Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Late, Great Dorothy Provine

Dorothy Provine, the blonde and beautiful actress and comedienne who appeared frequently in movies and TV shows of the Sixties, passed on April 25 at the age of 75. The cause was emphysema.

Dorothy Provine was born on January 20, 1937 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Her father was a businessman based out of Seattle. Her mother was an interior decorator.She grew up in Washington. Even as a child Miss Provine showed a propensity for entertainment. With her younger sister she would dress in pillow sheets and dance the Charleston.Miss Provine majored in drama at the University of Washington.

It was after she won a prize in a quiz show on a local television station that Miss Provine dropped out of school and moved to Hollywood in 1957. Legend has it that it was only three days after she arrived there that she was cast in the lead role in The Bonnie Parker Story. The movie was released

Dorothy Provine studied acting at the University of Washington, but dropped out after she won a prize in a quiz show on a local television station. She moved to Hollywood in 1957, where according to legend she was cast in the lead role in The Bonnie Parker Story only three days after arrival. She made her televisoion debut a year before the release of the film in a 1957 episode of Man Without a Gun. For the next few years Miss Provine appeared in guest shots on television and a few  films. She had an uncredited role in Live Fast, Die Young (1959), and more substantial roles in Riot in Juvenile Prison (1959) and The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959--the last appearance of Lou Costello on film). Miss Provine appeared frequently as a guest star on television shows, including The Millionaire, Lawman, Mike Hammer, Cimarron City, The Real McCoys, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, Colt .45, Sugarfoot, and Bronco.

It was in 1959 that Dorothy Provine was cast in her first television series, as the female lead in The Alaskans. Set in Alaska in the 1890s, she played Rocky Shaw, a singer who was friends with fortune hunters Silky Harris (Roger Moore) and Reno McKee (Jeff York). Besides being Miss Provine's first series, the show was also notable for Roger Moore's first role on an American television series. The Alaskans would only last a year and thirty two episodes. Miss Provine would not be out of work for long, asa she would be cast in what could be her most famous role in a television series. In 1960 Miss Provine was cast in the role of flapper and singer at the Charleston Club, Pinky Pinkham, in the series The Roaring 20's. The show centred on reporters for the fictional New York Record Scott Norris (Rex Reason), Pat Garrison (Donald May), and Duke Williams (John Denher) as they investigated crime in New York City in the Twenties. The series met with some success, lasting two years.

Dorothy Provine would go on to make several guest appearances on television shows throughout the Sixties. Among the shows she on which she guest starred were The Red Skelton Show, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, The Gallant Men, The Garry Moore Show, Dr. Kildare, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Dean Martin Show, The Danny Thomas Hour, The F.B.I., and Love, American Style. in 1962, with the cancellation of The Roaring 20's, Warner Brothers wanted to cast her in the series The Perils of Pauline. Reportedly, Miss Provine  refused to do the series, asking that she be cast in a movie instead. The series never emerged. She appeared in Bob Hope's Christmas shows for the troops multiple times during the decade. In 1963 she appeared with George Burns in Las Vegas as his partner in his nightclub act.

Throughout the Sixties Dorothy Provine also appeared in high profile roles in major motion pictures.In 1963 she played Ethel Merman's daughter and Milton Berle's wife (even though she was young enough to be his daughter...) in the epic comedy It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. That same year she appeared in the moive Wall of Noise. In 1964 she starred as Jack Lemmon's wife in the movie Good Neighbour Sam. Miss Provine co-starred with Jack Lemmon once more in Black Edwards' film The Great Race in 1965. That same year she appeared as Hayley Mills' older sister in That Darn Cat. In 1967 she played the romantic interest in the caper comedy Who's Minding the Mint. In 1968 she appeared in her last film, as the romantic interest in the comedy Never a Dull Moment.

In 1969 Dorothy Provine married director Robert Day. Their first son was born later that year. Happy in her married life, Miss Provine retired from acting. After 1970, she would appear only twice more on screen, in episodes of Police Story and Police Woman.

In the early Sixties there was no shortage of leggy blondes in Hollywood, yet Dorothy Provine made an impression as few would. In 1961 Rick Du Brow of UPI called her "TV's 'It Girl." Time magazine attributed Miss Provine with keeping the series The Roaring 20's  afloat. It was not simply that Dorothy Provine was beautiful, but she was also a fine actress and comedienne. She was both intelligent and funny, with nearly perfect timing for comedy. As Emmeline in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World she held her own against both Milton Berle and Ethel Merman. In The Great Race she shined as bright as Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Miss Provine was such an actress that she could adapt to nearly any setting. Over the years she played in television shows and movies set in Alaska during the Gold Rush, New York in the 1920's, the Great Auto Race of 1908, several Westerns, and, of course, 1960's America. She could also play a wide variety of roles, from bank robber Bonnie Parker to Milton Berle's strong willed wife Emmeline to Hayley Mills' big sister to a number of romantic interests, and she did all of them well. The reason Dorothy Provine was so much in demand in the Sixties is quite simply that she had enormous talent, something for which she will long be remembered.

1 comment:

Millie said...

What a lovely tribute! I really loved her! I've always enjoyed anything she was a part of! She will be missed.