At the age of sixteen, she and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where she enrolled at Hollywood High and began to study acting. Her earliest employment was as a backup singer and dancer in the nightclub acts of major stars, including comedian George Burns. She made her film debut in a low-budget crime caper, 20,000 Eyes, in 1961, and also guested in a number of television series, including Leave It to Beaver, The Untouchables, and Perry Mason.
Parkins was involved in two of the most highly publicized projects of the 1960s - the ABC primetime serial Peyton Place and the film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's best-selling trash novel, Valley of the Dolls.
In Peyton Place, Parkins received lead billing for her role as small town bad girl Betty Anderson. As initially conceived, the character was scheduled to die in a car crash six weeks into the season, but audience reaction to Parkins was overwhelmingly favorable, and it was decided to keep her in the story line. She was the only female star to remain with the series throught its entirety (1964 - 1969). In 1966, she was nominated for an Emmy Award as Best Actress in a Lead Role in a Dramatic Series, but lost to Barbara Stanwyck for The Big Valley. Eventually shedding her other side of the tracks image, Betty endured many of the trials and tribulations of soap opera life, and the character achieved such popularity that when the show ended its run, producer Paul Monash developed a spin-off series, The Girl from Peyton Place, for Parkins. However, when co-star Ryan O'Neal, who played her husband, declined to participate, the project was shelved.
In Valley of the Dolls, Parkins played Anne Welles, the naive small-town girl described as "the good girl with a million dollar face and all the bad breaks" - a character based on author Susann. The film was trashed by the critics - although Parkins was one of the few to emerge unscathed - but nonetheless was a huge commercial success and eventually became a campy cult classic. Susann herself, who hated the movie, felt Parkins was the only redeeming feature in it.
Parkins' career never quite lived up to its early promise. After discovering London in 1968 when she served as a bridesmaid at the wedding of Dolls co-star Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski, Parkins decided to move to England, where she starred in several productions. Among them were Puppet on a Chain, Shout at the Devil, and the best of the lot, The Mephisto Waltz, with Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset. She spent most of the mid-70s appearing on American television in several mini-series, including Jenny: Lady Randolph Churchill with Lee Remick, Captains and the Kings with another Dolls co-star, Patty Duke, and The Testimony of Two Men with William Shatner. She also appeared in guest shots on Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Hotel, and Vega$.
In the 1980s, she continued to work in television movies, including To Catch a King, in which she portrayed the Duchess of Windsor, and opposite Sharon Stone in The Calendar Girl Murders. She returned to the role of Betty Anderson in Peyton Place: The Next Generation, a one-shot sequel to her popular series, in 1985.
In 1991, she starred in a Canadian mystery series entitled Scene of the Crime, then spent most of the remainder of the decade in semi-retirement. She emerged in the late 90s to participate in two Susann-inspired projects, the biopic Scandalous Me and a segment of the Lifetime series Intimate Portrait.
In the late 70s, Parkins moved to France and married, and in the late 80s she gave birth to her only child, daughter Christina. She has not worked as an actress for the past few years.
Barbara Parkins Facts
|Birthday||May 22, 1942 (74)|
|Birthplace||Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada|
|Height||5' 4" (1m63) How tall is Barbara Parkins compared to you?|
|Valley of the Dolls|
|Murder, She Wrote: Season 6|
|Peyton Place: Part One|
|The Amicus Collection|
|Captains and the Kings|
|Ed McBain's 87th Precinct: The Complete Series|
|Puppet On A Chain|