Friday, September 6, 2019

Disastrous Demise: Carol Lynley 1942-2019

It's tough when one of your favorite movies is now forty-seven years old and you must watch the stars of it pass away, one-by-one. Even so, with many celebrated cast members of The Poseidon Adventure (1972) having already met their fate, this one came sooner than expected. After all, Carol Lynley was seventy-seven years of age and that's no longer ancient by today's standards. We celebrate her career with this photo tribute "the morning after" her passing from a heart attack.
Born February 13th, 1942 in Manhattan, New York, Carol Ann Jones was soon making rounds as a child model. She used the name Carolyn Lee for this task and she became quite successful, appearing in countless ads and teen-oriented magazine covers.
All that work led to her appearance on a precipitous cover of Life magazine. When acting offers came her way following this, she went to Actor's Equity to register her name, Carolyn Lee only to be told that it was already in use. So she merely changed the emphasis and spelling and thereafter was known as Carol Lynley!
After a few television appearances, the pretty, yet unseasoned, young actress was picked by the Walt Disney Studios to costar with young James MacArthur in The Light in the Forest (1958.) The colorful, location-shot story is about a kidnapped white boy raised by a Delaware tribe who has to rockily re-assimilate back into civilization in the wake of a peace treaty. Lynley was among six young ladies nominated as Most Promising Female Newcomer at the next Golden Globe Awards, but the title went instead to Tina Louise, Linda Cristal and Susan Kohner.
Swiftly, she found herself under contract to 20th Century Fox and placed opposite Clifton Webb and Jane Wyman in the family comedy Holiday for Lovers (1958), based on a Broadway play. Jill St. John portrayed her older sister (a role that had been intended for Diane Varsi before she fled Hollywood and her Fox contract.) The mother role had been cast with Gene Tierney until illness led her to drop out at the eleventh hour.
Lynley had also worked on Broadway, first in The Potting Shed, followed by Blue Denim, a controversial production thanks to the subject matter of teen sex and abortion. The 1959 film adaptation was cleaned up a bit, yet still caused a stir. Brandon De Wilde played her boyfriend. Lynley was again (!) nominated for a Golden Globe as Most Promising Female Newcomer in a crowded field of eight, but this time lost to Angie Dickinson, Janet Munro, Tuesday Weld and one Stella Stevens. Lynley did the Fabian film Hound-Dog Man (1959), then married publicist Michael Selsman in 1960.
Diane Varsi's departure left the door open for Lynley to inherit the role of Allison MacKenzie in 1961's Return to Peyton Place, in which the still-young character heads to New York City to work on her novel and falls for the married editor who's helping her with it.
Now a married woman (with a baby daughter arriving in 1962), Lynley was still playing ingenue roles, such as in The Last Sunset (1961), where she was the daughter of Kirk Douglas and Dorothy Malone. She's at her bustiest ever in this publicity photo for the film!
After having her first and only child and doing some TV guest roles, Lynley costarred in Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963), a comedy which had her as a young lady pursued by a manically lascivious landlord played by Jack Lemmon.
A change of pace came with The Cardinal (1963) in which she went brunette and played the sister of Tom Tryon's title character. She portrayed her own daughter in the lengthy Otto Preminger epic and was noted for one particularly wince-inducing scene involving the perilous birth of a child.
By 1964, she was still looking great, playing a mental patient in the thriller Shock Treatment, opposite Stuart Whitman and a duplicitous Lauren Bacall.
That same year she joined Ann-Margret and Pamela Tiffin in The Pleasure Seekers, a semi-musical update of Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) following the love lives of three American girls living in Madrid, Spain. In the film, she shares a scene with Gene Tierney who had been slated to play her mother in Holiday for Lovers. Here, Tierney slaps her face and calls her a tramp! Lynley's sole marriage ended this year as well.
With Carroll Baker's color version of Harlow (1965) on the horizon, Lynley was rushed into a cheaper black and white version (shot in eight days!) also called Harlow, with the intention of getting into theaters first, which it did. Ginger Rogers was cast as her mother.
While Lynley looked "good" in her costumes, I never though she (or Carroll Baker for that matter!) looked very much like Jean Harlow. It takes more than a beauty mark and a white wig...
Nope. Still don't see it...
In 1965, Lynley worked for Otto Preminger again in Bunny Lake Is Missing, a murky thriller in which her young daughter goes missing, but then it seems as if perhaps the child never even existed to begin with!
Also in 1965, Lynley posed semi-nude for Playboy magazine, divorced and with an eye towards adding new dimension to her career.
While she was still winning the occasional leading role in movies, the Playboy spread didn't seem to ignite any particular interest in her or lead to a major part. She was cast in The Shuttered Room (1967), a chiller that found her married to Gig Young and menaced by a young Oliver Reed.
Danger Route (1967) offered an intriguing role as the girlfriend of secret agent Richard Johnson, but the movie sank in the mire of countless James Bond imitators coming out at that time.
1969 brought the minor comedy The Maltese Bippy, opposite then-hot Laugh-In's Dick Martin and Dan Rowan. Rare is the airing of this parody of The Maltese Falcon (1941) nowadays.
In Once You Kiss a Stranger (1969), she took on the old Robert Walker part from Strangers on a Train (1951) as a murderous loon who arranges to kill someone for Paul Burke if he'll do the same for her. Any homoerotic tension in the original was dissipated by her casting this time out. And, as often seemed to happen to her, she was saddled with a less-than-stellar leading man.
Still, she was looking great (still only twenty-seven!) in a bikini in the cheesy, half-baked film.
She next played an unwed pregnant girl in Norwood (1970), all about Vietnam veteran Glen Campbell's attempt to cross the country and appear on radio's Louisiana Hayride.
After several TV-movie appearances and guest roles, she'd been reduced by 1972 to having to appear in drek as bad as Beware! The Blob, a belated sequel to the 1958 camp classic, directed by Larry Hagman and starring Robert Walker Jr., son of the man whose role she had inherited in Stranger. Things were about to look up, however, even if briefly...
She was selected by producer Irwin Allen to appear in his ambitious new disaster film The Poseidon Adventure, which few people besides Allen were convinced was going to float at the box office. However, it was a smash success, coming in at number two for the year behind The Godfather.
Most of her scenes in the film were alongside comic actor (and Oscar-winner) Red Buttons, though their off-screen relationship was sometimes contentious. She infamously informed columnist Earl Wilson that Buttons was a "cunt!" Stories vary, however, on who was to blame for their issues (and they, like everyone else in the movie, worked well together in order to stay on time and under budget.)
As band vocalist Nonnie Parry, who struggles to survive an obstacle-laden overturned luxury liner, Lynley won over hordes of devoted fans and was shown to great advantage in a massive hit. Strangely enough, she was not able to capitalize on it when it came to future cinematic efforts.
Apart from the little-seen 1973 movie Cotter, Lynley only worked on television (including Irwin Allen's Flood!, 1976) and again on Broadway in Absurd Person Singular until 1977 when she costarred in such minor fare as Bad Georgia Road, a drive-in style flick inspired by things such as Macon County Line (1974.) Even so, she still looked good and sported a string bikini in one scene.
She did get to canoodle in bed with Tom Selleck in the drearily dull The Washington Affair (1977), a VHS of which seemed to be sitting on a shelf in every video rental store of the 1980s.
In 1978, she starred in an update of The Cat and the Canary, as a will beneficiary forced to stay the night in a house full of angry, deranged relatives.
Lynley made no further films of note, but did work fairly steadily through the 1980s and into the 1990s. She especially enjoyed working on Aaron Spelling shows like The Love Boat, Charlie's Angels, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island and Hotel, which had her portraying a friend of Barbara Parkins who confesses that she's in love with her!
As her acting career wound down, she could still be spotted at various industry events and premieres.
She had long since settled her hash with Poseidon costar Red Buttons and the two enjoyed meeting up from time to time, reveling in the diehard cult glory that their long ago disaster movie had engendered.
Never nominated for an Academy Award, she did make two appearances on the telecast. One, in 1963, came when she accepted an Oscar for the absent cinematographer of Lawrence of Arabia. Her hair uncharacteristically piled up and wearing demure jewelry, she looked radiant.
In 1979, she and Robby Benson paired up to present the Oscars for Short Film.
We will miss the beguiling face of Carol Lynley, who played a role not only in one of our most beloved movies, but also in other fun flicks like Return to Peyton Place and The Shuttered Room.

Found this one late in the game, but just had to share it as it was so good and ticked a lot of my 1960s glamor boxes!


Mark R.Y. said...


I saw The Poseidon Adventure in the summer of '73 at the age of 8. She was an early crush of mine - I so wanted to be in Red Buttons' soggy shoes! She's also in two of my favorite 1960s movies, The Cardinal and Bunny Lake. And, of course, countless eps of Fantasy Island.

Great pics of this lovely woman, Poseidon. I was especially tickled with her "Ursula Andress" pose and also The Pleasure Seekers still - what a trio of cuties!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Poseidon for this tribute. I am very, very sad. Like many 70s kids, I came to know Carol through POSEIDON ADVENTURE and she became iconic to me on that account. As a 9 year old in 1973, I would scour every new TV Guide for any movie or TV show that she would be in that week (these being the days when the TV Guide listings would give you a cast breakdown for movies and tv show episodes). She will be missed. God bless and RIP <3

Poseidon3 said...

Mark, I also love "The Cardinal" (was glad to see it on DVD after having only a poor VHS at first) and "Bunny Lake." "The Pleasure Seekers" is VERY watchable, too, and Carol looks great in it. In fact, all three girls look better in the movie than they do in that still, in which their makeup seems to be either incomplete or MIA or jacked up. LOL (Pamela's lashes!)

Michael, thanks for commenting. I was really more a Shelley Winters fanatic for whatever reason and always looked forward to seeing her in things, but I could never forget seeing Carol in "The Shuttered Room" one time on the afternoon movie and being scared to death of the cellar in that big house! It always stinks to lose a celebrity who is beloved to us. And (something I am guilty of as well) so often they get accolades and tributes after they've died that they were denied while still with us!

After Taste said...

I loved her!

rigs-in-gear said...

Thank you for the lovely tribute to Ms. Lynley, who holds a special place in the heart of my generation. Her cool aloofness was emulated by a lot of my peers who were usually less successful at it than the genuine article. But bless their hearts for trying.

Gingerguy said...

How Did you ever get this much detail so quick? Amazing. I really liked her, such an odd presence. I Thought her best work was Bunny Lake, and Poseidon. Having only seen the Baker Harlow I will hold my opinion, but doubt I'd find it was better. I also remember her as Kolchak's girlfriend. And of course Fantasy Island. She was a lovely older Lady. Sad to see her go but thanks for a great tribute.

hsc said...

A shame we lost Carol Lynley. I always enjoyed her work, especially BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING.

The shot from THE PLEASURE SEEKERS brings to mind the moment in the movie where Pamela Tiffin and Ann-Margret are commiserating over their romantic woes, and Tiffin starts to cry and says, "My mascara will run!" and Ann-Margret tries to fight back the tears, but stops herself and says "What am I doing? I'm not wearing any mascara!" (Yeah, right!)

That cover of KNIGHT magazine was rather amusing to see, since that's the same company that later started the ADAM adult film guides and publications, including a line devoted to gay porn. By the late '70s, the magazine KNIGHT itself was regularly featuring a male nude in its last pictorial of the issue.

The major problem with anybody doing Jean Harlow is that so much of the Harlow look is in the pencil-line eyebrows and tight little "cupid's bow" lip line, and neither Lynley nor Baker were given that long out-of-fashion look. Carol Lynley probably did as well as could be expected minus that, though.

And her version was not only shot in only eight days (!) but in some sort of video-to-film transfer process called "Electronovision" which was used for only a few films:

Great tribute, as usual!

VictorG said...

A lovely tribute to a lovely lady. I thought of you immediately when I heard the news that Miss Lynley had died, and I extend my condolences to you. It's hard to lose beloved actors and actresses who have been present one way or another for the better part of our lives. Your comprehensive knowledge of her career is a wonderful testimonial to Carol Lynley, thank you for sharing it.

Poseidon3 said...

After Taste and rigs-in-gear, thank you for commenting. Rigs, that is a great way to pinpoint her quality: "cool aloofness."

Gingerguy, more on that in a moment...! (the detail thing)

hsc, I remember that preposterous moment from "The Pleasure Seekers," too!! Thanks.

VictorG, thanks so much for your appreciative compliment. It means more than you know. Here's the thing:

I am in the throes of "Mamma Mia!," which opens Thursday, but has a charity preview Wednesday, so I am at the theater nearly all of my free time. I woke up on Friday to the news of Ms. Lynley's demise and knew that I needed to a) mark her passing and b) interrupt the seemingly endless chain of Top Ten lists so that I could have it ready "the morning after" her death. It was just something I really wanted to accomplish. So I collected all the pictures, retouching and enhancing them as I do EVERY photo that appears on this site, examined her career on stage and (mostly) on film, tossed in every nugget of trivia I could think of to make the tribute more interesting and then got the whole thing done within 8 hours - WHILE I WAS ALSO WORKING and doing my job. No easy feat, let me tell you. When it was done, I felt like it was likely one of the most comprehensive accounts of her career that one was likely to find online that soon after her death.

So I linked the tribute to a Facebook group devoted to "The Poseidon Adventure," thinking that, of all people, they might appreciate it. There's nothing in this for ME. I have no ads on this site and never have for a decade. I get no money whether I get 1 hit a day or 10,000. I just wanted to give fans of hers a chance to see her and perhaps learn more about her. So the post got two comments, both negative. The first one in so many words accused me of sensationalizing her death by using the words "Disastrous Demise" in the title. I explained that I use that title here for anyone who passes that was in a 1970s disaster movie. (Otherwise, I use "Fond Farewell.") It's a tag so that one can look at them all if they wish to. (And to be honest, when one of those people die in real life, it is rather disastrous to a fanatic such as me!) Then the next ass clown chimed in and told me that it was very "Tabloid" and that I should change it. Really??? I like to think that I am more than respectful to celebrities, even to the ones I actively dislike (and there are some!) In some cases I'm overly reverential. So I took the post down and left the group because life it too short to deal with such idiocy. (Remember when I recently remarked that there are some people out there who just "lie in wait" for something to be offended by so that they can feel superior by calling it out?)

So anyway, I deeply thank you all who commented positively about this and who "get" that I always try to treat "my" stars with the utmost respect, even if I have a "catchy" tag or put a pun in the title of their tribute (I didn't do it this time because, frankly, I was too frazzled and hectic to even work on coming up with one and nothing popped into my head, thus the plain name and years of life...)

SonofaBuck said...

Many thanks to you, Poseidon, for all you have done for the rest of us all these years, despite the many other passions and responsibilities that require your attention. “Phooey!” to the Facebook critics who saw your tribute through their own distorted lenses. We who have taken great delight - and dare I say “comfort” - from your photo cornucopia and witty keystrokes over the years are indebted to you. Best wishes on your new production! And thanks again.

jobj69 said...

Poseidon - F*** 'em, if they don't have something nice to say! One of the reasons I jumped off Facebook six years ago...

You bring many people joy, with fond recollections of Hollywood and celluloid dreams, stars that bewitch us, excite us and fill us with desire and longing. You are never anything but respectful, even in situations when you are commenting on a performance that might be pretty stinky and most others would emphasize that notion.

Never forget that your legion of fans get you and love you for what you do - because the love you put in it shines through. I always look forward to your posts. Can't wait to read Favorite Movie Bitches! How did I miss that? lol...

Break a leg in Mamma Mia! I hope your tech has gone smoothly and I wish you a fab run! xo-

RIP, Ms. Lynley

VictorG said...

Wow, you are a veritable powerhouse! Where do you get all the energy, the attention to detail and the incredible knowledge of these wonderful stars, along with your flair for recounting the milestones of their careers and the fabulous photos? I am always entertained by your website and come away learning new things about these show folk and truly appreciate the amount of time, energy, commitment and talent you put into it. I loathe Facebook for many of the reasons you described and no longer have an active account. They don't deserve the richness and fun you bring to your writing. Because it shows how much you love doing this, the witty and funny turns of phrases and your unique take on things and the uniform respect you accord to those you like and those you like less. Break a leg with Mamma Mia and know that many people who never post comments adore your wonderful website. Thank you so much for making the internet a better place.

Anonymous said...

Poseidon, you make many people happy with your articles and stories. I have unfollowed / excluded more people than I actually follow because of "attitude". We appreciate you very very much!!!

Stefano said...

Thanks Poseidon, a very nice tribute. I'm sorry to see the same performers go that you are, and your obituaries are the finest I read, they really help take some of the sting away.

Like so many others, I crushed on Carol Lynley because of "The Poseidon Adventure", and with a pre-teen friend made a sort of fan club around her. A local pizza parlour would show movies with the meal, usually silent comedies, but one evening they inexplicably ran "Beware! The Blob". We fans were at first delighted to see Lynley in it, then positively OUTRAGED that she fell victim to the big goo; we actually left the restaurant in protest. Some dramatic behavior, junior division.

The sheer will to survive may be the strongest element one takes away from "Poseidon Adventure"; though we all thrown in the towel eventually, it's good to put up a fight till then.

Poseidon3 said...

SonofaBuck, thank you so much! Your loyalty and occasional comments on posts mean a lot. I always love it if I can share something that appeals to me and it happens to appeal to someone else as well (and it's been surprising how much that has happened over the years.)

jobj69, sometimes I wish I had the courage to leave FB, but then I figure I would really be out of the loop on what the people I know happen to be up to. I have learned to love the "unfollow" button for those who get to be a bit much. We used to only be confronted by a few close associates opinions each day, but now it's a daily barrage of HUNDREDS of strong opinions in our face all day long and it can be overwhelming...! I cannot thank you enough for your kind compliments and your appreciation of this site.

VictorG, my gosh, thank you so very much for your heartening comments. I don't think anyone who has never attempted to run a blog can fully understand the time commitment. And this one - as you all know - can have some leennnggthhy posts with maaannny pictures as opposed to more concise blogs out there. It's a lot! But once I got started ten years ago, it was like a wellspring of appreciation for the movies and shows that got me through some tough times that simply had to come out. And even though I occasionally think I must be done, having profiled so many favorites, there always seems to be something left to pontificate on. LOL

Mike, thanks again. As I noted above, we're just confronted with a bit too many opinions and outlooks and it can wear us down, especially if we're already feeling frazzled. I deeply appreciate your support!

Stefano, thank you for recollecting your experience with "Beware! The Blob!" that's unreal....! I am so glad you like my obituary tributes, though, as I said, sometimes I think I ought not to wait until the people are gone! Maybe they'd enjoy reading them themselves, LOLOL! Then again, if you think that this life is only one step on a greater journey, maybe somehow they do. It's nice to think we aren't just completely GONE after our last breath.

FYI - I added one photo to the end of this post because I just loved the colors and style in it. Also, Mamma Mia! has a charity preview tonight and opens tomorrow and this (potential) Dad is TIRED! But I have just posted another Top Ten list and will be back again soon. THANK YOU ALL so very much, even those who have not commented, but regularly read all my endless blatherings. You are appreciated!

joel65913 said...

Hi Poseidon! I have been so, so busy of late I haven't had much chance to read your fantastic posts (once everything slows down I'll be starting at the beginning of your recent fab looking retro posts) let alone comment but just had to take a minute to leave a note about this tribute.

It's a quite lovely look back at Miss Lynley with wonderful facts (love the resourcefulness she showed when confronted with not being able to use the professional name she had established by retaining its essence via restructuring.)

I hold no animus towards her but must admit she has always been my least favorite performer and Nonnie by far the character I had the least patience with in Poseidon Adventure. Her constant sniveling worked my last nerve and that she made it and Stella Stevens's divine Linda did not was a bitter pill.

However I was surprised and saddened when I heard of her passing, though the last few times I've seen her I was shocked by how bad and unwell she looked. I recall reading an article years ago where she said she loved the sun and never wore any protection not even chapstick. I read the article at least 30-35 years ago so sun damage awareness was nowhere near what it is now and she obviously paid the price for her love of the sun.

Aside from Poseidon Adventure she did appear in a couple of films I really liked-The Pleasure Seekers is a big puff piece but is Technicolor fun though I'd say Ann-Margret walks away with it. The Shuttered Room is also a solid film.

The other I just rewatched the other day. In quite a coincidence TCM had scheduled a Lynley double feature last week in prime time of Blue Denim & Bunny Lake is Missing (caught unawares they had a tag before each film saying the intros had been recorded before news of her death and sympathies were extended) I'd seen Blue Denim before and while it was fine I didn't bother looking at it again but did DVR Bunny Lake. It had been years and I was quite impressed with it, I think its one of those films that benefits from repeat viewings and Carol stood up well against Olivier.

She looked quite beautiful in Harlow but I agree that neither of the Carol(l)s looked nor captured the essence of the real Jean/ Lynley's was the marginally better film but both are bad movies with almost zero relation to the actual star's life.

All the pix are super but that last picture bonus one is ultra glam. It really reminded me of someone else and it just came to me! She's a dead ringer for Joanne Woodward (also in her platinum period) in the 60's film From the Terrace.

Poseidon3 said...

Joel, glad to hear from you again, as always! I cannot deny that I also have little patience for Nonnie. I used to absolutely loathe the character when I was younger and a little more vituperatively passionate about Shelley Winters. (She seemed to have issues with EVERY hurdle they came upon and when she said, "I can't swim" I almost lost it. Then after Shelley's big swim/rescue, she shifted the focus with all her heaving and gaqging, etc... and that used to really broil me!) But now that I'm older (a tad) more mellow, I can deal with her better. Carol had such pretty skin as a young lady - as I say, she's photographed beautifully at the end of the film - so it was jarring to see her in later years. I avoided some of the more rugged photos for this tribute. She probably didn't even have the protection of heavy makeup the way some of her contemporaries did. It's interesting about that bonus photo... I LOVE it and "From the Terrace" is about the only time I really went gaga over the way Joanne Woodward looked on film! Ha ha!! Take care.