They would be Hope Lange who played Selena Cross and, especially, Diane Varsi, who starred as Allison MacKenzie. Diane Varsi. Yes, Diane Varsi. What a brilliant, singular actress, perhaps too brilliant and singular for American moviegoers. Maybe even too good for American moviegoers.
Although she received an Oscar nomination for "Peyton Place," Varsi made it difficult for her home studio, 20th Century-Fox, to cast her in subsequent productions because she was essentially ahead of her time - an actress with an off-kilter personality and a penchant for off-beat, sing-song line-readings. She was also something of a maverick and a rebel.
But she managed to work for Fox, providing the studio and audiences with strong, memorable performances in a string of solid films - the Gary Cooper-Suzy Parker vehicle, "Ten North Frederick" (based on the John O'Hara story), directed by Philip Dunne; the Don Murray Western, "From Hell to Texas" (aka, "Man Hunt"), directed by Henry Hathaway, and Richard Fleishcer's fine film on the Leopold-Loeb case, "Compulsion," co-starring Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman, Orson Welles and Martin Milner.
A decade later, Varsi surfaced in a series of social protest films, including "Sweet Love, Bitter" (with Dick Gregory and, again, Murray); Two Shelley Winters titles, "Wild in the Streets" and "Bloody Mama" (the latter a Ma Barker flick with a young Robert DeNiro); the intriguing crime-spree film, "Killers Three" (with Dick Clark and Robert Walker, Jr.), and Dalton Trumbo's anti-war saga, "Johnny Got His Gun" (starring Timothy Bottoms).
She disappeared again, returning (albeit all-too-briefly) in "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." And then, she was gone once again.
But this time, forever.
Diana Varsi's slight filmography is as idiosyncratic and as special as the actress herself. She has been much missed and is worthy of rediscovery.
Notes in Passing: This essay was originally published in 2010 and I had forgotten about it until just recently when it came back into my life as a result of a few belated reader responses, all warmly written. So I decided to revisit it and dust it off - to remember Diane Varsi one more time.
That said, it should be noted that Varsi's trajectory in the film industry is not unlike that of another personality from a decade later, Mimsy Farmer, also one-of-a-kind and also far too good for the movie marketplace.
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~Studio publicity shot of Varsi