Before She Was a TV Star

Here's a quick look at a few actresses before they hit the big time on TV.

Jan Smithers (Bailey Quarters from "WKRP in Cincinnati") was featured on the cover of Newsweek before she had even gotten into show business. She was a "nobody" who just happened to land on a widely circulated magazine's cover by virtue of being at the right place at the right time.

After Jayne Mansfield turned down the part of Ginger Grant on "Gilligan's Island" it went to Tina Louise. Louise had done pinup work for Playboy and moved on to a film career. Sadly, Louise would regret leaving a promising career in film in favor of a TV comedy.

On a previous post, I showed you an old album cover that featured a young Mary Tyler Moore.

Barbara Eden of "I Dream of Jeannie" had also done an album cover or two, some modeling work and appeared in a few movies and TV shows ("The Andy Griffith Show" and "I Love Lucy") before landing the role she has become known for.

Yvonne DeCarlo (Lily Munster) had a successful career in the movie industry, appearing in blockbuster movies like The Ten Commandments.

Speaking of ghoulish gals of TV, Carolyn Jones (Morticia on "The Addams Family") has the distinction of giving the shortest film performance ever nominated for an Academy Award, for her six-minute role in Bachelor Party (1957). She also appeared in The Tender Trap with Sinatra, and The Seven Year Itch with Marilyn Monroe. (source here)

Carolyn Jones also starred alongside Elvis Presley (King Creole) and was married to TV mogul Aaron Spelling.

Elizabeth Montgomery had a successful career in modeling and had appeared in numerous TV shows including "The Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". She had not quite broken into the film industry when "Bewitched" came along.

Visit an earlier post to see a young Jamie Gertz ("Square Pegs") in, of all things, a Dungeons & Dragons commercial. The picture below is from an episode of "The Partridge Family" with an appearance by a then unknown Farrah Fawcett. (Interestingly, fellow Angel, Jaclyn Smith, also appeared on the show once)

Of course, this list could go on and on since most TV stars of the 60's and 70's had a healthy amount of experience before plunging into a lead role on a television program. I still find the Jan Smithers one the most interesting since she was plucked literally out of nowhere. Nowadays, they'd never show a rider without a helmet and subsequently I think things may have turned out differently for her.


  1. That was a really cool post. It's always neat to see where these girls were at before they became stars on tv. I really love those that were pinup girls.

  2. Keith- Yeah, I was shocked when I first heard Ginger had been in Playboy (although, not naked). It also seems very strange to me to see Mary Tyler Moore and Barbara Eden gracing the covers of old obscure album covers.

  3. I love that pic of Jan Smithers. i always thought she was the real sex symbol on WKRP.

  4. Jeremy- James Brolan would agree with you.

    Which brings up the question: How can a man go from Jan Smithers to Barbara Streisand? Bad move James.

  5. Correction: Brolin not Brolan. My bad.

  6. Poor Jan!Feel so sorry for her now.Between the gurus,gigolo,bigamist,a pedophile ugh!Wonder where her mind was;wonder if she has ANY control of herself NOW!