brown, anyone?) I wanted to see what the fuss was about. (The Golden Globe in the photo, by the way, was hubby Martin Landau's, not hers.)

The casting of the role of a lone female agent amongst a team of gentlemen was vastly important in pre-production of the series. Produced by Desilu Studios, this fact meant that non other than Lucille Ball was going to have final say on the matter. When a staff member suggested Bain, spouse of the pilot's planned featured guest Martin Landau, Lucy scoffed at hiring "someone's wife" to essay this key role. However, having met her and assessing her appeal, Ball was on board and the show had it's Cinnamon Carter.

The LOOK of Cinnamon, however, was not yet set and included some considerable glamorizing before Bain would be seen sporting the iconic blonde mane with a swoop over one eyebrow. Note this early test shot opposite the original leading man of the series Steven Hill. Bain's honey brown tresses and overall makeup scheme would soon be getting a major overhaul, one that would tantalize TV audiences.

That first year, the cast was intended to be Greg Morris, making headway as a black series lead in which his skin color is virtually un-referred to, Hill, as head of the I.M.F. (Impossible Missions Force), Bain and Peter Lupus, an all-purpose strongman and helpmate. This was the foursome intended to be used each week.
In the pilot, however, Landau proved so captivating as a "Man of 1000 Faces" that he was approached to star as a regular as well. However, because Landau was still considered a movie actor and wanted to be free to do motion pictures, he only signed on as a Special Guest Star, though appearing practically every week. This set-up had an effect upon bringing in other guest star agents as the budget couldn't always afford another specially priced actor or two in addition to what Landau was making per episode along with a guest villain.

One of my own favorite parts of the show was "The Apartment Scene," a regular feature in which the agents met to discuss their latest plan of action. Most of the decor in the apartment was either black, white or grey or else a very, very muted other color. Each of the agents wore some variation on black, white or grey as well, making for a visually arresting set-up.

In early episodes, Bain wore a surprising amount of white. She also, rather shockingly in retrospect, once repeated an outfit, a black skirt with sleeveless white top, only altering the necklace with it from a short one to a longer one and effecting bangs versus a side-swept style.  A remarkable number of the early episodes involved rigged gambling games as a way of tricking the villain at hand, too.
Bain's large eyes were painted with very heavy black eyeliner, giving her a sultry, mysterious look. As that first season progressed, her hair became blonder and more bouffant until reaching the familiar rendition that most fans of the show recall.

Clothing for her in the apartment sequences became more vivid, varied and often more sleek and glamorous than had been seen previously.
After the series premiered, some letters began to appear at the production office with negative reactions to Bain being seen situated by and interacting closely with her black make costar Morris. The studio's answer to that was to find more ways than before of putting Bain and Morris in close proximity, which is commendable when one recalls the furor that occurred when Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte's arm during a number in a TV special of hers in 1968, almost two years AFTER this.

Occasionally, Bain would be absent from an episode as another female guest took part (or if the storyline didn't particularly dictate having a seductive distraction on hand.) One notable example of this was the time Eartha Kitt appeared as "Tina," a contortionist who demonstrated in the apartment scene how she would be able to navigate ventilation ducts in order to help with the mission. (The highly claustrophobic Bain wouldn't have been able to film this mission even if it were feasible that Cinnamon could do these things with her body!) This key TV appearance likely aided Kitt in landing the role of Catwoman on Batman later in the year when Julie Newmar was found unavailable for filming.

Outside the confines of the apartment sequences, Bain could - and did - adopt a variety of different looks in her bid to foil this bad guy or that one. Often she would turn on the charm (or the sex) to lure unsuspecting criminals into the web of her Impossible Missions Force.

Naturally, I loved it most when she would apply a big hairpiece or tease up her mane somehow in order to ramp up the glitz. Look at her tresses in the montage below! She also did a generous amount of smoking on the show that, while adding that much more mystery and allure at the time, eventually played havoc with her looks. (And Bain was already in her mid-thirties when the series began, an unusual occurrence for programs looking to add sex appeal to the mix.)
Sometimes she would be considerably dressed down, distressed or aged depending on the dictates of the story line. She's depicted here with Peter Graves, who took over as head of the IMF when Hill's religious convictions (his interest having been renewed and reinforced several years before the show) forbid him from working past 4:00 on Fridays and he began to balk at some of the physical demands of the work. Graves would become the lasting face of Mission: Impossible and even starred in a 1988-1990 rehash of the series that was born of a long-lasting writer's strike.
Unusual episodes regarding Bain include one in which only she and Landau worked the mission at hand as a twosome, an episode in which she, rather than the IMF leader, got the iconic recorded message at the beginning of the episode ("Your mission, should you decide to accept it...") and one in which she was found out near the start of an episode and captured!

During the first three seasons of the show, Bain ran the gamut as far as different looks were concerned, with her built-in austereness layered over each installment. It was an unusual role, playing a person who is forever playing another person (something explored to a far greater extent years later by Jennifer Garner in Alias, 2001-2006.)

This was a showcase TV role for a female in 1966 and her efforts won her an Emmy right out of the gate (her competition was Barbara Stanwyck for The Big Valley and Diana Rigg of The Avengers.) Get a load of co-presenter Inger Stevens' magnificent mane of hair! With her in the inset is Peter Falk.
Bain was looking on point herself the big night. Beaming in black and white, she happily accepted the award, promising that some of the people she'd like to thank (presumably Landau!) would be done so in private!
The following year (not pictured), Bain won in her category again, this time against the same two ladies who were, by now, probably beginning to have an aversion to "cinnamon!" LOL Fortunately, Stanwyck had already won one for The Big Valley the year before Mission: Impossible came on.

By the end of the third season, Mission had climbed from relative obscurity in its earliest days to a mid-sized hit to, by now, eleventh place in the ratings. A behind-the-scenes shakeup with writers and producers had rattled the expensive series' foundation and it was in this unstable climate that Landau asked for a hefty raise in pay. Trouble was... having already dealt with extreme difficulty in the face of Hill's issues and departure, the producers were not inclined to take on any more trouble, budgetary or otherwise. And, more importantly, Hill's replacement Graves had a "favored nations" clause in his own contract. It stated that no one on the show could be paid more than he. So if Landau got a massive raise, so too would he!
When negotiations fell through, Landau was OUT. Bain had also asked for and received a reasonable pay increase, but with her husband gone, there was speculation on whether she'd stay or not. Even though she was, in some ways, the face of the show and was very popular with the cast and crew, it was believed by at least one producer that she was non-essential and that practically anyone could play that thinly-sketched sort of role.

In a flurry of confusion and mixed signals, some say a hold-out, others a force-out, Bain missed wardrobe fittings for the season four debut episode and was promptly replaced in the two-parter by Dina Merrill.

So on Emmy night, the third go 'round, a highly elegant, but also very serious Bain waited for her category. This time her competition was Joan Blondell of Here Come the Brides and Peggy Lipton of The Mod Squad. Again, Bain's name was called.

With black chiffon flowing, she ascended to the stage and collected her Emmy. Publicly naming herself as the girl who "used to be" on Mission: Impossible, there were some surprised gasps in living rooms across the nation. This time, she also mentioned not only those she would like to thank, but some others who she would not like to!

Thus came the end of Cinnamon Carter for all intents and purposes. The ratings took a hit (though the show was solid enough to run for several more years, till 1973 in fact) and the series had two slots to fill. Ironically, Leonard Nimoy, who'd just come from the canceled Star Trek, filled Landau's spot. Landau had initially been offered the role of Mr. Spock on Trek, but turned it down.

Replacing Bain would prove a more complicated task. For the entire fourth season, a carousel of other ladies filled in, one being Lee Meriwether on several occasions, who was well-suited to the material and wanted the part tremendously, but ultimately wound up as the wife on The New Andy Griffith Show (1971) before settling into a long run on Barnaby Jones (1973-1980.)

A whole new tack was attempted for the fifth season when the compara- tively young (former Cinderella) Lesley Warren was picked to breathe new life into the spy series. Although clearly talented, she was never 100% comfortable on the show, nor did the team truly mesh the way it had beforehand. (But check out the young, sexy, mod Sam Elliott behind her! He was briefly a regular cast member as well.)

For the final two seasons, producers settled on Lynda Day George as the gal of choice and she fit in with the format very well. (George even scored an Emmy nomination of her own on Mission, but the statuette went to Michael Learned of The Waltons.) When George became pregnant during the final season, Ironside's Barbara Anderson capably filled in for seven installments.

Nevertheless, when most viewers think of a female on Mission: Impossible, it is Bain that generally springs to mind. She was just the right type at just the right time to become a sensation.

She and Landau had a rough patch or two after departing the show. He wound up in increasingly shoddy exploitation movies while she scored an occasional television movie. They paired up once more for Space: 1999, which can be read about here, and a couple of other lesser projects before surprising everyone with a divorce in 1993 (and neither remarried to anyone else!) Today, he's eighty-eight and she is eighty-five.
Landau, of course, wound up with a series of Oscar nominations in the late-1980s before winning one for Ed Wood 1995. Though Bain's career never went in that direction, she has continued to work as recently as last year. In 1997, she guest-starred on Dick Van Dyke's medical-set detective series Diagnosis Murder in an episode which was featuring TV spy stars of the 1960s including Robert Culp, Patrick Macnee and Robert Vaughn. Here, she played Cinnamon Carter for a final time!

Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter was glacially elegant and enticingly sultry. She could be shrill and forced whenever called upon to shriek, scream or express upset, but more often was cool as a cucumber. Her aloofness in the part could easily have been construed as snootiness, though most of her colleagues from the show found her highly professional, generous and always pleasant to be around. In the Underworld, where we only zero in on the important stuff, what we like about her the most is the dazzling combination of makeup and hairspray!


Gingerguy said...

What's not to love about this post? I can start with her alliterative name, it makes a person automatically sound like a movie star. I always dug her look (not so much on Space 1999-but those were hard years for everyone) she reminds me of Dorothy Maguire but much more glamorous and kind of European looking (they both had a lot of soft focus camera shots). So severe and chic in the photos, that helmet hair in the pink dress is too much, though I also loved Honey West with her mole and pet Ocelot. In the endless cycle of syndication I knew Lynda Day George in the role first and later saw Miss BB in the series. Barbara was definitely the most sophisticated version. Though I love me some Dina Merrill, and she looks great there. The guys were not exactly chopped liver either. Greg Morris was so handsome and Peter Lupus is one hunk of man. I would have never recognized the gorgeous Sam Elliot with that sexy haircut. Interesting about the racial aspect, how bizarre that people wouldn't be ashamed to actually mail a letter to a television show with that garbage. There wasn't even diversity in hair color then, all the emmy nominees you mentioned were blondes except Diana Rigg. Thanks for a glamorous revisit to a lady I loved to watch when I was a kid.

A said...

I was a boy of probably 14 when I started watching this and I had crushes on both Greg Morris and Peter Lupus. And man, when Peter Lupus appeared in Playgirl... Also, I remember not liking Dina Merrill in this, but somehow thinking Lynda Day George was okay.

Great post, Poseidon, as usual!

hsc said...

Great post on Bain's "Cinnamon Carter" character! I'm surprised, though, you didn't mention the episode in which Bain sang!

Season 3, Episode 24, "Illusion" had Cinnamon undercover as a Marlene Dietrich-type nightclub singer, and Bain performed a little in her own voice. IIRC, TV GUIDE even had a feature titled "The Mood is Marlene".

I haven't seen the episode in over 45 years, but I can still hear some of those numbers in my head.

In one, she's singing about the nude paintings in saloons:

"There's a lady 'bove the bar.../ And she's wearing very little/ But the smile upon her face!"

In another, she flaunts her gams and sings that:

"I've got ten tiny toes/ Wrapped in shiny black hose/ Topped with shocking pink garters/ Of lace!"

and she continues that the guys in the audience want her garters as a souvenir:

"So I'll make you a present of these.../ And though my stockings may fall/ It's because I love you all/ And I heard nobody knocking my knees!"

Pretty campy, as I recall, but I also remember her having a fairly decent voice for a "non-singer".

hsc said...

BTW, I had to look up that Barbara Bain musical moment with a Google search to get the title and episode number.

And I forgot to ask-- who's the rugged blond in between Leonard Nimoy and Lee Meriwether in the still above?

Rick Gould said...

My Mom LOVED the original show and a few years ago, I gave her a boxed set of MI for Christmas...I'll have to borrow it!

Barbara Bain always reminded me a bit of Lauren Bacall, both in looks and demeanor...and they both loved to smoke. Bain's look in MI still looks very fresh and stylish...that shot of Barbara in the white dress is stunning.

Rick Gould said...

PS, Poseidon, Check out TOASTnJam on YouTube...You will think you died and gone to '70s TV movie heaven ; )

In particular are two Barbara Bain movies. A Summer Without Boys is one I recall seeing, with Bain, Kay Lenz, Michael Moriarty, and Mildred Dunnock. Set during WWII, Bain and Lenz are mother and daughter, both crushing on handyman Moriarty at a lodge. The other is Goodnight, My Love, with Bain and Richard Boone, a '40s detective story. Bain looks Bacall-ish in her '40s styles!

Here's the link to TOASTnJam, where I recognized so many TV flicks that I hadn't thought about in years...Cheers! Rick

joel65913 said...

Wonderfully informative as usual Poseidon. Bain was and is always the essence of class, though I must admit that she is not the first female lead who comes to mind when I think of the show.

I was a trifle young during her years on the show for it to fully engage me, I had a vague acquaintance with the program because my folks watched-and my mother LOVED Barbara Bain, but by the time I started being a regular viewer Lesley Ann Warren was in place. I liked her in the show but she left pretty quickly and Lynda Day George took over. So for me she was the female face of the show and while she wasn't as much of an arresting presence onscreen as either Bain or Warren she was lovely and competent.

Back to Barbara Bain when the show went into syndication I had a chance to catch up on her episodes and she was very distinctive and I can see why she was awarded. She was always very present in her scenes as well as uber glamorous. She looks marvelous in all the photos but that first one is just smashing.

Also love the snap of my beloved Inger Stevens and her mountain of hair, too bad it's so fuzzy. She, or her hairstylists, often adopted that look in her films and TV appearances you have to possess a certain grace and natural elegance to carry that sort of style off so you're wearing it and its not wearing you. She had it as did Bain.

VanceMan said...

While I've never planned to be a drag queen, that look and that name are are YES! Lovely post!

Poseidon3 said...

Hello, my loves! Not ignoring you all... just got back from a long weekend in the hinterlands (and was delighted to see so much Barbara Bain love when I got back!)

Gingerguy, do you mean Dorothy Malone? I could sort of see that, but I don't think I see a Dorothy Maguire similarity myself. I adore Dina Merrill, of course, though I don't know that she was exploited to her own full glamour potential in her M:I guest spot. It was so last minute, in any case! I love the way Sam Elliott looks during his relatively brief stay on the show. The Emmy race back then was interesting in that of all the shows on TV, only THREE nominees were even selected!! In that case, it truly would be "an honor to be nominated."

A, Greg Morris and Peter Lupus were the only ones who appeared in all seasons of the show. They attempted to dump Peter at one point, thinking him dispensable, but there was viewer outcry so he was retained. I love that. In later seasons, he seemed to get far more to do than just carry things. Greg was a great presence on the show and that's his son Phil who appeared in the 1980s redux (playing Morris's character's son!)

hsc, I almost added a photo of Bain in her Marlene Dietrich-esque guise, but somehow wound up not doing so. I think she might have sung another time, too, when they were infiltrating a far-out 1960s hippie nightclub! I know I have a vision of her with long hair and a mod outfit anyway... And the actor shown with Nimoy and Meriwether is an actor named Bert Kramer. He worked his way up from small guest roles to a lead in the short-lived series "The Fitzpatricks." But he's best known around here for playing Lily Tomlin's husband (!) in "Moment by Moment."

Rick, I LOVED that white dress, too! (The one with the black bow accents?) But I usually love late-1960s clothing in general. I will definitely visit the youtube page you suggested. The only Barbara Bain tv-movie I have seen (that I readily recall) was a mystery/murder one with John Forsythe in which they were married. It was very enjoyable. (I am one of the rare people who does not enjoy Kay Lenz, but I'll suffer through....)

Joel, as soon as I saw that first photo of Barbara I knew that had to be the opener. It's so striking. The care that went into LIGHTING people on these old shows!! Now they're described as "overlit" with all this stylized sort of lighting in its place, but I bet actresses of a certain age would prefer the old way! LOL So flattering. And everyone's eyes (wherein so much of a performance lies) stood out. I concur about both how wonderful Inger looked and how horrible the screen cap is. Maybe it's easier to view in the video itself:

VanceMan, I get you! I bet there were several Cinnamon-flavored drag artists in the late-60s and early-70s!

Thanks again, everyone, for reading and commenting!

F. Nomen said...

Strong post as always, with one minor correction. Steven Hill's religious convictions as an Orthodox Jew weren't newly-discovered. He made it known to the producers before signing his contract that he would not work on the Sabbath.

Poseidon3 said...

F Nomen, Steven Hill didn't closely follow Orthodox Judaism until just a few years before beginning work on Mission: Impossible. That's what I meant by "newly discovered." He experienced an epiphany of sorts in the early-1960s. Before that, he was far less interested and/or involved in his religious beliefs and practices. I will look at it and see if further clarification is needed.

Scooter said...

This was a fun post. I was aware of Barbara Bain from Space: 1999 and always thought her look on the show was a little cold. Everything was 1970's beige - her hair, clothes and make-up. It was refreshing to see her in the M:I era where, although, aloof one was able to see a broader appeal. By the way, I was surprised to see how much her daughter, Juliet Landau, looks like her. It is really evident in some of the shots you included.

Chellis610 said...

Interesting that you talked about how well Lee Meriwether played as Tracey. Apparently the cast and crew loved Lee and wanted her as a full-time cast member for the fifth season, so what happened? From what I understand the folks at CBS wanted to go after a younger demographic despite Paramount's wishes to add Lee to the show, so that's how Lesley Ann Warren and Sam Elliott were added to the cast! Fortuntately for Lee, she would be big on CBS with "Barnaby Jones".