Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TONIGHT'S EPISODE: 1001 Individuals More Memorable than Charlie Sheen.... #99 - Joanna Pettet!

Many apologies for the extended delay, caused by working on my other Blogger page. Intervals between posts shall be shorter from now on....

What you are about to read is a continuation of a feature found on that other blog, but here, the entries will focus on celebrities better known through their work on Cobweb TV. This series serves to remind us of the two simplest reasons why Charlie Sheen (and his ego) was never worth all the money he asked for (and got) while appearing on Two and a Half Men (CBS, 2003-present):

1) There are better performers who can act circles around the guy. (He hasn't had a real acting challenge in years.)

2) Sometimes, hiring a jerk to play a jerk on TV makes them an even bigger jerk.

The people to be profiled here are (or were) good actors and actresses with none (or little) of the hangups Sheen now basks in, and their body of quality Cobweb TV work outpaces Sheen's best work on TV and motion pictures combined. Also, they (more often than not) give great performances at a fraction of the cost Sheen squeezed out of those saps at Warner Brothers Television. (To Sheen's credit, after months of constantly being in the media spotlight, he appears to have calmed some and is currently keeping a lower profile.)

Joanna on Banacek (All Banacek images courtesy NBCUniversal.)

THANKS to the DVD format, one of my favorite Cobweb TV actresses I've had the pleasure to catch up with is the underrated Joanna Pettet. If one considers she (basically) went from an aspiring career in movies to TV, one would think there was something wrong with her. Watching her act in both, however, I feel she consistently delivered good performances, regardless of the scripts. From a visual standpoint, she had a slim, refined (almost regal) beauty made for being seen on a big screen, and once she began appearing on the small screen with regularity, Cobweb TV was more than graced with her presence.

(Google images)
Born in London, England during the Second World War, Joanna eventually came to relocate in the US to study a variation of Method acting with Stanford Meisner. Her first professional acting jobs began with roles on Broadway and TV (debuting on an episode of Route 66 in 1964), but it took being discovered by director Sidney Lumet for his movie The Group (1966) to make her the proverbial household name.

As "Mata Bond" in Casino Royale. (Google images)

Other movie roles followed; the one most familiar to many will be the spy spoof Casino Royale (1967). Though it ranked third among the top moneymakers at the US box office that year, reviewers criticized it for being the troubled, excessive production it was. (CR's reputation would be redeemed some by the passage of time and the Austin Powers movies.) Included in the advertising blitz that helped sell the movie was a Playboy pictorial featuring Joanna.

Despite being featured in such a big hit, film roles began to lessen in frequency around the time she married actor Alex Cord (and gave birth to a son, Damien) in 1968. Fortunately, her TV work began to pick up at the close of the decade into the 1970s. One of my favorite TV guest shots of hers around this time was on the 1972 Night Gallery segment "The Caterpillar", featuring Laurence Harvey as the ill-fated recipient of the title character. (She did four NG storys in total, one where she co-starred with Alex.)

Joanna kept active from the '70s through the '80s, guest starring on shows ranging from Banacek to Murder, She Wrote, even becoming a (temporary) series regular on nine episodes of Knot's Landing. She also starred in TV movies (Pioneer Woman, Winner Take All, The Return of Frank Cannon), a miniseries (Captains and the Kings), Hollywood Squares and even an ABC Afterschool Special (her last TV work, according to IMDb).

Joanna with Alan Bates in 2003. (Google images)
During those busy years, Joanna's life took some tough hits. Her friend, Sharon Tate, was murdered in her home on August 8, 1969, by followers of Charles Manson hours after having lunch there with Joanna and another woman. In 1989, she got divorced from Alex Cord after 21 years. A year later, she retired from acting after a bad experience while filming a movie (for Roger Corman) in the Philippines. In 1995, her son's death by a heroin overdose drove her into isolation for years. This retreat was interrupted when she became the travelling companion of her dying friend, actor Alan Bates, until he passed on from cancer in 2003. As of this date, she is believed to be living in California, still in retirement.

(Shout! Factory)
As for recent Joanna sightings on "TV on DVD" collections, you'll find her on the fifth season of Mannix (released 7/5/11) and the second season of Police Woman (released 2/7/12). In the months ahead, watch for her in the third (and final) season of Night Gallery (arriving 4/10/12). Also, since Shout! Factory has picked up the rights to the remaining seasons of Fantasy Island (the second season arriving 5/8/12), it's likely her three appearances on there will all be available for home viewing soon. (If anybody knows of any other upcoming DVDs with her I've overlooked, please let me know here at Cobweb TV! by a comment. Thank you!)

In closing, let's enjoy some more screen captures from Joanna's appearance on the Banacek episode "Project Phoenix"!

With George Peppard

THE END (Love those patches!)


(Discovery Communications, Inc.)

Keeping it trivial....