Diane McBain

Diane McBain (born May 18, 1941) is an American actress who, as a Warner Brothers contract player, reached a brief peak of popularity during the early 1960s. She is best known for playing an adventurous socialite in the 1960-62 TV series Surfside 6 and as one of Elvis Presley's leading ladies in 1966's Spinout.

Diane McBain
McBain as Daphne Dutton, 1962
Diane J. McBain

(1941-05-18) May 18, 1941
Years active19592001
Spouse(s)Rodney L. Burke (1972-74); 1 child



A native of Cleveland, Ohio, McBain moved to the Hollywood area at an early age and began her show business career as an adolescent model in print and television advertisements.[1][2]

During her senior year at Glendale High School, while appearing in a Los Angeles play, she was spotted by a Warner Bros talent scout and added to the studio's roster of contract performers.[3]

Warner Bros

Starting with the September 13, 1955, premiere of the hour-long, three-shows-in-one Warner Brothers Presents, the studio's TV arm, Warner Brothers Television, provided ABC with nearly 20 shows, including seven Westerns and four detective series.[4]

At the age of 17, she was immediately put to work, making her TV acting debut in two episodes of Maverick, March 8 with Jack Kelly and November 22, 1959, with James Garner, as well as the October 16 episode of 77 Sunset Strip. Her first director, at the helm of the March 8 installment, "Passage to Fort Doom", was veteran actor Paul Henreid.[5]

Having received a positive reaction to McBain's initial performances, the studio realized it had a potential star under contract. She was given a prominent ingenue role in her first feature, the $3.5 million Ice Palace (1960) alongside Richard Burton and Robert Ryan. The filmed-on-location Technicolor epic was released on January 2, 1960, to mixed reviews, but McBain's notices were generally favorable.[6]


Warner Bros continued to keep McBain busy during 1960 with numerous appearances on their TV shows. She returned to 77 Sunset Strip on February 26, then nine days later found herself back in the 49th state milieu with a guest role in the March 6 installment of The Alaskans starring Roger Moore.

Eight days later, she was in Bourbon Street Beat and the following day on Sugarfoot. Another episode of Bourbon Street Beat followed two weeks later, on March 28, and still another 77 Sunset Strip on May 6. In eight more days, she was in an episode of Lawman, and three weeks thereafter, on June 6, a third episode of Bourbon Street Beat in as many months.

Warners gave McBain a regular role on a TV series, Surfside 6 (1960–62), supporting Troy Donahue, Van Williams and Lee Patterson. Surfside 6 ran for two seasons.


McBain had a banner year in 1960. In addition to appearing in a top feature film and guest-starring in eight TV episodes, she was assigned two more theatrical features. The first offered her one of three ingenue roles in a major "A" film, Parrish (1961), supporting Troy Donahue; the others were Connie Stevens and Sharon Hugueny.[7] The film was a hit and made over $4 million.[8][9]

Warners then gave McBain the star part in her own "B"-film vehicle, Claudelle Inglish (1961) when she replaced the original choice for the lead, Anne Francis, in the title role. It was based on a novel by Erskine Caldwell.[10] [11]

Warners gave her another lead role in a feature, Black Gold (1962), but it was not a success. She returned to guest starring on shows like Hawaiian Eye.

Producer Hall Bartlett borrowed McBain for a role in The Caretakers (1963) with Polly Bergen and Joan Crawford.[12]

When 77 Sunset Strip kicked off its sixth and final season in 1963 with a special five-part story called 'Five', McBain played opposite Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as "Carla Stevens".[13]

She then supported Debbie Reynolds in Mary, Mary (1963). Her last film for Warners was A Distant Trumpet (1964) with Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette, the final film of director Raoul Walsh. In a 1964 interview she said she had "mostly been cast as the spoilt rich girl".[14]

Warners announced her for Sex and the Single Girl (1964) in the role of a secretary.[15] She turned down the role and Warners elected not to renew her contract.[16][17]

Post Warners Career

McBain guest starred on Arrest and Trial, Wendy and Me, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Burke's Law (a number of times), The Wild Wild West, The Man from UNCLE and Vacation Playhouse.[18]

She was announced for the films Spring is for Crying[19] and Halcyon Years[20] but neither was made. She made Five from the Hawk in Spain.[21]

"I was very stupid about money," McBain said later. "My mother had always made my clothes, and I was embarrassed about it. I became a shopaholic and spent a fortune on store-bought clothes. Tammy Bakker probably copied the way I did my shopping and eyelashes."[22]

Work began to dry up. "We were going through a revolution in society with the civil-rights movement and the Vietnam War," she said. "Now, white Anglo-Saxon, pretty people were low on the totem pole. We were thought to be on the other side, conservatives who were the cause of the war and the civil-rights problem. Dustin Hoffman, yes. Troy Donahue, no. Nobody wanted beautiful people on the screen. They wanted people like them, average. I didn't get much work."[22]


In August 1965 McBain's parents reported her as missing. It turned out she had checked herself into a hotel in San Diego under the name "Marilyn Miller" for "a change of faces, scenery and attitudes... I just wanted to be Miss Nobody from Nowhere." She said she had been despondent over a slackening income and not getting the type of roles she wanted.[23]

She was Elvis Presleys leading lady in Spinout (1966) alongside Shelley Fabares and Deborah Walley. She guest starred on Batman.


McBain made two films with Fabian Forte at American International Pictures, Thunder Alley (1967), directed by Richard Rush, and Maryjane (1968), directed by Maury Dexter. Dexter then put McBain in the lead of AIP's The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968), a hit at the box office.[24]

McBain supported Gardner McKay in I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew (1968) and went to Crown International for Five the Hard Way (1969) aka The Sidehackers. She toured Vietnam in 1968 with Tippi Hedren and Joey Bishop.[25]

1970s and 1980s

During the 1970s, McBain slowed her career somewhat to care for her son Evan, though she continued to make guest appearances in a number of television series. "I never really cared about superstardom, I only cared about the roles that were available to those who were superstars," she later said. "I was motivated to continue on in the face of total failure because I had a child to rear on my own with little help from his father. Acting was the best way for me to make money and the best way for me to be a more present mom in my son's life. Full-time jobs brought in money but kept me away from the day-to-day life of my child."[26]

McBain guest starred on Love, American Style, Mannix, To Rome with Love, Land of the Giants, and Mod Squad.

She had roles in the features The Delta Factor (1970), The Wild Season (1971), Huyendo del halcón (1973), Wicked, Wicked (1973), and The Deathhead Virgin (1974), which she later called "the stupidest screenplay I ever had to work with."[26]

McBain also guested on the TV series The Wide World of Mystery, Police Story, Barbary Coast, and Marcus Welby, M.D..[27][28]

Towards the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s McBain was in Donner Pass: The Road to Survival (1978), The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie's Angels, Eight Is Enough, Days of Our Lives, Dallas, Matt Houston, Airwolf, The Red Fury, Crazy Like a Fox, and Knight Rider. She also worked steadily in regional theatre.[29]


In 1982, McBain was beaten, robbed and raped by two men in her garage at West Hollywood at 1.30 am on Christmas Day, after she came home from a party. She began a second career as a rape victim counselor.[30][31][32][33]

They never found the culprits. "The shock of what happened caused loss of memory, inability to concentrate, and I'm still startled out of proportion," she said in 1990.[17]

1990s to present day

McBain appeared in Jake and the Fatman, Puppet Master 5 (1994), Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Invisible Mom II, The Young and the Restless, The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (2000), Besotted (2001) and Strong Medicine.

She was in a TV movie Cab to Canada (1998) which she said "was enough to make me never want to act again".[26]

In 1990 she was seeking financing for her screenplay The Spilling Moon about the first woman to trek along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. [17]


  1. "Diane McBain - The Private Life and Times of Diane McBain". glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  2. "Cocker Spaniel Named Best at Glendale Show: Palo Alto Dog Beats Out 1122 Purebreds to Win Prize in Kennel Club Competition". Los Angeles Times, 1 Apr 1957: 24.
  3. "Too Pretty to Act? She Disproves It". Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times, 5 Feb 1961: b9.
  4. "DIANE'S FAVORITE IS STEW: Young Actress Finds Cooking an Adventure". Zylstra, Freida. Chicago Daily Tribune, 30 Sep 1960: b4.
  5. "Hedda Hopper: 'THEY'LL MAKE GOOD IN HOLLYWOOD!'". Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 Dec 1959: e10.
  7. "Troy Donahue - A Tribute". encore4.net. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  8. "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
  9. "'Parrish' Gaining Noteworthy Cast: Remakes Still Order of Day; Massey in 'Great Imposter'". Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr 1960: C13.
  10. Wagner, Laura Anne Francis: The Life and Career (p. 62) McFarland, 2011
  11. "HOLLYWOOD CALENDAR: Sweet Young... Stripper!". Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times, 18 June 1961: b9.
  12. "Mann Will Direct Odets' The Actor': Name Your Dish: Scaloppini Sal Mineo, Sausage Curtis?" Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times, 28 May 1962: C15.
  13. "'77 Sunset' Filming Starts". Los Angeles Times, 25 July 1963: C11.
  14. "Diane McBain: 'I Never Saw an Actor I'd Marry'". Alpert, Don. Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr 1964: V4.
  15. "Busy Buono Tapped as Boston Strangler: Beckett's 'Play' Concrete; Ford---'Too Big for Texas'". Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times, 1 July 1963: C9.
  16. "Diane McBain memoir". Sixties Cinema.
  17. "In Search of . . . Diane McBain". Peary, Gerald. Los Angeles Times, 27 May 1990: 23.
  18. Diane McBain Stars Los Angeles Times 14 July 1964: C11.
  19. "Actress Selected". Los Angeles Times, 9 May 1964: A9.
  20. "'Black Spurs' First on Lyles' New Deal". Los Angeles Times, 26 June 1964: D11.
  21. "Drury Gets Starring Role". Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times, 14 Feb 1966: c18.
  22. "N PERSON 'I didn't really know good films from bad'. From Elvis to Crawford, Diane McBain has shared the screen with a long list of stars since she signed her first contract at 18". Peary, Gerald. The Globe and Mail; 8 June 1990: C.3.
  23. "ACTRESS NOT MISSING: Diane McBain Found; Just Wanted 'Change'". Los Angeles Times, 5 Aug 1965: 3.
  24. Dexter, Maury (2012). Highway to Hollywood (PDF). p. 132.
  25. "TV Today: NBC to Offer Musical Special with Negro Cast: It Could Be Preview of New Series". Gowran, Clay. Chicago Tribune, 10 Oct 1968: b23.
  26. "Interview with Diane McBain". Boy Culture. July 2014.
  27. "MOVIE CALL SHEET: Oswald Forms Cinemago". Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1969: e23.
  28. "MOVIE CALL SHEET: Ryan's Daughter in 'Moon'". Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times, 18 Sep 1972: e16.
  29. "Beauty: McBain Kicks the Smoking Habit". Lane, Lydia. Los Angeles Times, 18 Jan 1981: s5.
  30. "A Victim of Rape Speaks Out on This Vilest of Crimes". People Magazine. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  31. "Diane McBain". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  32. NAMES & FACES: [1]. Boston Globe, 29 Dec 1982: 1.
  33. "TV Actress Beaten, Raped on Christmas". Los Angeles Times, 29 Dec 1982: c6.
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