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Please Don’t Ask About Barbara

In honor of awards show season, let’s look at a clip of Barbara Bain winning her third and final Best Actress Emmy for Mission: Impossible in 1969. The victory came in a weak season — against Peggy Lipton and Joan Blondell, really? — but even facing tougher competition she deserved it. Bain and then husband Martin Landau had just left the show after they tried and failed to get a raise, and one can sense a lot of bottled up bitterness surfacing in her acceptance speech. Although the couple would eventually lead another series (Space: 1999), their stormy exit from Mission gave them a difficult reputation in Hollywood from which they’d never recover.

Contrast that with Barbara’s Best Actress Emmy acceptance speech from the previous year. What a classy lady, and what a thoughtful little speech (a refreshing change from the interminable ego-fests on today’s awards shows):

3 Thoughts on “Please Don’t Ask About Barbara

  1. Christopher on January 21, 2009 at 7:52 pm said:

    To be absolutely accurate, few people know what really happened that led to Bain and Landau leaving “Mission: Impossible.”

    They said they did not show up for filming owing to a confusion about production starting dates, others said they held out for more money, and others said it was all about “proving” that “Mission” was good because of the writing and production values, not any one actor.

    Although subsequent seasons of “Mission” had a few good episodes (why they did not just hire Lee Meriwether and move on is another mystery) the show suffered immensely with the absence of Bain and Landau.

    To survive, a show needs excellent writing and production values, yes; but really great shows need something that Bain and Landau had in spades: chemistry. That chemistry was lost when they left, and was never found again.

    Yes, their careers did suffer because of the belief that they were “difficult” — and for that, quality in television was sorely diminished.

  2. In the book “The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier”, I believe it basically stated that things seemed (sadly) resolved in regards to Martin Landau not returning to the show after the end of the 1968-69 season, but that Paramount expected Barbara Bain to return in the fall. News of her “resignation” from M:I was revealed on the stage of the 1969 Emmy Awards and was supposedly a big shock to the M:I Producers. (She’s clearly angry from what she said in her speech–yet still fairly classy about it.)

    I agree with Christopher; Lee Meriwether definitely should have been hired as the permanent replacement for Barbara Bain. True, trying to match Bain’s masterful performances as the show’s female lead was a daunting task, but Meriwether would’ve done well. What a mistake in casting Lesley Ann Warren as her (“permanent”) replacement! Lynda Day George was a much better fit, but…the show was never the same by the time she joined in the fall of 1971. I would even say Barbara Anderson was easier to watch than Lesley Ann Warren!

    I think you put it best about Barbara: what a classy lady!

  3. I started watching the Mission Impossible tv series from my dvd collection. It is just as engaging and exciting now as it was when it first premiered on television years ago. It is true that I miss Martin and Barbara after the third season. However, the only one that I really liked to fill the gap was Lee Meriweather. I would have been more vocal about it when I was a young girl, but It’s history now.

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