JUF's Jewish Celebrities

Barbara Bain

Barbara Bain Photo

So here’s what happens. You decide to become an actor. You memorize Shakespeare and study with great acting teachers, learning classic methods. And then you put on a cloak or some space-age armor and run around casting spells at demons and shooting lasers at alien robots.

We mean, look: Richard “Dumbledore” Harris, Ian “Gandalf and Magneto” McKellan, Patrick “Captain Picard” Stewart... Peter “The King in Stardust” O’Toole, Jon “King Arthur in DragonHeart” Gielgud, Judi “M in James Bond films” Dench... and Anthony Hopkins will play the Norse god Odin in the upcoming Thor superhero movie... this trend goes all the way back to Alec “Obi Wan” Guiness!

So for Barbara, even though she wasn’t British, the story went like this. She was born in Chicago. After college, she went to New York to model, and also study dance with Martha Graham and acting with Lee Strasberg (see this Bonus). Then she became famous in the Mission: Impossible TV show (which did win her three Emmys in a row) and later in Space 1999, a show about a spaceship stranded on the Moon.

But it wasn’t all bad. She was in both series with Martin Landau - while she was married to him! (One of their daughters, Juliet, went into acting, too. She was Dru in Buffy!)

But although her first screen roles were in the late 1950s - not that long after TV was even invented - she’s still going! Her new movie is nothing special. Hmm? Oh, it’s title is Nothing Special! Oops! It’s about a woman whose mother has bi-polar disorder, and it looks like a tough but good movie. She’s also been in CSI and Ben 10!

Some of Barbara’s other TV work has been on the kind of shows that use lots of guest stars, like Diagnosis: Murder and Murder, She Wrote. But she’s also been on some really great shows like My So-Called Life with Jewish actress Claien Danes, and Moonlighting.

And she was all over TV in the 1960s, in genre dramas like Perry Mason (law), Ben Casey (medical), Wagon Train (Western), and 77 Sunset Strip (private eye). She was also in the classic sitcoms The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Get Smart (with Jewish actor Don Adams), and My Mother the Car. OK, this last one, about a guy whose car is possessed by the ghost of his nagging mother, is not exactly a “classic”! But yeah, that was a real show!

She was in one show based on one of the original private-eye characters, Mike Hammer, in both the original version in 1959, and the remake in 1984... 25 years later!

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