Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Birthday to Actress Mariette Hartley!

Anybody who knows me or has worked with me probably is aware how much I like actress Mariette Hartley. I always have, and I always will. I've got original Star Trek to thank for my interest in her, after her wonderful appearance as Zarabeth in the third season episode "All Our Yesterdays" where she fell for an ice-age trapped Spock. Who wouldn't, I ask? You'll enjoy this video of Mariette's appearance 2 years ago at her first Trek convention, talking about her episode:

Ms. Hartley celebrates her 70th birthday today as a veteran and survivor of Hollywood's changing tastes -- always classy, always elegant, always intelligent and always so watchable. More a television face than a big-screen personality, though she's done her share of exciting movie parts, including her debut in MGM's stunning Sam Peckinpah-directed western classic from 1961, Ride the High Country. She's a freckle-faced red-headed tomboy in the film, ably holding up her end against acting stalwarts Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott in what is now considered a masterpiece of the genre.

Mariette appeared in a lot of Western TV shows, too, when they were a mainstay of the tube. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian, Death Valley Days, Daniel Boone, Cimarron Strip and other popular skeins all featured Hartley guests roles, as did almost every other important or lesser-known series since the early 1960s. Some of her more memorable roles, besides that romantic Star Trek, are her haunting Twilight Zone episode "The Long Morrow" where she falls for an astronaut (Robert Lansing) who's about to take off for a decades-long spaceflight; her emotionally-overwrought doctor in a season of TV's smash primetime soap Peyton Place; her fine TV movie work such as in M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against Drunk Driving; the lesbian love story My Two Loves opposite the late Lynn Redgrave; the great episode of M*A*S*H where she's a liberated Swedish doctor who catches Hawkeye's roving eye, and so many more, including her double-naveled alien warrioress in the TVM Genesis II.

Anywhere I've worked in Programming I always tried to feature Mariette Hartley performances on her birthday, but these days I just have to content myself with writing about her. She's one of the faces that television fans have grown up with and loved for decades. Just yesterday I came across one of her very early TV roles, from a live Chicago drama program, where she played a harrowing Joan of Arc, back in 1961. Unbelievable! Such talent! (Search in the archives at the Museum of Broadcast Communications here.)

I almost forgot to mention her history-making Polaroid commercials with James Garner that really put her on the map in a big way, back in the late 1970s. This was the heyday of Mariette's public fame, and also about the time she won an Emmy for playing the bride of The Incredible Hulk. She also had a short-lived stint as the most of CBS' The Morning Show, and she was everywhere, her quick wit and everywoman quality -- every liberated woman, at least -- was in high demand.

TV isn't the same anymore; bigger ensemble casts gradually cut down on the guest stars on series episodes, but Mariette has always continued working and also writing and performing onstage. Her 1988 autobiography Breaking the Silence was an incredibly honest (and often very funny) account of Mariette's sometimes troubled life and family history. She's become an outspoken advocate for people with Bipolar Disorder, and also works tirelessly for understanding for those touched by suicide.

Mariette Hartley will always be my favorite actress, and I don't think I could have picked a more worthy subject for my adoration. What a gal!

Happy Birthday, Mariette!


Jane said...

This is a lovely tribute to a wonderful television actress. I sure hope she has a chance to read this beautiful online birthday card Lisa!

Anonymous said...

Didn't Jimmy Dean take a photo of Mariette flashing Fess Parker on the set of Daniel Boone??? I believe this was a major topic on a Good Morning America show. Any leads to a website with the "flash" photo would be appreciated! ;-)