With starring roles in such iconic sixties’ fare as the series Peyton Place and the film Valley of the Dolls, Barbara Parkins will forever be linked to two of the juiciest, most notorious audience-grabbers of the era.
Born May 22, 1942 In Vancouver, Parkins moved to Hollywood as a teenager and immediately began scoring roles in TV series like Wagon Train and Perry Mason. She was soon offered the pivotal role of Betty Anderson in what would become television’s first prime time soap opera, Peyton Place. The show was an immediate success and turned Parkins, along with costars Ryan O’Neal and Mia Farrow into household names. Parkins was nominated for an Emmy Award as Best Actress and stayed with the series for its entire 5 year run. (In fact, Parkins and Ed Nelson were the only stars who lasted the shows entire five year run; they were the only actors to appear in both the first and last episodes.)
Barbara made the leap to the silver screen with the box office smash, Valley of the Dolls (1967). The film changed Parkins’ life in an unexpected way. The actress became close friends with one of the film’s co-stars, Sharon Tate, and traveled to London to be Sharon’s bridesmaid when she married director Roman Polanski in 1968. While Tate may have fallen for Polanski, Parkins fell in love with England, and after Tate’s infamous murder in 1969, Parkins decided to leave Hollywood and took up residence in London.
There, she appeared on the BBC and also starred in a variety of international films including Puppet on a Chain (1972), Christina (1974) and Shout at the Devil (1976).
After moving abroad, Parkins’ career was never her primary focus. She married in the late 1970’s and lived in France for awhile. After her marriage ended, Parkins returned to the United States and decided to give Hollywood another go. While film roles were hard to come by, she did make several appearances in popular TV series including guest roles on The Love Boat (1977) and Hotel (1983). Parkins joined other original cast members for a “Peyton Place” reunion movie in 1985. Her career was put on hold again when daughter Christina was born.
Parkins has made infrequent appearances in the last two decades, although she did return to weekly television for a brief stint in the CBS series Scene of the Crime (1991). (The series was filmed in the city of her birth, Vancouver.) In 1997, Parkins was the guest of honor at a 30th anniversary screening of Valley of the Dolls in San Francisco. It was there she announced to the sold out audience that she planned to retire. However, she did make an exception the following year when she fittingly appeared in the TV-movie Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story (1998), based on the life of Valley of the Dolls’ controversial author.