Tina Blacker was born in New York City. She was raised by her mother, Betty Horn Myers (1916-2011), a fashion model. Her father, Joseph Blacker, was an accountant. The name "Louise" was supposedly added during her senior year in high school when she mentioned to her drama teacher that she was the only girl in the class without a middle name. He immediately picked the name "Louise" and it stuck. She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. At the age of 17, Louise began studying acting, singing and dancing. During her early acting years, she was offered modelling jobs and appeared on the cover of several pinup magazines such as Adam, Sir! and Modern Man. Her later pictorials for Playboy (May 1958, April 1959) were arranged by Columbia Pictures studio in an effort to further promote the young actress. Her acting debut came in 1952 in the Bette Davis musical revue Two’s Company, followed by roles in other Broadway productions, such as John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, The Fifth Season, and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? She also appeared in such early live television dramas as Studio One, Producers’ Showcase, and Appointment with Adventure.
In 1957, she and Julie Newmar appeared on Broadway in the hit musical Li’l Abner. Her album It’s Time for Tina was also released that year, with songs such as "Embraceable You" and "I’m in the Mood for Love".
Hollywood and Gilligan’s Island
Louise made her Hollywood film debut in 1958 in God’s Little Acre. She became an in-demand leading lady for major stars like Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark and Robert Ryan, often playing sombre roles quite unlike the glamorous pinup photographs and Playboy pictorials she had become famous for in the late 1950s. She turned down roles in Li’l Abner and Operation Petticoat taking roles on Broadway and in Italian cinema and Hollywood. Among her more notable Italian film credits was the historical epic Garibaldi (1960), directed by Roberto Rossellini, that concerned Garibaldi’s efforts to unify the Italian states in 1860. When Louise returned to the United States, she began studying with Lee Strasberg and eventually became a member of the Actors Studio. She appeared in the 1964 beach party film For Those Who Think Young, with Bob Denver, prior to the development of Gilligan’s Island.
In 1964, she left the Broadway musical Fade Out – Fade In to portray movie star Ginger Grant on the situation comedy Gilligan’s Island, after the part was turned down by Jayne Mansfield. However, she was unhappy with the role and worried that it would typecast her. The role did make Louise a pop icon of the era, and in 2005 an episode of TV Land Top Ten ranked her as second only to Heather Locklear as the greatest of television’s all-time sex symbols.
After the series ended in 1967, Louise continued to work in film and made numerous guest appearances in various television series. She appeared in the Matt Helm spy spoof The Wrecking Crew (1969) with Dean Martin. Louise played a doomed suburban housewife in the original The Stepford Wives (1975), and both the film and her performance were well received.
She attempted to shed her comedic image by essaying grittier roles, including a guest appearance as a pathetic heroin addict in a 1974 Kojak episode, as well as a co-starring role as an evil Southern prison guard in the 1976 ABC TV Movie Nightmare in Badham County. Her other television films of the period included Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976), SST: Death Flight (1977), and Friendships, Secrets and Lies (1979).
The question "Ginger or Mary Ann?" is regarded to be a classic pop-psychological question when given to American men of a certain age as an insight into their characters, or at least their desires as regarding certain female stereotypes.
Despite successes on her own, she declined to participate in any of three reunion television films for Gilligan’s Island and the role of Ginger was recast with Judith Baldwin and Constance Forslund. Although she did not appear in these television movies, she made brief walk-on appearances on a few talk shows and specials for Gilligan’s Island reunions, including Good Morning America (1982), The Late Show (1988) and the 2004 TV Land award show with the other surviving cast members. In the 1990s, she was reunited with co-stars Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, and Russell Johnson in an episode of Roseanne. She did not reunite with them for the television film Surviving Gilligan’s Island: The Incredible True Story of the Longest Three-Hour Tour in History (2001), co-produced by Wells. She was portrayed by Kristen Dalton in the television film. Her relations with series star Denver were rumoured to be strained, but in 2005, she wrote a brief, affectionate memorial to him in the year-end "farewell" issue of Entertainment Weekly.
Louise appeared as a semi-regular character in the prime-time soap opera Dallas, as J.R.’s secretary, Julie Gray, during the 1978-79 seasons. In 1985, Louise played the second and final Taylor Chapin on the syndicated soap opera Rituals. Later film roles included a co-starring appearance in the Robert Altman comedy O.C. and Stiggs (1987) as well as the independently made satire Johnny Suede (1992) starring Brad Pitt. She appeared in Married… with Children as Miss Beck in episode Kelly Bounces Back (1990).
From 1966 to 1974, Louise was married to radio and TV announcer/interviewer Les Crane, with whom she has one daughter, Caprice Crane (born 1974), who became an MTV producer and a novelist. Crane’s first novel, Stupid and Contagious, was published in 2006, and was warmly dedicated to her mother. Louise now resides in New York City. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a lifetime member of the Actors Studio. As a literacy and academic advocate, she became a volunteer teacher at Learning Leaders, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing tutoring to New York City school children. It has been her passion to help young students gain not only literary skills, but also confidence, self-determination and proof of their own potential. She has written two books: Sunday: A Memoir (1997) and When I Grow Up (2007). The latter is a children’s book that inspires children to believe they can become whatever they choose through creative and humorous comparisons of animal kingdom achievements. She published a second children’s book named "What Does A Bee Do?"
Louise made four record albums, two for Concert Hall, and two for Urania Record (1958 and 1959 respectively). By far the most sought-after of these is the 1957 album It’s Time For Tina (Concert Hall 1521). With arrangements by Jim Timmens and Buddy Weed’s Orchestra, 12 tracks include "Tonight Is The Night" and "I’m in the Mood for Love". Coleman Hawkins is featured on tenor sax. A version of this album is planned by UK label Harkit Records.
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