Pamela Tiffin, movie star who grew up in Oak Lawn and shone brightly but briefly, dies at 78

Pamela Tiffin, the bouffant-haired brunette model turned actress who leapt to movie stardom at 19 in a Tennessee Williams drama and a Billy Wilder comedy, then ran away to make Italian films and retired from performing earlier than her thirty second birthday, died Wednesday at a Manhattan hospital in New York. She was 78.

The demise was introduced in a household assertion to The Hollywood Reporter.

Tiffin started her Hollywood movie profession in two very totally different movies. In “Summer and Smoke” (1961), primarily based on the Williams play a few spinster (Geraldine Page) and her love for an area physician ((*78*) Harvey), she performed the harmless and a lot youthful girl who steals him away.

That identical 12 months she starred because the perky daughter of a Coca-Cola government in Wilder’s political comedy “One, Two, Three.” Her character travels to Berlin and marries a horny younger communist (Horst Buchholz) — very a lot towards the needs of her company watchdog (James Cagney).


But not lengthy after making a 1965 movie with Marcello Mastroianni, she largely deserted Hollywood to star in Italian movies. And in 1974, when she was barely in her 30s, she retired from performing altogether. That was not what movie trade consultants had predicted.

Paul Newman, Pamela Tiffin and Robert Wagner in a scene from “The Drowning Pool.”

(Courtesy body shot from Warner Archive Collection)

Interviewed by The Daily News of New York in December 1961, Wilder referred to as her “the best movie discovery since Audrey Hepburn.” In the identical article, Tiffin informed journalist Joe Hyams why she was starting to desire performing to her old profession.

“A model sells herself, but an actress sells the characters she performs,” she stated. “I used to be fairly uninterested in myself and my face and physique.”

Pamela Tiffin Wonso was born Oct. 13, 1942, in Oklahoma City, the daughter of Stanley Wonso, an architect, and Grace Irene (Tiffin) Wonso. She grew up in Oak Lawn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and started modeling — largely in print ads and runway reveals — when she was 13.

Three years later, she and her mom moved to New York City, the place Pamela attended Hunter College between modeling assignments. There are two variations of her discovery by Hollywood, and each seem like true.

On a trip journey to Los Angeles, she was noticed having lunch with a pal in the Paramount Studios commissary and was quickly assembly with producer Hal Wallis. Wallis was nearly completed casting his latest venture, “Summer and Smoke.”

Portrait of actress Pamela Tiffin wearing a diamantine bikini and headdress as she appears in the film "Paranoia" in 1965.
Portrait of actress Pamela Tiffin sporting a diamantine bikini and headdress as she seems in the movie “Paranoia” in 1965.

(Keystone/Getty Images)

But Wilder, with “One, Two, Three” coming up on his calendar, was already looking for her. He had seen a lingerie advert in The New York Times Magazine; the photographer was Bert Stern, and the model, sporting solely a slip, turned out to be Tiffin. In a 1962 picture essay in Esquire journal, Stern recalled the shoot and referred to as her “the films’ hottest new feminine star.”

After her two star-making movie roles, Tiffin’s third movie was “State Fair” (1962), a remake of the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musical (her singing voice was dubbed), as a farmer’s enthusiastic teenage daughter on the lookout for romance between the pie-baking contests and the livestock reveals.

Tiffin made two dozen movies in the Nineteen Sixties and the primary half of the ’70s. She remained seen and marketable — taking part in a novice flight attendant in the romantic comedy “Come Fly With Me” (1963) and a wealthy man’s flirtatious daughter in “Harper” (1966), a thriller starring Paul Newman.

At the identical time, she was turning into identified for films aimed at teenage audiences, together with “For Those Who Think Young” and “The Lively Set,” each launched in 1964. James Darren was her co-star in each.

Her sole look on Broadway was in a revival of the Kaufman and Ferber comedy “Dinner at Eight” (1966). She performed Kitty Packard, the flashy and most clearly out-of-place dinner visitor, performed by Jean Harlow in the 1933 movie.

The 12 months earlier than, she had been cast as Mastroianni’s spouse in “Oggi, Domani, Dopodomani” (1965), a comedy a few man attempting to promote his spouse to a harem. After nice reluctance and appreciable argument, she agreed to turn out to be blond for the function.

She discovered that she appreciated the brand new look, and she saved it as she started making movies in Italy. She appeared in at least a dozen, together with “The Archangel” (1969), a criminal offense comedy with Vittorio Gassman, and “The Fifth Cord” (1971), a criminal offense thriller with Franco Nero. After 1 1/2 many years in retirement, she made her remaining display screen look in “Quattro Storie di Donne” (1989), an Italian miniseries.

The official story was that she gave up performing to lift a household, but Tiffin informed Tullio Kezich, writer of “Cinema Dolce,” that she actually made the choice as a result of Italian movies had been turning into so erotic. Every job interview, she stated, appeared to degenerate right into a dialogue of whether or not she would seem nude or at least partly nude on display screen. Luckily, she had saved her cash and knew she may survive.

Her final American movie had been “Viva Max” (1969), a comedy a few Twentieth-century Mexican basic who needs to recapture the Alamo. Parts of it had been filmed in Rome, for her comfort.

In 1962, Tiffin married Clay Felker, then an editor at Esquire journal. A 12 months later he grew to become the founding editor of New York, The Herald Tribune’s Sunday complement, which later grew to become New York journal. He edited the journal till 1977, whereas the wedding, not as long-lived, ended in divorce in 1969 after an extended separation.

“We nonetheless love one another,” Tiffin informed Earl Wilson, a syndicated columnist. “We nonetheless have dinner. But life, it appears, just isn’t a Doris Day movie.”

In her memoir, “Daring: My Passages” (2014), writer Gail Sheehy, who grew to become Felker’s subsequent spouse, reprinted a very civilized post-separation word from Tiffin.

“I hear that you’ve got stopped seeing Gail Sheehy,” she wrote. “Don’t be silly. She is a lady of advantageous character and nice expertise. Be good to her.”

In 1974, Tiffin married Edmondo Danon, an Italian thinker and professor who is the son of movie producer and screenwriter Marcello Danon. He survives her, as do two daughters, Echo Danon and Aurora Danon.

Tiffin insisted that she had by no means been in an performing profession. It took an East Coast filmmaker a number of tries to influence her to play a miller’s daughter in a 1960 brief about Colonial Williamsburg — her actual display screen debut. She did examine performing, with Stella Adler, but solely after her movie profession had begun.

There was one aversion she by no means obtained over, although. Acting for the small display screen was not for her, in line with Tom Lisanti’s e book “Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974” (2015). After filming an episode of “The Fugitive” in 1963, she stated, “I’m sluggish in life. I take time to learn. I like lengthy lunches” — which led her to conclude, “I believe I’m too sluggish for tv.”

c.2020 The New York Times Company



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