Acting Career

ZIEGFELD: The Man and His Women

Barbara has often said that the role of Anna Held is her favorite, because it gave her the opportunity to showcase her singing and dancing talents, as well as her acting ability, as Anna Held the famous French Victorian songbird, the darling of the Paris stage and then becoming Florenz Zigfield’s first star in America. She was the first wife of the legendary Florenz Zigfield for thirteen years.

The multi-million dollar three-hour movie, which had its US television premiere on May 21, 1978, as part of NBC TVs Sunday night Big Event series, is the longest musical ever filmed for television.

Barbara Parkins performs “Wont You Come and Play With Me?”
Barbara Parkins sings “I Just Can’t Make My Eyes Behave”

Barbara Parkins portrays Anna Held, the singing and flirtatious star of the Paris stage and performs one of her signature numbers, a most provocative one in its day. The Emmy nominated actress and winner of the Photoplay Gold Medal Award for Best Newcomer, became a 60’s icon from her starring roles in two of the era’s more notorious productions as Betty Anderson, the bad girl on television’s Peyton Place and Ann Wells in the cult classic film Valley of the Dolls.

Peyton Place

Peyton Place was a best-selling book written by Grace Metalious. The story of daily lives in a small town on the east coast of America. 20th Century Fox Studios bought the book. It was first made into a movie and then came the series.

Peyton Place became the first night time TV series shown twice a week and ran for six years becoming a global success…… which showed family problem, power, divorce, betrayal, teen sex and pregnancy, love and loss.

Bad girl Betty Anderson is in love with Rodney and does everything to win him over, although he is in love with Allison. This includes lying about being pregnant and tricking him into marrying her.

Barbara Parkins Peyton Place

Valley of the Dolls

Valley of the Dolls Barbara Parkins

I was filming the series Peyton Place at 20th Century Fox. There was a buzz in the film industry. Who would be cast in the three staring roles of the film Valley of the Dolls? I would go on to the stage and watch actresses testing for the roles. I asked my agents why wasn’t I being tested. I wasn’t on the chosen list … but I was in Peyton Place, the number one night time series and had just received an Emmy nomination for best actress in a drama. That gave me and other Peyton Place stars access to the studio boss Dick Zanuck. In our meeting, I asked to be tested for the role of Neely. I did the test scene and was given the role of Anne Wells. My first filming day was with Judy Garland who was playing Helen Lawson. On our third day of filming together Judy was fired. So sad as she was  truly amazing! I didn’t like my wardrobe, all designed by Travilla. I hated beige. My beige dress and mushroom style hat. I didn’t agree with our director on some scenes, but it was my first film. If I had complained, I would have been considered difficult to work with … and in the film industry this would have been bad for my future acting career.

The movie was a huge success and still to this day is a favorite classic cult film.

Jackie Susann’s book Valley of the Dolls sold 30 million copies and was the best seller for 28 weeks

Sadly, Sharon who played the role of Jennifer, was murdered along with her unborn son by members of the Manson family. 

Shout at the Devil

Our series Peyton Place finished after six years and I moved to London wanting to do period roles. I was offered the role of Rosa in the movie Shout at the Devil with Lee Marvin and Roger Moore. I was drawn to the role as Rosa, a sweet, loving and strong-willed character, often ordering her drunken father about. When her baby is mercilessly tossed into the burning fire of her home, she turns vigilante in search of the one man to seek revenge.

Wilber Smith wrote the book Shout at the Devil. Prince Philip was an avid reader of Wilber Smith stories … and so … Shout at the Devil was a gala world premier in Leicester Square in the presence of her Royal Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip. It was such an honor to meet the Queen. I had met Prince Philip in Hollywood while filming the series Peyton Place at a luncheon in his honor for the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). Prince Philip was at that time honorary president of the WWF.

Shout at the Devil Barbara Parkins