Diane McBain, whose quick rise to fame as a young Warner Bros. contract player in the early 1960s soon had her starring in the ABC series Surfside 6 and co-starring opposite Elvis Presley in 1966’s Spinout, died of liver cancer today at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She was 81.
Her death was announced by her friend Michael Gregg Michaud. McBain and Michaud co-authored her 2014 memoir Famous Enough.
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“It is with great sadness that I report actress Diane McBain lost her battle with liver cancer and passed away on December 21, 2022,” Michaud wrote on social media.
Discovered by a talent scout while working as model, McBain signed a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios on her 18th birthday in 1959, according to Michaud. That same year she made her TV debut in an episode of ABC’s Maverick starring James Garner.
The following year she appeared in Vincent Sherman’s film Ice Palace starring Richard Burton, and was cast as yacht-owning socialite Daphne Dutton on ABC’s Surfside 6, a two-season crime series set in Miami Beach and starring Troy Donahue, Van Williams and Lee Patterson.
In 1961 she starred as the title character in the film Claudelle Inglish, which she would often recall as her favorite role – a rare good-girl-gone-bad outing for the young actress.
McBain would re-team with Donahue in the 1961 film Parrish, and with Williams in a 1967 episode of Batman (she played the pink-haired Pinky Pinkston opposite Williams, who was guest-starring as The Green Hornet). In all, McBain appeared in four Batman episodes – the two with Williams, and in 1966 two as a hat shop girl working with guest villain Mad Hatter (David Wayne).
Other TV credits include appearances in such ’60s series as Sugarfoot, Lawman, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, Burke’s Law, The Wild Wild West and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., among others. Film credits from the era include The Caretakers and Mary, Mary and, in what would be her most recognizable movie role, as Spinout‘s Diana St. Clair, an author who will stop at nothing in her attempts to profile famous race car driver and singer Mike McCoy (Presley).
“Women have asked me many times what it was like to kiss Elvis,” McBain said in an interview last year with Boomer Magazine, “and I tell them it was just as wonderful as you would imagine! He was charming and a lovely person to work with. He didn’t come on to me, which I appreciated because so many did throughout my career.”
The 1970s would see appearances on Mod Squad, Police Story, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie’s Angels, Eight is Enough, Matt Houston and Dallas. She’d also have stints on soaps General Hospital and Days of Our Lives, and roles in the films Five the Hard Way (1969), I Sailed to Tahiti With an All Girl Crew (1969), The Broken Hearts Club (2000) and Besotted (2001).
Her final credit was a 2001 episode of the TV series Strong Medicine, after which she retired from acting.
McBain spoke candidly about a violent attack in which she was beaten and raped by two men in West Hollywood on Christmas Day, 1982. She would subsequently become an advocate for rape victims and launch a second career as a rape victim counselor. She would later say the attack would have a lasting impact on her memory and ability to concentrate. In a 1990 interview, she said, “I’m still startled out of proportion.”
She recounted the incident, along with the highs and lows of a Hollywood career, in the frank Famous Enough. In addition to that memoir, she wrote two novels: The Laughing Bear (2020) and The Color of Hope (2021).
McBain is survived by her son Evan Burke, and goddaughter Mary Haber.
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