Many aspiring actors land up in the United States to be a part of the big bad movie industry. Barbara Feldon is one amongst many such people. However, she wasn’t just lucky to grab an acting break, but even sustained her reputation for a long time and left an everlasting impression on one and all. Unlike many women in Hollywood who love seeing themselves stick to only glamorous lead roles, Feldon is well known for being a ‘character actor’. The roles Feldon has essayed over the years have been a bit unusual and eccentric. It’s claimed that Barbara was very fond of being well-dressed since the tender age of two. She apparently was clear that she wanted to be an actress by the age of six. Fortunes turned in Barbara’s favour after she won the grand prize on the television show ‘The $64000 Question’. Soon Barbara grabbed few modelling assignments & television commercials. These works of Barbara opened the doors to the television industry, and helped her grab a dozen roles in different projects. Towards the later part of her career, Barbara focussed on lending her voice for dubbing services, and proved to be a successful voiceover artist.
Childhood & Early Life
Barbara was born on March 12, 1933 in Pittsburgh, United States. She was originally named Barbara Anne Hall. Barbara belonged to a middle class family; her mother was a housewife, and her father worked in the paper box industry as an executive. Feldon completed her primary education from Bethel Park High School, Pennsylvania.
Since a very young age Barbara was interested acting. She even got herself trained in acting from the ‘Pittsburgh Playhouse’, and later went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Drama from the Carnegie Mellon University, in 1955.
Barbara, who aspired to become an actress, landed up in New York. In 1957, she won the grand prize after participating in the reality show ‘The $64000 Question’. The money earned through this competition was invested by Barbara in an art gallery, for which she partnered with a man named Lucien Feldon.
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Feldon started her career as a model. After a few modelling assignments, she got herself a role in the television commercial ‘Top Brass’. She soon got noticed by industry insiders for her work in this men’s hair pomade endorsement.
During the early 1960’s, Feldon got a few small appearances in television series’ such as ‘Twelve ‘O Clock High’, ‘Griff’, ‘Laugh-in’, Flipper’, and ‘The man from U.N.C.L.E’
In 1964, Feldon appeared in a single episode of the drama television series ‘Mr. Broadway’. The name of the episode was ‘Trying to find a spy’.
After many such forgettable roles, Feldon managed to get the attention of screenwriter and director Buck Henry. Buck approached Feldon for the television series ‘Get Smart’. It’s claimed that Feldon’s character ‘Agent 99’ was specially written keeping her in mind.
In 1967, Feldon made her feature-film debut in a movie by name ‘Fitzwilly’. This movie, an adaptation of the novel ‘A Garden of Cucumbers’, saw Feldon portray the role of Juliet Nowell.
Barbara next appeared in a television series by name ‘A Vacation in Hell’ in 1979. Feldon shared screen space along with actors Maureen McCormick and Priscilla Barnes in this thriller.
Barbara also appeared in the movies ‘Smile’ and ‘No Deposit, No Return’ in the mid 1970’s.
The role for which Feldon will be ever remembered is that of ‘Agent 99’ in the hit American television series ‘Get Smart’. The television series which ran successfully for a period of five years, from 1965 to 1970, was satirical in its approach, and took a dig at famous secret agents like James Bond and Inspector Clouseau
The show became so popular that it was revived again in the year 1995 as ‘Get Smart Again’. Feldon reprised the role which she had played in the 1965 original. The series was also remade into a movie in the year 2008.
In the early 1980’s, Feldon hosted the popular television show ‘The 80’s Show’. Each episode which used to be roughly around 20 minutes long, saw Feldon interview different women ranging from famous celebrities to single mothers and even feminists..
Awards & Achievements
Feldon was nominated twice—in 1968 and 1969—for ‘Primetime Emmy’ award in the category ‘Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series’, for ‘Get Smart’. However, she failed to win the award both the times.
Feldon was nominated for a ‘CableACE Award’ in the years 1983 and 1984 respectively, for being the Program Hostess of ‘The 80’s Woman’.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1958, Barbara married Lucien Feldon, a New York Photographer, with whom she had even started out her art gallery venture. The marriage survived for nine years, and ended with a divorce in 1967.
Barbara later got into a relationship with Burt Nodella, producer of the ‘Get Smart’ series. This relationship ended after a period of twelve years.
Post her relationship with Nodella, Feldon moved back to New York, she even expressed the thoughts about her personal life in the form of a book named ‘Living Alone and Loving It’, which was published in 2003.
Other than acting, these days Barbara indulges in activities such as jogging in the park listening to music on her Walkman, taking singing lessons and visiting museums.
Feldon also jokes about her inability to cook. When asked about her cooking skills in an interview, Feldon apparently said ‘My oven’s never worked, and I have never bothered to get it fixed’.