Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rita Hayworth, Pin-Up Legend

Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth.

Our topic here is one of the top Divas of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was a top dancer and actress, someone who stayed in the tabloids for decades and never really got the recognition she (felt she) deserved. She danced with Fred Astaire in classic pictures, is known in particular for one popular film whose title featured her character's name, and lived into the Reagan years. Well, we've already discussed Ginger Rogers, so that leaves ... the fabulous Rita Hayworth!

Rita Hayworth on the cover of the 11 August 1941 issue of Life magazine,
A memorable August 11, 1941 issue of Life magazine featured Rita Hayworth. 

Rita was born Margarita Carmen Cansino in Brooklyn, New York on October 17, 1918. Her parents, Eduardo Cansino and Volga Hayworth, were of Spanish and Irish-English descent, respectively. Most significantly for Rita's future, they were both dancers and encouraged her interest in that from her earliest years. Her maternal uncle was an actor, and mama Volga encouraged that talent as well, and her paternal grandfather was a famous Spanish dancer. If you want to incubate a future dancer and actress, that's not a bad way to start.

Rita Hayworth in her pin-up from Life magazine,
Rita's classic pin-up from her 1941 Life magazine spread. It became the most requested pin-up of World War II until a Betty Grable photo of 1943.

Pushed by her parents, young Margarita studied dancing throughout her childhood at Carnegie Hall. Day after day, year after year, it was endless dance classes taught by uncle Angel. Her family brought her onstage with them the day that she turned five - on Broadway (in "The Greenwich Village Follies"). Not too shabby to start out on Broadway. In fact, she may be the only star in history whose first onstage appearance was on the Great White Way.

Rita Hayworth in her early years,
Young Margarita Cansino.

A few years later, at age eight, she nabbed a role in a short film for Warner Bros., "La Fiesta." Dancing was popular during the 1920s, so Margarita's dad moved the family to Hollywood to see if they could break into "the pictures." Nothing big happened right away, so Eduardo opened a dance studio. This got him - and little Margarita - access to up-and-coming stars like Jimmy Cagney and Jean Harlow. Eventually, Eduardo took Margarita across the border to dance in Tijuana, which didn't care how old employees were. She never finished school, but during the Great Depression, you had to make sacrifices.

Rita Hayworth when still Rita Cansino,
Rita during her time at Fox.

At age 16, Margarita started getting bit parts in Mexican films such as "Cruz Diablo" (1934) and "In Caliente" (1935). Nobody noticed young Margarita - well, except for a guy named Winfield Sheehan. He happened to see her dancing at a nightspot with her dad. There are lots of guys at nightclubs, but Winfield was not your average bear - he just so happened to be head of the Fox Film Corporation. He arranged a screen test which led to a short-term, six-month contract at Fox. Margarita shortened her name to Rita Cansino to make it a little more recognizable to northern audiences. There was no denying Rita's exotic beauty, though.

Rita Hayworth at the Roller Derby,
Rita Hayworth, Edward Judson, Doune McKay, and Gordon Oliver watching the Roller Derby at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Photograph dated July 23, 1938. (LEN WEISSMAN/LAPL HERALD-EXAMINER COLLECTION.)

At Fox, Rita spent her six months doing various bit parts in films that usually had some kind of foreign slant - "Under the Pampas Moon" (1935), "Charlie Chan in Egypt" (1935), "Paddy O'Day" (1935) - invariably appearing as the spicy little foreigner. While she did well and Winfield wanted to advance her career to leads, he lost control when Fox merged with 20th Century Fox. After losing her contract, Rita fell in love with a big fan, Edward C. Judson, and the two eloped in 1937 despite the fact that he was a mysterious character much older than her. Judson got Rita some freelance parts on poverty row, and the audience started noticing her.

Rita Hayworth and Harry Cohn,
While Rita Hayworth was married five times, it is reasonable to state that the dominant relationship of her life - in a platonic sense - was with studio boss Harry Cohn.

Based upon Rita's role in "Meet Nero Wolfe" (1936), Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn signed Rita to a standard seven-year studio contract. Cohn then told Judson that Rita needed a less Spanish last name to get parts written for non-foreign girls, so Judson prevailed upon Rita to take her mother's last name and become: Rita Hayworth.

Rita Hayworth and Harry Cohn in 1947,
Hayworth and Cohn on the set of 1947’s 'The Lady From Shanghai,' co-starring and directed by her then-husband, Orson Welles.

Those weren't the only changes that Cohn wanted. He pressured Rita to change her hair color to dark red, for instance. He also thought that she was a little too hairy, so she got electrolysis to raise her hairline. These were small prices to pay to become a star, so Rita made them. There are unproven innuendos, made only long after both were dead, that Cohn sexually harassed Hayworth. If he did, she never put it in those terms. Hayworth actually addressed the issue in the New York Times interview in 1970:
In front of people, Harry Cohn would say, 'I never put a hand on her.' Of course he hadn't put a hand on me — as if I'd let him!
However, the casting couch has always been a stereotype of Hollywood, and other actresses have had plenty to say about that.

Rita Hayworth and Cary Grant,
Rita Hayworth with Cary Grant in "Only Angels Have Wings."

Having shown that she was willing to "play ball," Rita soon reaped the benefits. After getting her feet wet in eight low-key films in 1937 and five in 1938, Rita landed the role of a seductress in "Only Angels Have Wings" (1939). Starring Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, "Wings" brought Rita to a whole new level of stardom. She started getting tons of fan mail pouring into the Columbia mail room. Cohn noticed, and started the Columbia publicity machine to raise her profile. While not yet a headliner, Rita began getting meaty supporting roles to stars like Joan Crawford in "Susan and God" (1940) and old friend James Cagney in "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941). By mid-1941, Rita Hayworth was one of the top female faces in Hollywood. Her iconic poses in the August 11, 1941 edition of Life magazine, which became standards on GI barracks around the world, cemented her stardom.

Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire,
Rita with Fred Astaire.

Rita's films with Fred Astaire, beginning with Columbia's "You'll Never Get Rich" (1941), made Rita Hayworth a true headliner. Astaire later conceded that Rita Hayworth was his favorite dance partner, saying, "All right, I'll give you a name, but if you ever let it out, I'll swear I lied: it was Rita Hayworth." Astaire, incidentally, often had decidedly mixed things to say about Ginger Rogers, who he thought didn't work hard enough at her dancing and simply wanted to bluff her way through dance numbers, but he never seemed to say anything negative about Hayworth's dancing.

Rita Hayworth in Gilda,

By this point, Rita Hayworth was an established star. Other films with Astaire followed, such as "You Were Never Lovelier" (1942), but she also branched out in new directions. She considered "Cover Girl" (1944) with Gene Kelly to be a career highlight. Rita hit her peak in the public mind with King Vidor's "Gilda" (1946), a film that barely got by the censors due to Rita's sensuous portrayal that included a one-glove striptease, "Put the Blame on Mame."

Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shanghai,
Rita Hayworth in Orson Welles's "The Lady From Shanghai" (1947).

During World War II, Rita Hayworth reached a degree of fame which other top actresses could only dream about. However, in her personal life, she admitted that she was "very shy" and had an "inferiority complex." However, she always was drawn to "bad boys" - who also had the ability to help her career. In 1942, she divorced Judson amidst her claims that he "helped himself to my money," then turned around and married the enfant terrible of Hollywood, Orson Welles. The two basically eloped, and the two had daughter Rebecca on 17 December 1944. They divorced in 1947, with Rita claiming that he "showed no interest in establishing a home" - which certainly seems likely, given Welles' predilection for gallivanting around Europe on various film endeavors.

Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan
Rita Hayworth and...
Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan
Aly Khan.

Rita thought she finally had found a relationship worth giving up her career for when she married Prince Aly Kahn, the son of the leader of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam in 1949. They had a daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, on 28 December 1949. However, Aly turned out to be a bit of a player, and Rita apparently did not want to convert to Islam and did not want Yasmin to be Muslim, either. He also did not have the money that she thought he did - his dad kept him on an allowance - and she wound up running down her own finances. Thus, the pair divorced in Nevada in 1953.

Rita Hayworth in Gilda,
Rita didn't sing on film, as shown here in "Gilda," and that fact rankled her.

Rita resumed her career with "Affair in Trinidad" (1952), and audiences still loved her despite the fact it was a mediocre movie. Cohn still supported her, but Rita started to become a problem for Columbia. Rita walked out on a film in 1951, something that she also had done in 1943, and in 1952 refused to report to a film because she found the script lacking. She sued Columbia in 1953 to be released from her contract. Among Rita's other grievances was that Columbia had not developed her singing talents - which she had never demonstrated. In fact, Rita never sang onscreen, and if it appears that she did, it was dubbed. This became a major irritant for her when audiences at USO shows and other personal appearances asked her to sing - not knowing that she couldn't.

Rita Hayworth in vibrant color,
Lovely Rita, movie star, may I inquire discreetly when are you free to take some tea with me?

With her career in limbo, Rita married singer Dick Haymes in 1953. The marriage was rocky because Haymes - born in Argentina - was subject to deportation. He also owed the IRS more than he could pay, $100,000, which dwarfed his salary. Haymes also owed money to ex-wives, while Aly Khan was not paying Rita alimony and was contesting custody of Yasmin. There were allegations of abuse against Rita. It all proved too be too much, and the pair separated forever in 1955.

Rita Hayworth in Separate Tables,
Rita Hayworth in "Separate Tables," her last big hit.

Rita's next marriage was to producer James Hill in 1958. He arranged for another comeback for Rita, in "Separate Tables" (1958). The film made good money, but the marriage soon deteriorated amidst claims of abusive behavior by Hill (Charlton Heston personally recounted observing this), and the pair divorced in 1961.

Glamorous Rita Hayworth,
Rita Hayworth's outrageous glamor hid a serious drinking problem.

It is easy to pin Hayworth's difficulties during the 1950s and thereafter on others, but, in fact, Rita had issues of her own. By the early 1940s, Rita had a drinking problem. This aggravated her tendency to fly into angry tirades at those close to her, particularly her family and Harry Cohn. Orson Welles recalled later that she would "break all the furniture and she'd get in a car and I'd have to get in the car and try to control her." Daughter Yasmin had similar recollections. Still, despite her issues, Hayworth persevered with her career, which continued into the 1970s.

Rita Hayworth in 1976,
Photographs of Rita Hayworth taken in Heathrow Airport in 1976 stunned just about everyone that saw them.

By 1973, Rita's health was deteriorating for mysterious reasons. She couldn't remember her lines, which led to her retirement, and the deaths of her brothers in March 1974 sent her into a period of especially heavy drinking. A January 1976 incident on a TWA flight got her thrown off the plane and generated negative publicity worldwide. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease popped up, and in July 1981, a Los Angeles judge put her under the care of Princess Yasmin. Rita lingered on, but all the life was gone. Rita Hayworth passed away peacefully on 14 May 1987 in New York City.

Rita Hayworth in 1976,

Rita Hayworth is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Ladera Heights, CA. She is in Grave No. 15, immediately to the right (east) of the grotto, underneath the statue of a praying angel. It is in a very accessible spot near the road and a pathway.

Rita Hayworth and Princess Yasmin,
Princess Yasmin looked after her mom in her declining years.

When you compare the career of Rita Hayworth to other stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, she shines brighter than virtually everyone else. She remained popular as a film star longer than the others, she never had to resort to television shows to make a living, and she sets the terms of her own life. She brought the first real publicity to Alzheimer's Disease, perhaps her greatest service to the public. Unfortunately overlooked by many due to her later struggles, Rita Hayworth must be included in the very top rank of all Hollywood stars, the very uppermost row.

Rita Hayworth Rita Hayworth


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Kitty Kallen, Big Band Legend

Big Band Chanteuse Kitty Kallen Epitomized an Era

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen.

We are all familiar with the classic film image of a sultry dark-haired singer of the 1940s, standing before a massive microphone, backed by a band led by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller or Harry James, and pouring her heart out in a teary torch song. There were many real-life examples of the genre (Helen Forrest, Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford spring quickly to mind), and it is impossible - and unfair - to pin the image down to one specific singer. However, if you had to pick one singer who exemplified the breed, an excellent choice would be Kitty Kallen.

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen and fellow ingenue Doris Day spent a cold day in Central Park some time during 1947 getting some publicity shots. Doris looks like her teeth are chattering.

Katie Kallen (her real name) was born on May 25, 1921 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and she had six brothers and sisters. She showed an interest in singing as a child, and won a local singing contest. One thing led to another, and soon she was on The Children's Hour, a radio program sponsored by classic automat chain Horn & Hardart (a brand which may be about to experience a revival as a coffee company). Before you know it, Kitty had her own program on WCAU in Philadelphia, fronting big bands of the early 1930s. And that, kids, is how you do it.

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen with Bob Eberly, a fellow singer with Jimmy Dorsey.

Having her own radio show was not a bad way to ride out the Great Depression, but Kitty Kallen was just getting started. In 1941, Jimmy Dorsey needed a replacement for Helen O'Connell of "Tangerine" fame (add her to the list above), and Kitty now was a mature woman just entering her 20s. Kitty teamed with Bob Eberly for Dorsey in a series of duets that became standards of the era.

Kitty Kallen

Kitty's biggest hit with Dorsey and Eberly was “Bésame Mucho." A Mexican bolero written by Consuelo Velázquez, “Bésame Mucho" went on to become the most the most sung and recorded Mexican song of all time, with Kitty's 1944 version hitting No. 1 on the pop charts. That Kitty sang “Bésame Mucho" to such acclaim will become significant below.

Kitty Kallen

Eberly got drafted in late 1943, breaking up the act, so Kitty hitched her star with Harry James and his orchestra. It was a match made in heaven.

Kitty Kallen

In those days, the emphasis was on the band, not on the singer. Typically, the singer would sing a quick "chorus" in the middle of the song, practically serving as one of the instruments doing a solo. Kitty was excellent at this task. Her emotional renditions also were perfectly aligned with the sentimental mood of a country making a dramatic transition from war to uncertain peace. Together, the Harry James Orchestra and Kitty Kallen had a phenomenal rund of hits in the war's final year.

Kitty Kallen

Kitty's No. 1 hits in 1945 included "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and "It's Been a Long, Long Time." The latter song has experienced something of a revival recently due to its inclusion in "The Winter Soldier," and deservedly so: it was a massive hit that encapsulates the feelings felt at the end of the war. All told, Kitty had eight top twenty hits just in 1945. It was a phenomenal run, and Kitty's voice came to define the era.

Kitty Kallen

While nobody knew it at the time, the big band era was in its terminal phase as the war ended, so Kitty hit it perfectly right at its climax. While she had occasional hits during the late 1940s and early 1950s, they were few and far between. Kitty married Bernard "Budd" Granoff, a publicist, agent, and television producer, in 1948. Granoff helped Kitty enter a new phase of her career that, in unlikely fashion, brought her to her greatest heights.

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen in a publicity still for "The Second Greatest Sex."

Granoff helped Kitty get some film work. She made a series of shorts, beginning with 1949's "Piano Rhythm," which led to a starring role on Broadway in "Finian's Rainbow." Once again, one thing led to another, and Kitty nabbed a starring role in film "The Second Greatest Sex" (1955). The musical, a takeoff on the classic Greek "Lysistrata" play, did not lead to any further film work, but is a great way to catch Kitty Kallen in her prime.

Kitty Kallen Frank Laico
Kitty Kallen with Frank Laico at the CBS Records studio in Manhattan, 1958.

It was right around this time in the 1950s that Kitty's singing career experienced a huge resurgence. In fact, Kitty Kallen's hits from 1954/56 are probably Kitty Kallen's best-remembered. Now a solo singer, she had a massive hit with her 1953 album "Little Things Mean a Lot," and the title song gave her another huge No. 1 hit. Reportedly, the single of "Little Things Mean a Lot" sold two million  copies, and that ain't beanbag, especially in the 1950s. However, that's not all: the title single was one of six, count 'em, six singles released off that one album. That's pretty rare. In fact, Kitty became perhaps the top female singer of the mid-1950s, before withdrawing in late 1955 from concert work and returning to the studio. Her 1958 album, "If I Give My Heart to You," was another big hit. The death of Kitty's father, Samuel Kallen, in early 1955 seemed to take a toll on her, unfortunately, and may have contributed to the famous incident later that year when she "lost her voice" temporarily. Never discount the importance of seemingly routine emotional events like that in a person's life.

Kitty Kallen record covers

Kitty also accomplished a pretty rare feat during her renewed fame in the 1950s. Throughout her entire career, Kitty Kallen had exactly one single that made the UK chart: "Little Things Mean A Lot." That one and only record, though, went to No. 1 in the UK. So, Kitty Kallen may well be the only recording artist in history who has a perfect record on a major national recording chart: exactly one song on the chart, and that a No. 1 hit. Offhand, I can't think of anyone else who did anything like that, though maybe some novelty act pulled it off at some point. Kitty Kallen was no novelty act, of course. People in the UK who know of Kitty know her for that song, not any of her previous big band hits.

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen being used to hawk shampoo during her resurgence of popularity in the mid-1950s. Now that's fame.

Kitty was now pushing 40, and she was facing the rising tide of rock singers such as Elvis Presley. It was not a great time to be a singer of classic ballads. However, Kitty cranked out one more hit album and single, "My Coloring Book," in 1962. It turned out to be her last hit. While everyone remembers the Barbra Streisand version of the same year, Kitty's was the one that actually made the charts, peaking at No. 18 on the pop chart. During this period, Kitty received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen's last big hit, "My Coloring Book."

Kitty continued recording through the 1960s, but it was tough for a big band singer to compete against The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. By the 1970s, Kitty was basically retired at her longtime home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was known to promote local community causes, but basically adopted a low profile. The press erroneously reported her death in 1978, which initially alarmed her husband, but they all got a good laugh out of it later. Granoff actually predeceased Kitty in 1996.

Kitty Kallen

Kitty was a revered figure in Mexico due to her wartime rendition of “Bésame Mucho," and this likely contributed to Kitty's decision to have a home in Cuernavaca. She passed away there on 7 January 2016. Kitty is buried at Beth-El Cemetery  Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA. Her classic recordings, however, live on and continue to evoke the passions of World War II and the postwar era.

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen's resting place (Chuck Kearns).


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Lynda Carter, '70s Wonder Woman

Wonder Woo-man!

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter.

Everybody seems to love Lynda Carter. How can you not? She managed the tremendously difficult feat of making a female superhero sympathetic and likable back when there were no female superheroes. As television's "Wonder Woman," Lynda remains one of the most beloved female action star icons, at least on a par with television's Lucy Lawless of "Xena: Warrior Princess" and film star Scarlett Johansson of "The Avengers." With a resurgence of interest in "Wonder Woman" due to the 2017 hit film starring Gal Gadot, it's time to take a look at the lovely original Wonder Woman.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter and stuntman Bob Yerkes during filming of "The New Original Wonder Woman" in 1975.

Linda Jean Córdova Carter was born on July 24, 1951 in Phoenix, Arizona. Her Juanita Córdova is of Mexican, Spanish and French descent, while her father is Scots-Irish.

Lynda Carter Cloris Leachman Wonder Woman
Queen Hippolyta, played by Cloris Leachman, kissing Diana, played by Lynda Carter (Courtesy ABC).

Lynda became interested in show business at a young age, but her first love was singing. She appeared on a television talent show at age five, then in high school hooked up with some garage bands. This led to a few paying gigs in Las Vegas in the late 1960s, back when Vegas was still being built up from its dusty origins. So, if anyone ever asks you to name any '60s singers still working today... you can surprise them by answering Lynda Carter.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Diana turning into Wonder Woman ultimately included a big flash (Courtesy CBS).

The Vegas gigs enabled Lynda to save up some money. After briefly attending Arizona State University, Lynda dropped out and continued singing. In 1972, she also decided to enter a local Arizona beauty contest. Why not? She was a stunningly pretty girl. And, you know what stunningly pretty girls do at beauty contests - they win them. And that's what Lynda Carter did, winning both the local contest and, ultimately, being crowned Miss World USA. Lynda even made it to the semifinals in the international pageant, losing the Miss World 1972 crown (in one of history's worst judging decisions) to Belinda Green of Australia.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Lynda during filming of "Wonder Woman."

Capitalizing on her success in the pageant, Lynda decided to try acting. Her first credit was on a 1974 episode of short-lived Robert Forster ("Banyon") television series "Nakia." This led to other guest appearances and work as a Bob Hope USO cast member. However, these sorts of appearances weren't paying the bills.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
While there were stuntwomen, the role of Wonder Woman required a lot of physicality (courtesy CBS).

Lynda auditioned for the role of DC Comics character Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in a proposed ABC Television series. This series was based on a 1974 television film which had starred former pro tennis player Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role. Crosby claims that she was offered the part in the subsequent television series, but that she turned it down. In any event, there was an opening for a new Wonder Woman.

Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman
An ad for the original television movie of "Wonder Woman," which starred Cathy Lee Crosby as the titular character.

The studio paired with Warner Brothers to retool the concept, which in the TV film was set in the present day more or less, to the original comic book concept set during World War II. Once this was done, ABC was ready to air the series beginning in late 1975. To hammer home that Wonder Woman would be the "original" version from the 1940s, the studio titled the pilot "The New Original Wonder Woman."

Lynda Carter Lucy Lawless
Lynda with "Xena: Warrior Princess" star  Lucy Lawless.

Casting for the series came down to either Lynda Carter or Joanna Cassidy. While Cassidy went on to a stunning career of her own (which continues to this day), Lynda got the part. Incidentally, that brings up a subtle point, which is that virtually everybody associated with "Wonder Woman" became successful and continued to work into the 21st Century, meaning the show helped a lot of careers. But, let's get back to Lynda Carter.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
The pilot showed Wonder Woman's origins on Paradise Island (courtesy ABC).

The show's creators decided to play the series "straight," but also to create a light atmosphere of camp. Now, some folks ask, "What exactly is camp?" That's actually a good question. We're not talking about summer camp here. It's a bit hard to define, but camp combines a tongue-in-cheek approach combined with underlying respect for the original material. That about sums up the television series "Wonder Woman," keeping everything light-hearted but managing not to descend into farce.

Lynda Carter Jenny McCarthy
Lynda with Jenny McCarthy.

The creators of the comic book character, and specifically Charles Moulton, intended Wonder Woman to be sort of "counter-programming" or a riposte to Superman. There are obvious similarities between Superman and Wonder Woman in the original DC comic books, and the television show retained them. These included the vivid costume, which the television faithfully reproduced. Other similarities between the characters were created for the show. While Superman in the George Reeves series would race into a telephone booth to change into his Superman outfit, the Wonder Woman of the television series did a signature spinning move, after a while accompanied by a blinding flash, to accomplish the same task. The series used the unusual device of actually showing comic book text during the title sequence and at times during the show itself.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
The stuntwomen got a real workout on "Wonder Woman" (courtesy CBS).

The pilot of "Wonder Woman" (actually, the second pilot when considering the television movie) aired on 7 November 1975 and set the background for the entire series. Lynda Carter's character is an Amazon princess, Diana, on Paradise Island in the Atlantic (no, not that Paradise Island). After an American pilot (Major Steve Trevor, played by Lyle Waggoner) bails out over the island, he needs to be brought back to the States by one of the Amazons. Lynda Carter's character volunteers to do this, and, after much controversy, is allowed to do so. Diana's mother, Queen Hippolyta, thoughtfully designs Diana's colorful costume for her, which Diana will wear throughout the series when she is acting as Wonder Woman (and not her disguised alter ego, Clark Kent, er, Diana Prince). By the end of the pilot, Diana is working as Major Trevor's secretary when not out saving the world from bad guys.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman

The pilot succeeded, i.e., it got good ratings and critics tended to like it. The audience liked the concept, the theme song was snappy, and in particular everyone loved Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
The "Golden Lasso of Truth" was probably something a lot of women would like to have (courtesy CBS).

The network produced a couple of one-hour specials which basically were episodes of "Wonder Woman" during spring 1976. These also did well in the ratings, and ABC placed the show on the fall schedule.

Lynda Carter Miss World USA Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is given several special "weapons" and talents. These include her signature bullet-deflecting bracelets, her invisible plane, her "golden lasso of truth," and her ability to impersonate voices. She also displays other "talents" at times, such as being able to communicate telepathically with dolphins. Everything apparently stems from her magic belt, without which she has only normal human abilities.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman deflected bullets with her bracelets (Courtesy ABC).

Ratings for the weekly series were good, but not great. ABC hesitated to pick it up for a second season - nobody knows if it would have or not - and, before it had made a decision, CBS Television decided to buy the series. CBS altered the title to "The New Adventures of Wonder Woman," updated Wonder Woman's costume, changed to setting to the modern day (as in the original television movie), and replaced most of the cast. However, CBS kept Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner as the leads, though Lyle wound up playing the son of the original character.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman

Lynda did some of her own stunts on "Wonder Woman." The most notorious instance was when Wonder Woman dangles from a helicopter as it takes off.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
The famous helicopter stunt (courtesy CBS).

The helicopter stunt took place in season two episode "Anschluss 77." The stunt double didn't look enough like Lynda to pull off this particular stunt, so Lynda herself decided to perform it at the last minute. So, she held onto the chopper's skid as it ascended, a risky thing for a star to do. The studio later scolded her for taking such a risk, but it paid off in the final product.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Lynda ran in many episodes, and as a bonus we get some good scenes of mid-70s Los Angeles (courtesy CBS).

While Lynda was athletic and can be seen running and throwing things in "Wonder Woman," she did have stuntwomen who performed some of the more dangerous stunts for her. Jeannie Epper of the famous Epper stunt family did normal stunts for all four seasons of the show, while Kim Renee - recruited from the trapeze at Circus Circus in Las Vegas - did aerial stunts during seasons two and three. Both stunt ladies treasured their time on the show and, as of this writing, remain in show business along with Lynda.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
The television series "Wonder Woman" is available in various packages, including the individual seasons and a "Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection" DVD Box Set.

The stunts on "Wonder Woman" were tough work. Renee once incurred a collapsed lung from a five-story fall. She said later that Lynda was very concerned and kept in touch with her in the hospital. Overall, Renee says, Lynda Carter was an absolute doll to work with.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Some of Wonder Woman's accessories were a hoot, including the football helmet with imperial crest (courtesy CBS).

CBS kept the revamped "Wonder Woman" on for two more seasons until finally cancelling it due to declining ratings.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman

While it only lasted for three seasons, "Wonder Woman" created an enduring impression. In fact, DC Comics later produced an entirely new series of Wonder Woman comic books set in the Lynda Carter "universe" of Wonder Woman. It is a rare instance of a television adaptation influencing the source material - sort of.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
"Wonder Woman" kept the violence in check most of the time, but Lynda did have to strong-arm some thugs from time to time (courtesy CBS).

While there is absolutely no question that portraying "Wonder Woman" was the highlight of Lynda Carter's acting career - how could it not be? - she went on to a long acting career after that. This included a main role on television series "Hawkeye" in 1994-95, the continuing role of President Olivia Marsdin in "Supergirl" (2016-2017), and appearances in video games such as "The Elder Scrolls" series.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman

Lynda has had action figures made of her as Wonder Woman, including a limited-edition set issued by DC Direct. It is an impressive piece, standing 13 inches tall.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Lynda played a secretary as a cover for her Wonder Woman activities.

Lynda learned about the reboot of "Wonder Woman" as a film series in 2016. She admitted that she wasn't too thrilled at the idea of someone else taking over the character, but new star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins of "Wonder Woman" (2017) won her over.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman in action (Courtesy CBS).

While Lynda Carter did not appear in the first "Wonder Woman" film, she apparently will appear in the sequel in 2018. However, that has not been confirmed yet.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter knew how to give penetrating glances (courtesy ABC).

Lynda maintains an active Twitter account which keeps fans up to date on her interests.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
Lynda behind the scenes in her first-season costume (courtesy ABC).

Lynda also maintains her own web site This is a good place to catch up on her personal appearances.

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Lynda had no trouble facing down the bad guys (courtesy CBS).

Lynda Carter was married to talent agent Ron Samuels from 1977 to 1982. Samuels contributed to her iconic image as Wonder Woman, including a wall poster that was extremely popular.

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
The best episodes were those in which Wonder Woman showed off a new outfit (courtesy CBS).

Lynda later married D.C. attorney Robert A. Altman. She left Hollywood in 1985 and moved to Potomac, Maryland. Robert and Lynda have have two children, James and Jessica.

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Wonder Woman getting a bit bored with a bad guy (courtesy CBS).

Lynda has a video on her website in which she discusses her decision to leave Hollywood, saying:
I really wanted substance in my life. I had a large body of work already, and I didn't really have a lot of substance in my life.... Now I really... things are good.

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Among other things, Lynda gifted the "Wonder Woman" crew with "Wonder Crew" satin jackets.

Altman was involved in the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and its secret acquisition of First American Bankshares Inc. After a lengthy jury trial, during which Lynda stood by him, Altman was acquitted in 1993.

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Lynda showing some emotion as Wonder Woman (courtesy CBS).

Lynda, in 2008, admitted to a drinking problem. She said that she had entered rehab for alcoholism, and that it helped her to quit the alcohol habit.

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Lynda with the newest Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot.

As an iconic figure, Lynda Carter has been showered with honors. Among those is a Star in the "Television" category on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2018).

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Lynda works with charities such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which addresses breast cancer.

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Lynda Carter continues to give performances, such as one at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on 17 March 2018. She shows no signs of slowing down because... she's Wonder Woman!

Lynda Carter Wonder Woman