Wednesday, February 17, 2016

NIGHT GALLERY: The Joanna Pettet Episodes

The Pettet Principle: The face that launched a thousand fantasies
For the unversed (or those who’ve left the seventies back in the ‘70s where they belong), Rod Serling’s Night Gallery is a suspense anthology TV series which ran Wednesday evenings (final season: Sundays) on NBC from 1970 to 1973. A supernatural/horror follow-up to Serling’s more sci-fi driven The Twilight Zone (1959 -1964)—still in heavy rerun rotation at the time—Night Gallery most definitely had its moments, but I remember it largely as an exercise in protracted fizzle. 
In an effort to build suspense in episodes whose narrative trajectory was telegraphed within minutes of its setup, it was common for even the briefest of segments to be drawn out to almost comic effect. Episodes routinely featured characters speaking in needlessly vague, cryptic, language (“You don’t mean…!”) while assiduously avoiding any and all action which might bring about a resolution to their problem. Unfortunately, when it came time for the payoff, it always seemed as though the slower the buildup, the more unsatisfying and frustratingly ambiguous the final twist.
But as one does with SNL these days – suffer through 95% of ho-hum in hopes of the occasional 5% brilliant – Night Gallery was my Wednesday night ritual. A ritual fueled in part by a pre-cable paucity of bedtime-stalling TV options and that still-mysterious-to-me adolescent fascination with horror and the desire to be frightened. Besides, whether good or bad, each Night Gallery episode was certain to be the water fountain topic of conversation at school on Thursday mornings, so it was necessary for one to be up on such things.

That being said, it’s still probable for the entire Night Gallery series to have remained just another dimly-remembered blip on my post-pubertal pop-culture chart, had it not been for the four profoundly memorable appearances made by London-born actress Joanna Pettet during the program's three-season run. Holding what I believe to be the record for Night Gallery appearances, Pettet starred in four mesmerizingly eerie segments which, due to their spectral eroticism and Pettet’s mythic dream-girl persona, thoroughly captured my imagination and burned an indelible tattoo on my teen-age psyche. Even now, some 40+ years later, I still find these episodes to be as hypnotically effective and intoxicatingly seductive as ever.
As Mata Bond in the James Bond spy spoof Casino Royale
My initial familiarity with the work of Joanna Pettet stemmed from the TV broadcast of The Group (1966, her film debut) and falling in love with her (and her killer dimpled smile) as Mata Bond Casino Royale (1967). Both films being ensemble-cast efforts in which Pettet distinguished herself splendidly as a talented dramatic actress as well as an appealing light comedienne. But by the time she made her first Night Gallery appearance in 1970, the accessible, dimpled ingénue had been replaced by the slinky, strikingly beautiful, irrefutably dangerous, ‘70s equivalent of the classic film noir Woman of Mystery.

As detailed in the marvelous book Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After Hours Tour by Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, Pettet consciously used her Night Gallery appearances to cultivate a mysterious, ethereal screen persona for herself. Adopting a contemporary “look” every bit as smoldering and distinctive in the '70s as Lauren Bacall’s was in the ‘40s; Pettet offset the aloof quality of her rail thin physique, long hair, and angular features, with soft, gauzy “boho gypsy” “hippie chic” outfits from her own wardrobe. The combined effect was that of a modern seductress/enchantress: welcoming but unapproachable, a preternatural being more than human, yet slightly less than real.
The dramatic landscape of early '70s television was largely male-centric, with women primarily occupying roles of wife and girlfriend (Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, and Charlie’s Angels would come along later). One of the reasons Pettet’s Night Gallery episodes stood out so strongly in my mind is that she broke the mold. This was no girl, this was a woman. She wasn't pliable, she wasn't agreeable, she wasn't even attainable. She was a distinct feminine force operating from a place of her own needs and desires. Provocative in her mysteriousness, the men in these narratives were drawn into HER orbit, not the other way around. The characters she played were enigmas – entities perhaps, more than real women – but they exuded elegance, romance, sex and danger. All contributing to Joanna Pettet being the perfect neo-noir femme fatale for an age that held precious little in the way of sexual mystery. 

The House - 1st Season : Air date December 30, 1970   
Everything Jonna Pettet would build upon to greater effect in future episodes of Night Gallery appear for the first time in “The House,” a legitimately haunting ghost story that pivots 100% on Pettet’s wispy, wraithlike persona. In “The House,” directed by John Astin (Gomez of TV’s The Addam’s Family) and adapted by Rod Serling from a (very) short story by Andre Maurois, Pettet plays Elaine Latimer, a somewhat chimerical former sanitarium patient – “She’s dreamy…Never walked. Just sort of wafted along like a wood sprite. Never put her two feet on the ground.” – plagued by a recurring dream. Not a nightmare, but a tranquil, languorous dream in which she sees herself driving up to a secluded country house, knocking on its door, but always leaving just before the inhabitant answers.
The dream, a sun-dappled, slow-mo symphony of flowing hair and gossamer garments billowing in the wind, replays over and over in this episode, creating a truly hypnotic effect once the events of the story (she finds the dream house in real-life, only to discover it is haunted...but by whom?) call into question the very nature of reality and illusion.
When a dream comes true, is it then a premonition? And when dream and reality merge, can one truly know where one ends and the other begins?
Chasing Ghosts
Whenever anyone mentions Night Gallery, unfailingly, this is the episode that comes to mind. Embodying as it does every one of the qualities/liabilities listed above as representative of the series as a whole, “The House” is perhaps quintessential Night Gallery. But in this instance, all that evasive dialog and narrative ambiguity really pays off with an indelible episode that perhaps makes not a lick of sense, but captures precisely the strange, floating quality of dreams and the way they never quite seem to hold together in the bright light of day.
I was just 13-years-old when this episode premiered in 1970, and trust me in this, you cannot imagine how deeply this episode got under my skin. To use the vernacular of the time, it was mind-blowing. It wasn’t any one particular thing about the episode, but rather all of its elements combining to make it a uniquely unsettling TV experience. I mean, what kid can make sense of eerie eroticism? "The House" episode is one I never forgot, and I revisited it every chance I could when it cropped up on reruns. (In those pre-DVD days, anticipation played a significant part in the cultivating of pop-culture obsessions. Once a particular show aired, one had to content oneself with memory until the summer reruns came along.) 
The use of slow motion photography, already an overused cliche in TV commercials and counterculture films of the day, feels oddly innovative and fresh in this episode's dream sequences 

Looking at the episode today, I still feel its fundamental appeal for me lies in its mood and atmosphere - something I’ll attribute to its director - but equally clear is the fact that none of it would have worked with another actress. In all these years I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on exactly what quality Pettet brings to this story, but it essential and remains, rather appropriately, confoundingly elusive. 
NightGallery.net


Keep In Touch- We'll Think Of Something:  2nd Season: Air date Nov. 24, 1971
In this nifty Night Gallery outing, real-life couple Joanna Pettet and Alex Cord team up (for the first and only time in their 21-year marriage) in this supernatural update of the old film noir trope of the man who thinks he has all the answers, only to cross paths with a woman who’s rewritten the book.
Directed and penned by Gene R. Kearney, screenwriter of one my favorite underrated Diabolique-inspired thrillers: Games (1967), “Keep in Touch - We’ll Think of Something” casts Cord as Erik Sutton, a musician who concocts elaborate, ever-escalating schemes in an effort to meet his dream-girl. That is to say, a woman he has only seen in his dreams…he really has no idea if she is a real person or even exits. However, Sutton doesn’t let the fact that she may be only a figment of his imagination dissuade him from exhausting and even harming himself in her pursuit.
Mr. Groovy
Long, styled hair; sideburns; porn-stache; rugged features; and a form-fitting
wardrobe of leather and suede. Alex Cord threw my adolescent hormones into overdrive

When he at last discovers the vision haunting his dreams is an actual, flesh-and blood being – an unhappily-married woman of mystery named Claire Foster – we realize in an instant just why his search for her has been so fervent; for she comes in the exquisitely beautiful, vaguely celestial form of Joanna Pettet.
But if the visual compatibility of these two near-perfect physical specimens augers a fated meeting of two kindred spirits, a twist revealing Sutton’s object of obsession may harbor an obsession or two of her own, paints these dream lovers in a decidedly darker palette.
“Keep in Touch” successfully builds upon the enigmatic dream-girl persona Joanna Pettet established so vividly in “The House.” In fact, “Keep in Touch” feels in many ways like an “answer” episode to “House”; incorporating as it does a similar, dreams vs. reality narrative with a cherchez le femme overlay which has Alex Cord’s character acting as the surrogate for every viewer left intrigued by Pettet and that earlier segment’s ambiguity.
As a supernatural noir pair, Pettet and Cord make an outrageously sexy couple (in a über-hip,‘70s way), their palpable chemistry placing one in the position of rooting for the couple’s hookup even while sensing there to be something a tad duplicitous in the mystery woman's suspiciously empathetic manner.
Best of all, in the tradition of some of the best film noirs, the ostensibly objectified female turns out to be the more complex character and the one revealed to be holding all the cards. Once again Joanna Pettet acquits herself nicely in a made-to-order episode, and easily steals every scene she’s in with a persuasive performance and her unique star-quality presence.
NightGallery.net

The Girl With The Hungry Eyes - 3rd Season: Air date October 1, 1972
This episode is actually Joanna Pettet’s fourth and final appearance on Night Gallery, but I've listed it here in the third position because it completes what I consider to be Pettet’s Dream Girl Trilogy. A rather exceptional episode titled “The Caterpillar” precedes this one, but it’s the sole Night Gallery outing to cast Pettet in an fundamentally traditional role. "The Caterpillar" casts her as a wife and lust object, and though functional to the plot as a credible object of desire for the male protagonist/villain, as written, her strictly ornamental character has no objectives and does nothing to advance the plot herself.

“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” on the other hand, is an answer to an adolescent fanboy’s prayers. Adapted from a 1949 short story by Fritz Leiber and directed by John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, Reflections of Murder) “Hungry Eyes” is another updated nourish tale featuring an icy femme fatale; this time out, a soul vampire who lures men to their doom out of desire for her.
James Farentino plays David Faulkner, a down-on-his-luck photographer whose fortunes change (but luck runs out) when a nameless woman (Pettet, known simply as The Girl) wanders into his office wanting to be a model. Although lacking in experience or even a personal history, The Girl proves a natural in front of the camera, skyrocketing Faulkner to fame as the exclusive photographer of the woman who has become, practically overnight, the hottest face in advertising.
Photographer to the stars Harry Langdon is credited with all the photos attributed to James Farentino

But for Faulkner, new-found success brings with it the nagging sense that he has unwittingly entered into some kind of Faustian bargain. Fearing that in exchange for riches, his photographs of The Girl - which seem to inflame an obsessive, trancelike desire in men - has unleashed a kind of vampiric scourge on the world, Faulkner seeks to unearth the mystery behind “the look” he’s convinced sends men to their doom.
John Astin, director of "The House" episode of Night Gallery appears as Brewery magnate Mr. Munsch 
Serving almost as meta-commentary on my own obsession with Joanna Pettet’s Night Gallery career, “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” builds a solid, very sexy supernatural suspenser around that indefinable something we seek in (and project onto) those idealized creatures we deify in the name of fandom. And as a fitting vehicle for Pettet’s final Night Gallery appearance, “Hungry Eyes” provides her with the opportunity to be the most forceful she’s ever been. Playing a woman who doesn't suffer fools gladly, there's a kind of bitch-goddess kick to Pettet's cool awareness of exactly what kind of effect her looks have on men. A kick made all the more exciting because of the feminist subtext inherent in having a woman turning the tables of the objectifying "male gaze" on men...to homicidal result.
Pettet's character is fully in charge in this episode, and there’s no small level of eroticism in the tug-of-war byplay she has with Farentino. Whether intentional or not, “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” brings the Dream Girl Trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. The cumulative effect being a subtle point made about the degree to which men project their own fantasies upon women. not to be ignored (and certainly fitting with a male adolescent's point of view) is the equally persuasive notion that these episodes embody a kind of naif, fear-of-women trilogy. Sex and allure are as equally attached to danger and death. 
However interpreted, what I now find I'm most grateful for is the way these episodes depicted women women of mystery during an era of  "let it all hang out" transparency. In addition, they proved marvelous showcases for Joanna Pettet's versatility and made the most of what I think is her one-of-a-kind ability to appear to inhabit the ethereal and corporeal worlds simultaneously.
NightGallery.net

The Caterpillar - 2nd Season:  Air date  March 1, 1972
My strong affinity for the episodes which make up the unofficial Joanna Pettet Dream Girl Trilogy are so firmly rooted in my adolescence and decades-long crush on Ms. Pettet; I concede that I speak of these episodes with nary a trace of objectivity. I have no idea how others respond to them, I only know they represent my absolute favorite episodes of the entire series. That being said, I'm comfortable in recommending the episode titled “The Caterpillar” as one of Night Gallery’s best. One so successfully creepy and well-done, you don't have to be Pettet-infatuated in order to enjoy it.

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc (helmer of the marvelous TV movie, A Summer Without Boys) this episode is another Rod Serling teleplay, adapted and significantly retooled from a short story by Oscar Cook titled Boomerang. A macabre Victorian-era love triangle set on a tobacco plantation in Borneo, “The Caterpillar” is a revenge tale with a nasty twist. It's about a man (Laurence Harvey) who devises a diabolical plan to win the beautiful wife (Pettet) of his elderly business partner (Tom Helmore), a plan which (as it must in shows like this) goes nightmarishly wrong. Laurence Harvey and character actor Don Knight star in the episode and walk off with the lion's share of honors in this atmospheric piece which I recall finding uncommonly creepy when I was young.
Joanna Pettet is once again the object of obsessive affection, but her role is so slight one is left to assume, overall quality of the script and production notwithstanding, that her longtime friendship with Laurence Harvey played a significant part in her accepting it. (She would co-star with Harvey in his final film–which he also directed–the oddball cannibal horror feature Welcome to Arrow Beach -1974.)  
While Pettet is photographed lovingly and offers a not-unpleasant change of pace as the reserved, principled wife of a man old enough to be her father; for me it just feels like a waste of natural resources. She's beautiful, yes. And she does convey a certain mystery about her that makes you wonder just why a woman of such youth and refinement would be content in such an isolated environment, but I think Pettet brings this to the role; as written I don't really think there's that much there.

Which brings up the issue of why these remarkable Night Gallery showcases failed to launch Pattet into the kind of stardom she deserved. Old Hollywood always seemed to know how to showcase their glamour stars (did Hedy Lamarr or Marlene Dietrich ever play a housewife?), not so much Hollywood in the ‘70s. In my opinion, Joanna Pettet wasn't particularly well-used by either television or films following her Night Gallery years. She remained a near-constant figure on episodic TV and Movies of the Week, 70s, but her roles were akin to casting a diamond to play a Zircon. Appearing in projects that muted rather than emphasized her unique appeal, she just always struck me as so much better than a lot of her latter-career material. 

In 1967, Shirley MacLaine starred in an anthology film titled Woman Times Seven. Because I consider these Night Gallery episodes represent some of Joanna Pettet's best work, AND because this is a film blog, I've taken the liberty of visualizing Pettet's four TV excursions into the macabre as a single, four-episode anthology film; Woman Times Four, if you will.  A tribute to one of my favorite unsung actresses of the 70s.  
Unforgettable.
All Night Gallery paintings by Thomas J Knight

Copyright © Ken Anderson

44 comments:

  1. What a terrific post, Ken! Joanna Pettet made a huge impression on me in my formative years. So beautiful and talented, and slinky! You're right that NG was mostly a fizzle, but Pettet's episodes are among the handful that immediately come to mind when I think of the show. After The House I remember pretending to walk in slow motion all through my own house and into the back yard. (On a more grim note, I also used to mimic Faye Dunaway's slow-mo death scene in Bonnie & Clyde). But anyway...

    Another NG episode that sticks with me was the one that (i think) was paired with The House that night: Certain Shadows on the Wall. I mean, what little boy didn't relish seeing Agnes Moorehead, Grayson Hall, and Rachel Roberts in a room together?

    It's interesting to watch The Group today and see which one "broke out" and became a star and is still working, and which one didn't and why. I really would have bet on Joanna Pettet. Thanks for recognizing her!

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    1. Hi Max!
      Thanks, and so great to hear from another person who fell under Joanna Pettet's (slo motion) sway in Night Gallery.
      I absolutely LOVE that you were inspired to engage in pretend slo-motion because of The House episode, but The Dunaway death scene is classic...I love when kids allow the fantasy side to take over (I think "they Shoot Horses..." was my earliest exposure to slow motion, so - as I shared in an earlier post- my sisters and I reenacted "The Derby". I guess that comes from seeing mature too young).

      Good memory in recalling the "Certain Shadows on the Wall" pairing with "The House". I honestly hadn't remembered it until I re-watched the episode on Hulu before writing this. Indeed, what a cast!

      Lastly, what you say about "The Group" is so very true and really interesting. I too would have put my money on Joanna Pettet emerging the biggest star. She certainly remained a favorite of mine, I liked her so much I never allowed myself to watch one of her "Love Boat" or "Fantasy Island" appearances - it would break my heart.
      Thanks for a fun and funny comment!

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  2. This was a neat post! I missed "Night Gallery" entirely during its initial run and it was never, ever shown in reruns in my area, so I didn't get to see it at all until a cable network (was it Chiller in its earliest days?) began to run it. I really, really enjoyed watching them because a) I love that time, b) I love anthology shows and c) I love when the stars faces are shown in the opening credits. I also thought the art gallery concept was neat.

    I enjoyed reading your assessment of Joanna Pettet and looking at the marvelous photos of her from the shows she was in. That first one, "The House," won me over right away because it had chiffon billowing in slow motion, which is something I never tire of seeing! LOL I will have to pay closer attention to this actress in the future. I did think she was lovely in "Casino Royale" and great in "The Group" but that almost accounts for all I've seen her in apart from episodic TV (and where in the hell did she GO after the 1980s??) I never even knew that she and Alex Cord were married. Interesting. Thanks for an enjoyable post.

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    1. Hi Poseidon
      Ha! Your "chiffon billowing in slow motion" comment is the template image I have of Night Gallery, so apparently I'm every bit as susceptible

      It's funny how "Night Gallery" fit into this brief little time-zone and then disappeared for years. My generation was too late for the whole Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/Thriller thing, so NG was kind of it, and we all watched it in spite of never really being won over by it.
      The Pettet thing is almost an adolescent boy thing. I don't recall any girls of my age even remembering her or the show, and for gay teens like myself, she was sort of like a "Safe" sex object.

      Like teen girls who fixated on safe, Donny Osmond types; I hadn't yet developed the emotional hardware to confront the dangerous crush I had on Alex Cord, but Joanna Pettet was safe. She was sexy and pretty without a trace of gay camp like Liza or even Faye Dunaway. My crush on Joanna Pettet felt liberating because I could express it without "outing" myself. I'm positive that's the appeal she had for me.

      Sad to say, when you mention you've seen Casino Royale & The Group, I'm afraid you've seen everything worthwhile she did (Maybe "night of the Generals" is pretty good. She got trapped into a cycle of appearing in terrible TV movies and unwatchable horror flicks. (Who the hell was her manager or agent?).
      I understand her personal life was troubled (a death of only son from a drug overdose, death of longtime friends Alan Bates and Laurence Harvey, murder of best friend Sharon Tate), but I've also read she lost interest in Hollywood and was not interested in sustaining fame or building a career...Leading to accepting jobs just for the money. She really did disappear after the 80s.
      Good for her probably, but what a talent underutilized.
      The Casino Royale DVD has a great documentary in which she talks about being in the film. I think that was shot in 2009 or something. But that's the last I'd seen her anywhere.
      Thanks for further helping me to jog my memory, Poseidon. I too have a weakness for old shows where the star's faces are shown in the opening credits (like Love American Style!)

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  3. Well, Ken, we've posted in the past about Joanna Pettet's haunting Night Gallery appearances, needless to say, I loved this post!

    Even as kids, my siblings and I thought Night Gallery was second-rate compared to Serling's The Twilight Zone. But we still tuned in every week! Some of the outrageous hamming of veteran stars had us imitating them long after the show ended. Remember Joan Crawford as the rich bitch who purchases Tom Bosley's eyes for one night of sight? I guess Bette Davis' eyes weren't available! Or Mickey Rooney as an aging gangster looking for a way out? And Agnes Moorehead who becomes that shadow on the wall? I just quoted to my sister last year, "What I whaa-nt, I cah-n't have...life!" And she burst out laughing, remembering instantly!

    But back to Joanna Pettet. She should have been a huge star. Pettet had a unique voice, could play drama and comedy, and was lovelier than any Angel! But movies were casting real-looking actors in the late '60s and '70s in movies. I still don't understand why Pettet didn't get a hit show on TV, where beautiful actors flocked to back then, instead of being a perennial guest star.

    When I posted on FB last year about Pettet's performance in "The House," several people commented that the Night Gallery episode is still embedded in their minds!

    Thanks for giving dream girl Joanna Pettet her own post!

    Rick

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    1. Hi Rick
      Honestly, our past correspondences on the topic of "The House" is what inspired me to write this. Especially after someone else wrote to me about sharing similar memories of the same episode.
      I'd always thought I was the only one to harbor a strong recollection of that Night Gallery episode, but (as the internet age is forever teaching me) the solo pop-culture experience is rare; SOMEONE out there has responded to an obscure bit of nostalgia in the exact same way.
      I wish I harbored the same fun memories of Night Gallery episodes as you and your sister share. I hardly remember any of them. I definitely remember the Joan Crawford one, and one with Lana Wood playing a robot domestic, and one with BVD's Michael Blodgett. And of course one with the ubiquitous William Windom- an actor I seriously have a problem with. Like a male Meryl Streep, he seemed to be everywhere and in everything when I was growing up - but like a guest star, his performances never varied. The same guy 100,000 roles. He drove me crazy! My partner now laughs whenever we settle down to watch one of those any TV stations now devoted to retro shows, because he knows it will be only a matter of time before Windom shows up and i launch into a tirade (like now).
      Back to Joanna Pettet.
      Like you say, she should have been a huge star, and I'm surprised she wasn't snapped up by one of those many nighttime glamour soaps when they were all the rage.
      When I was researching this post, like you I discovered that many people have strong memories of "The House" episode. Embedded in their minds is the right term.
      So thanks Rick, for being the one to light the spark that got me to write the kind of Joanna Pettet tribute I used to scan the internet for. She's been a favorite of mine so long, it was nice to finally be able to to put it all into words. Here's to shared childhood TV memories!

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  4. Hi Ken, wow, Joanna Pettet was indeed gorgeous, as your fabulous screen captures illustrate. I am one of those poor fellows who only remembers her from her many TV guest appearances in the coming decades. And Alex Cord--wow, what a hunka hunka, he is indeed one groovy dude!!

    Night Gallery was hip, funky and psychedelic in its production design, and what a gallery of stars were featured! As you note, it was apprently nowhere near as artisitcally acclaimed as Twilight Zone, so there were never any reruns to watch as a kid. So to this day, i have NEVER seen a regular episode of Night Gallery.

    What I HAVE seen, many times, is the two-hour pilot movie that launched the series, which I really really enjoyed, especially the Joan Crawford episode directed byt he young Steven Spielberg.

    Now, I believe the series is much more widely available, and I will seek it out because of this vividly illustrated and engaging post...thank you again!

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    1. Hey Chris
      I've heard from a lot of younger people who, like you, never really saw "Night Gallery" because it was not often in reruns. As Rick helpfully added below (and which proved invaluable in getting getting these screencaps) full episodes are available on Hulu, and some on YouTube.
      I think most have seen the pilot movie you speak of, which had that fun Joan Crawford episode and one I enjoyed with Roddy McDowall hamming it up.
      I remember from the old Rona Barrett's Hollywood magazines of the time how Pettet and Cord were SO much the hip Hollywood glamour couple of the time. Just too pretty for words.
      Thanks for checking out the post and honestly, I'm not sure you're missing that much if you don't check out old Night Gallery episodes. As I've said, beyond the Pettet ones, few seem to have stood out as memorable.

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  5. What an interesting essay about a woefully-underrated actress. I used to watch NG every week, but I don't think the Pettet episodes grabbed me as much as they did you--although that Alex Cord...hubba-hubba!--but now I want to go back and watch them again.

    A sad coda: Pettet and Cord had one child (Pettet's only child; I'm not sure if Cord had others), a son who died of a heroin overdose in 1995. Pettet has been living in England, retired, since then. Wikipedia says Pettet was Alan Bates's companion in the last years of his life.

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    1. Hi Deb
      I think I've come across maybe just one woman online who was as intrigued by Pettet and that whole "The House" semi-cult. She seemed mostly an adolescent fanboy obsession. And as much as I was gone on Alex Cord at the time, I don't know that I ever saw but a couple of his films ("Synanon" and "The Brotherhood"...both films in which he's barefaced, such a letdown).
      And yes, seems like you discovered what I did; that trying to unearth what she's up to now is a sad list of all the friends and loved ones she knew who have passed away. Whenever someone drops out of the fast track of 60/70s showbiz (which was/is rife with drug use and excess) I always hope it's because they've found a happier alternative.
      With "Night Gallery" more available to catch on the web thee days, maybe you can revisit some of the episodes you may recall. I'm always so hard pressed to remember any beyond these.
      Thanks for visiting the blog again, Deb. Always appreciate it and love your contributions!

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  6. PS,
    For Night Gallery fans,they are available on Hulu.
    Rick

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  7. Hi Ken,

    Well that was a fun read. Sad to say I don't remember these particular episodes but the good news is that Night Gallery runs on one of the retro stations here, in the bowels of the night, so I'll keep an eye out and DVR them.

    I did watch the show religiously every week, much to my mother's chagrin-she is not a fan of the unsettling, and have vivid memories of a few but not many.

    Three I've always recalled, two for their stories (and stars) and the third more just for its cast.

    The first is probably the best-"Green Fingers" with Elsa Lanchester who possesses a VERY green thumb. It's short and eerie and freaked me out for days and as you mentioned EVERYBODY was talking about it after its initial showing.

    The next was rather unimaginatively but accurately called "The Diary" and starred Patty Duke, as a total bitch of a gossip columnist with unbelievably big 70's hair, ever so briefly Virginia Mayo, as a once great star, and also briefly a pre-stardom Lindsay Wagner. It was really a showcase for Patty to progressively become battier and battier but it has a chilling denouement and when they started to rerun the series it's the first one I made sure to seek out.

    The last is really more about the cast called "Last Rites for a Dead Druid", it's some foolishness about a cursed statue but it starred Bill Bixby (loved him), Donna Douglas (loved her) and Carol Lynley (her I can live without) and for some reason the pairing of the first two just stuck with me through the years.

    I agree that the show wasn't up to Twilight Zone's quality level but far better than a lot of the drivel that passes for entertainment today and was great for utilizing stars who were at a certain place in their career, either on the way up or nearing the end of their time in the spotlight.

    I remember Joanna Pettet fondly although I can't say I held her in the same affection as you. I think we all have our favorite performers, or ones we have a special affection for, that aren't generally widely remembered by the general populace. One of mine is Inger Stevens, her career even has some similarities to Pettet's...many, many guest starring roles-even a famous one on Twilight Zone (The Hitch-Hiker)- though she had a more extensive movie career and a successful series "The Farmer's Daughter" with...William Windom!! (We'll have to agree to disagree on him-he's never bothered me-I've always sort of liked him. Sorry.) Obviously since she died in 1970 her period of activity was the late 50's up until then but they both were blonde beauties who never reached their full potential.

    Now I'm off to see if these episodes are scheduled!

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    1. Hey Joel
      Thank you for proving my point about the six degrees of separation when it comes to TV and William Windom (although with him you only need three. My Lord...who was that man's agent? He deserves an award!).

      OK, I think I've composed myself.
      It was fun learning what episodes you remembered because each came flooding back to me as well. I recall the twist of the "Green Fingers" episode (and how hard it was to see all that 70s day-for-night on those old fuzzy TV sets). And "The Dairy" is one I'm inspired to seek out now, because my memory is of Duke being very Neely O'Hara in it.
      And although I don't recall the particulars of the "Druid" piece, it sticks out in my mind because it was a shock for me to see Ellie Mae Clampett play a Tina Louise vamp role.
      I wasn't all that keen on "Night Gallery" but like you, I enjoyed the parade of different stars it allowed. I preferred the anthology format to those awful "Love Boat" "Fantasy Island" parade of facelifts shows that took their place.
      Wonderful that you had a think for Inger Stevens! her name almost never comes up on film sites. I remember her in many episodics during my youth, and only one movie, the lamentable "Guide for the Married Man." I always thought she was a very sad-eyed beauty, like Kim Novak. As a kind of parallel to someone with a quality and career similar to Pettet's I think with her you really hit the nail on the head.
      Terrific and very fun comments as always (I laughed aloud at the Carol lynley remark). Thanks, Joel!

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    2. Hi Ken,

      You know I think sometimes our perception of performers is colored by how or where we were first exposed to them. In the case of William Windom that would be his role as Congressman Morley on Inger's The Farmer's Daughter series where the two shared a nice chemistry. My sister and I were devout fans of the reruns-we begged our parents to install a chair like the one the frail Cathleen Nesbitt who played Windom's mother rode up and down the stairs!!. So whenever I saw him afterwards, and I can't deny that he was ubiquitous, that's the first thing I remember so I was always predisposed to like him. Perhaps not the most varied talent but a warm presence.

      That comparison between Inger and Kim Novak is a good one. Although she had a cheerier personality than Kim with that dazzling smile and an air of sunniness her eyes were infinitely sad if you watched closely. I've wondered why Hitchcock never took more of an interest in her for his films, she seems just his type, she did a couple of episodes of his TV show so he must have been aware of her. Perhaps he was too busy smothering Tippi Hendren with attention to notice others!

      I read the biography about her "The Farmer's Daughter Remembered" which fortunately my library was able to get shipped in for me. I had looked into buying a copy and since it's extremely rare the only copy available at the time was over $1000! I've since seen it offered for about $250, as much as I enjoyed the book that's absurd!! Anyway she seemed a kind, complicated woman and I was surprised to read that the circumstances surrounding her death are somewhat murky.

      Yikes the only one of her films you've seen is Guide to the Married Man!! :-( Despite the cavalcade of star cameos it's so wildly sexist it's hard to enjoy. She didn't make a ton of films, probably the most famous is Clint Eastwood's Hang Em High, but there were some interesting ones mixed in. I'd recommend Cry Terror! with James Mason, The World, the Flesh and the Devil with Harry Belafonte and House of Cards with George Peppard. There is one she's very good in called The Young Interns that is full of 60's soapy goodness, and a cast that could only be assembled in the 60's-Michael Callan, Dean Jones, Barbara Eden, George Segal, Stefanie Powers, Telly Savalas and Greg Morris but it's almost impossible to find. There's also her last theatrical film, A Dream of Kings where again she's excellent as a sad and lonely widow but Anthony Quinn is the star-in full-on Zorba mode-and I have only limited tolerance for him so I could never imagine revisiting it but you might feel differently.

      I think that Patty Duke episode of Night Gallery is on YouTube. You're right, there are shades of NEELY O'HARA!! in her performance.

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    3. Hi Joel
      You're right about "first exposures" to actors. I first became aware of William Windom in the sitcom "My World & Welcome to It", a TV show I hated but my mom liked (from back in the day of the single TV home) and I'm not sure I ever got over it.
      Also, you can feel fine about an actor and just get sick of their landing role after role (I know lots of people feel that way about Meryl Streep, and I'm headed there with Jennifer Lawrence).

      I hadn't realized until your list, how many Inger Stevens movies I HAVE seen. I've seen "The World The Flesh and the Devil" and "The Young Interns" - two movies that were often on The Late Show growing up.

      I recall her Alfred Hitchcock episodes and you make a good point in wondering why Hitch didn't use her in a film, since she seems exactly his type.More so than even Vera Miles who always seemed kind of dowdy to me.
      Inger Stevens' death I recall as being one shrouded in mystery. Always so strange when celebrities pass away under mysterious circumstances. Investigations are always hampered by the search for truth conflicting with a public attitude protective of a star's image.
      Oh yes, and a little Anthony Quinn goes a long way.
      Thanks, Joel!

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  8. Ken, congrats on the write-up your blog got in Liz Smith's column today, courtesy of Denis Ferarra. I love his and your takes on film, so the mention put a smile on my face this a.m.!
    Cheers, Rick
    http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/guest-diary/2016/liz-smith-hollywood-and-diversity

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    1. Congrats, Ken, WOW!!
      Rick, thank you for that link!
      -Chris

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    2. Wow is right! How cool is that?
      Thanks Rick, for the congratulations and link...I never would have known! And thanks to you too, Chris for the congrats and enthusiasm. You both are so kind. What a very nice way to start the day!
      Now to fire off a heartfelt billet-doux to Mr. Ferrara and let him know he has a new fan! Much appreciated, guys!

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    3. Congratulations on a well-deserved shout out! I'm sure you'll notice an uptick in traffic as new readers discover your wonderful site!

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    4. This is terrific news, Ken!
      FANNNNTASTIC!

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    5. Hi Ken,

      I'm a bit late on the uptake with this but congrats on the mention in Liz Smith's column! Very, very cool. Hope you see an uptick in people dropping in to take a gander around your terrific site!

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    6. Aw, that's very kind of you, Joel. Thank you!

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  9. Ken,thanks for helping me remember both Joanna Pettet and Night Gallery. When I think of Joanna, the thing that comes immediately to mind is her very distinctive voice. Sort of a soft sandpaper kind of quality with just a hint of her British accent coming through. She sounded like a purring cat who's had a cigarette or two. I also remember her make up and hair. My mom detested the long, straight, undone look of the 70s, which, of course, was exactly the look I wanted. I also think Joanna invented the smoky eye look in make up.

    As for Night Gallery we watched it because my dad had an appreciation of the macabre. Can't say that I remember her episodes though. The one that has stayed with me starred Patrick O'Neal and I believe Kim Stanley. O'Neal plays a self involved womanizer. Stanley plays his lonely, spinsterish next door neighbor who harbors a crush on him. He is rude and dismissive to her the one time she works up the nerve to let him know how she feels. O'Neal keeps seeing a spider in his bathroom, which repeatedly washes down the drain. He never notices that the spider keeps getting bigger and bigger, until one day...well, you get the drift. When he flees his apartment in terror, he runs to Stanley's who calmly locks the door and listens to him scream. Still afraid of spiders to this day!

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    1. Hi Roberta
      Hey, you actually came up with a Night Gallery episode I have no recollection of whatsoever! I'm going to check out Hulu soon to see if it's there because I absolutely adore Kim Stanley and it really sounds creepy!

      I think you're the second person to mention Joanna Pettet's voice (and your description of it is perfect, conjuring up as it does, the image of a smoking cat ...which I'm sure exits on YouTube). Pettet does have the most amazing voice, and it so fit her look, which was very 70s. I saw her in an 80s episode of "The Fall Guy" and it only reminded me how unforgiving the fashions and hairstyles of that decade were. Yikes. You could be gorgeous and look absolutely ridiculous at the same time.
      Thanks for contributing your Night Gallery recollection. I hadn't really been interested in revisiting any of the other past episodes, buy you guys are getting to me!

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  10. Thank you for your post about Joanna Pettet: She was my second favorite 1960's British actress (her appearances on Night Gallery came when she was becoming a never-was). My favorite of all was Suzy Kendall (please do an article about her and the movies she did from 1965-'70) because Pettet never seemed to smile and carry out that British wit that Kendall did. The great tragedy is that those two (along with Carol White, Gabriella Licudi, Barbara Ferris, and Adrienne Posta) never could fulfill their talent just as Julie Christie and Susannah York did in the 1960's.

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    1. Hi Eric
      Nice to hear from someone who remembers Pettet as one of a slew of British actresses who caught the attention of US audiences with varying degrees of durability and success. Lovely too, to hear the name Suzy Kendall. A name not well known or remembered these days, but I recall how pretty she was when I saw her in "To sir, With Love" as a kid. The only other films of hers I've seen are "The Penthouse" and "Bird with the Crystal Plumage".
      Funny that you mention how Pettet never seemed to smile. I remember that about her too, but when I saw "Casino Royale" it was my sister who called my attention to Pettet's girlish, dimpled smile and how seldom she ever showed it.
      Although I remember liking Carol White in "Poor Cow", I had to Google the other names you listed, thinking I hadn't seen them in anything. Of course, in every case each was an actress I'd seen in several films but never knew the name of.
      You sound like you have a broad knowledge of and familiarity with the work of a lot of Brit actresses from my favorite era. Thanks Eric for supplying a few names some of my readers might enjoy discovering!

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    2. Ken, thank you for your response. I am so moved by what you said. 'Moved' because this is the first time in years that I wrote something and someone agreed with me. Is there any chance you can get me a job? Because I'm a writer and my mother is always blown away about my knowledge of movies and 1960's pop culture and she can't understand why there's isn't a job like that for me. Can you help?

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    3. You're very welcome, Eric! Alas, I can't help with getting you a job as I'm somewhat feeling my way trough the evolving landscape of writing/publishing myself.
      With so many publications biting the dust, it's a very tough time for writers, yet, simultaneously the internet (and ingenuity) offer a democracy of exposure never before available.
      Can't even offer any good advice except to say don't stop writing, and consider creating work opportunities for yourself by restarting your blogs.
      Good luck!

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  11. Hello Ken, thanks to you I ordered the "Night Gallery" season one dvd because of what you wrote about Joanna Pettet in "The House" in an earlier post. She is indeed ethereal in that spooky episode. I can understand anyone becoming obsessed about Joanna Pettet after watching her in "The House". Sadly for me, the other episodes that you write about were not on the dvd. I really want to seem them after your great celebration of this underrated actress!

    You're right about how she was no longer cute and dimpled in the early seventies. At that time she was no longer a starlet; she had turned into a woman, very thin and angular.

    I'm glad she appeared so many times in "Night Gallery" in those classic episodes but it's a shame she could not get work in the movies in the 70's. I think it was because she had been in too many flops to be able to continue her movie career. In the beginning she had starred in high profile movies such as "The Group" and "Casino Royale" (where she was amazingly funny and gorgeous). The films that followed: "The Night of the Generals", "Robbery" (where she was wasted), "Blue", "Best House in London" (a terribly unfunny comedy) were not hits and that must have made casting directors to look elsewhere for other blondes.

    Also, fewer films were made in the early 70's due to the studio system crumbling. Lots of sixties movie dolly birds had a hard time finding film work at the time. Actresses like Mia Farrow, Joanna Shimkus, Ali MacGraw, Senta Berger, Elke Sommer, Julie Christie, Jane Birkin, Raquel Welch had their careers go into decline. The same for Joanna P. She just disappeared from the screen!

    Thanks for writing about her so that others discover her. I hope that she reads your essay about her unforgettable appearances in "Night Gallery"!
    -Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      Glad you got to see the episode that started it all for me. Maybe you can catch up with the other episodes online at Hulu. I think they're all there. Although she's the fixation of a small clique, I wish some fanboy or girl would put all the Pettet episodes on one disc.
      It is always interesting to speculate where people's careers go. Whenever I read autobiographies or memoirs, the writers always seem to reiterate that the shaping of a "career" s never as obvious as it looks to us outsiders. They speak of wanting to hold out for only "good" roles, but having to take what's offered for practical reasons (like eating and a roof over their head). beautiful actresses often say they are happy their looks got them in, but once in, unimaginative writers could only think of roles where "beautiful" is all they were.
      I don't know how ambitious Pettet was, sometimes it's impossible to recover from so many terrible high profile films, and the movies you list are less than illustrious.
      And wow, just looking at the names of those actresses from the era - all battling it out to play the woman hanging on Steve McQueen's arm or waiting to be protected by Clint Eastwood. Yikes! What options.

      I think Pettet had a lot more to offer than those TV movie of the week and guest stints on "Murder She Wrote" hinted at. That's why I'm so grateful that she had for me, her finest hours on Night Gallery. It was a brief time, but she shined brightly.
      Thanks Wille. Perceptive points made on the struggle for actresses in the boys' club that was the New Hollywood. As always, great to hear from you!

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  12. Joanna Pettet pops up in the new Ed Sanders book "Sharon Tate" as one of his primary sources. She was very close to Tate and adds some interesting insights. She also talks about how long it took her to get over the Manson massacre. Sadly, the book doesn't really say what she has been up to in recent years. She definitely had a special quality and now seems a quintessential 1960s/1970s actress. I have to check out those 'Night Gallery' episodes - I don't think I've seen that show since it was originally aired.

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    1. Hi Joe
      I hadn't heard anything about the Sharon Tate book, so that's a definite check-out for me. I've only read outside sources commenting on the effect the Manson murders had on Pettet, so to know she's offering her own perspective for a change would be refreshing.
      The last time I saw her was in the "Making of Casino Royale documentary" that came with the DVD release sometime in 2006 (?) and she looked great and provided a wonderful window into that rather chaotic time.

      I can understand her retreat from the business, but I'd love to have her write her memoirs. She seemed to be right there at a very fascinating time in film history.
      I'm for sure going to look up the Tate book, thanks and great to hear from you!

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  13. Yup. When I was 10 it was infatuation at first sight of Ms. Pettet. Regarding NG, most episodes of series never really lived up to the creepy pilot - especially "The Cemetery". But, the episodes with Joanna all worked. She literally saved Casino Royale - stealing all scenes - and enjoyed her role in "Night of the Generals". She also did an episode of the rarely seen (in the US) UK series "Thriller", "Killer in Every Corner"(see YouTube). I always caught her in 70's crime dramas, and had a nice role as a detective on "Knots Landing". I understand her retreat from Hollywood, from the Tate murders to her own frightful situation being held hostage with a film crew (later able to leave) in the early 80's Philippines, filming a forgettable horror flick. I probably would have been done with Hollyweird, too...

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    1. Hi Steve
      Thanks very much for the YouTube tip on the "Thriller" episode. I'd never heard of it and i'm looking forward to checking it out.
      Nice to hear from someone who also felt that Pettet was a huge asset to almost everything she appeared in. Wise to kiss the industry goodbye when see did, especially in light of the kind of roles she was being offered.
      A unique, underutilized talent.
      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment!

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  14. I found your blog looking for reviews of "You're a Big Boy Now", as I am an Elizabeth Hartman fan (your description of her character as "dick-withering" was clever and spot on) and I have been enjoying your other writing as well. It seems we have the same taste and many times you are echoing sentiments of my own so very happy that I found you.
    I enjoyed this post in particular because I've always loved Pettet as well. I remember being a kid and seeing her TV movie "Pioneer Woman", co-starring William Shatner and David Janssen and a very young Helen Hunt as Pettet's daughter. I bought a vhs rip of the movie from Amazon and admit it is still a guilty pleasure. But she really made an impression on me in an episode of "Police Woman", where she played a psycho pretending to be mute. The episode was featured in Season 2, which was recently released to DVD. I'm tempted to buy the whole season just to see Pettet's performance again. I was so pleased to see you had dedicated a post to her, as I really liked her in "The Group" as well. I'm glad I found a kindred spirit and am looking forward to reading more of your reviews in the future. Great job.

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    1. My, what a nice comment! I'm always so thrilled when someone just happens upon this blog (and likes it!), but doubly so when the reader expresses an affinity of sorts with the seemingly contradictory (but not at all) ability to enjoy "good" films and "bad_ - what ever those terms mean on a subjective level.
      Nice to hear you're a fan both of Pettet and Hartman. I remember that "Pioneer Woman" and perhaps I hshould overcome my Shatner aversion to check it out. I had not, however heard of the Police Woman episode. It sounds great.
      Someone in an earlier comment suggested a British "Thriller" episode I finally saw on YouTube , and it was wonderful seeing Pettet in another vehicle from what is clearly the same period at these "Night Gallery" episodes.
      Thank you for the kind words, and I gratefully welcome you to the blog for as long as you continue to find it enjoyable reading.

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    2. I'm a frenchman and i heard about Joanna Pettet when i saw her on television in Night of the Generals eleven years ago. She is so talented, charismatic and beautiful at the same time. My father, a huge movie fan, say: she is a real siren on screen. My pesonal theory about her carrer is: actresses like her, Carol Lynley,Joey Heatherton, Sue Lyons and other sixties chicks were too beautiful for the New Hollywood coming era. They started their carreers in the sixties. At this time, old mogul studios and old producers and directors gave their chances like Sam Spiegel or Charles Feldman. The old studio system was collapsing. Future young directors like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg didn't make any movie. These actresses were lonely and had to choose few so-called interseting movies. European cinema were innovative. Joanna Pettet did some movies in Britain, his native land. Only Casion Royale was a swinging london movie.
      The others were good but old-fashioned.
      They didn't succeed in box office.
      I think personnally that Joanna Pettet was too beautiful for this time,In the seventies, it was better to be Shelley Duvall than Raquel Welsh. That's why for beautiful actresses,there were two exils: television or b-grade movies.

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    3. I think you have something there. The 70s was very much a "boys Club" when it came to the kinds of films being made, and with the shift to a certain naturalism, Pettet's beauty left a lot of unimaginative writers with no idea how to use her.
      Beautiful actresses who were lucky to later land roles that used their talents properly as they grew older (like Jacqueline Bisset, Ann-Margret) often speak of a certain "sameness" to the kinds of roles written for women at the time. Always the girlfriend or fantasy object.
      I agree that in another era, the studios might have recognized Pettet's versatility as a dramatic/comedic actress, but because she is so pretty, I too think male directors and writers were only able to see as far as their own fantasies.
      A shame. She really does have all you said: talent, charisma, beauty. Just so few good roles.
      That's why these TV episodes always stood out for me. She is treated in these short TV episodes like the female stars of the 40s; central to the plot, mysterious, and nobody's ornamental sidekick.
      Thank you for sharing such an interesting personal theory. I honestly don't think you're off target. Maybe you even hit a bullseye!

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  15. I just watched Casino Royale and fell in love with Joanna Pettet. When she does that "Shhh Shhh" scene in that beautiful outfit with Polo I fell like a rock. I remember her in the 1970s but I was very young and didn't know her name. Night Gallery was one of my favorite shows though. A great late night snack show for a young kid.

    This is a very cool web site. Thanks for posting it. Is Joanna Pettet still living in England? Does anyone have any more current pictures of her?

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    1. Hi Frank
      Thank you for your very nice comment about the blog. Being such a fan myself, it's great to hear that Pettet's charm in "Casino Royale" endures. She really is one of the best things about that very overstuffed film.
      i really know so little about Pettet's current whereabouts or what she's up to. I'd read she contributed quotes to a semi-recent biography of her late friend Sharon Tate, but that's the last I've heard of Pettet being in the spotlight.
      She's certainly missed! Thank you very much for visiting the site and commenting!

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  16. Excellent piece - nicely done, sir!

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  17. Ms. Pettet was a talented beauty who brought great pleasure to so many. For those wondering where she is today - I found her on Facebook! She has a personal page an an official fan page. Here are the links:

    https://www.facebook.com/jake.bates.737
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1333570493354783/

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