Monday, November 26, 2012

R.I.P. Deborah Raffin

Over the weekend, we heard about the death of Larry Hagman, the actor best known for his role as J.R. Ewing in the prime time soap "Dallas," and beloved by a lot of kids my age as Captain Tony Nelson in "I Dream of Jeanie." Condolences go out to his family and Barbara Eden. Many others have written much about Hagman, and all the accolades are well deserved. Please click on the link to the right and scan for the "News From ME" blog to read Mark Evanier's wonderful story about Larry Hagman.

Hollywood lost another actor late last week that you may not have heard of. Deborah Raffin died at the age of 59 of blood cancer. She appeared in a number of movies and TV shows from the mid-70's through the 80's. Her most infamous role was as college student damsel in distress in the made-for-TV grind house epic "Nightmare in Badham County." (1976) See, these two girls are driving through some outtake from Deliverance when their car breaks down, and... Well, you get the idea.

The obits I have read overlook one of her better made-for-TV efforts. "Sparkling Cyanide" (1983) was an updated SoCal version of Agatha Christie's whodunit (also known as "Remembered Death" in the US) costarring the about-to-be former-MASH star Harry Morgan. One of the screenwriters on that project who gave Raffin a little more to do than just being helpless was Sue Grafton, who had just finished "A is for Alibi."

Raffin's real calling came about when her husband Micheal Viner won a backgammon game against novelist and "I Dream of Jeanie" creator Sidney Sheldon. (That silly show left quite a footprint.) Sheldon lost $8,000, proving he may have been a prolific writer, but a lousy gambler. Instead of taking his money, Viner worked a deal to produce audio books - then known as books on tape - of two of Shelden's bestsellers. From that was born Dove Books On Tape in 1985. The company was a leader in attaining well-known actors and personalities to narrate the books, some with actual previous voice acting experience such as William Conrad.

Raffin and Viner sold off Dove in 1997 after running afoul of controversy from publishing Faye Resnick's "Nicole Brown Simpson: The Diary of a Life Interrupted" (1994). Viner liked to push the envelope, but the timing was too soon, as Dove appeared to some to be capitalizing on the O.J. murder victims. Viner and Raffin divorced in 2005. Viner died of cancer in 2009.

So, whenever you enjoy a well-read audio book, you have at least in part Deborah Raffin to thank.

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