‘Surfside 6,’ ‘Spinout’ Actress Was 81 – The Hollywood Reporter
Diane McBain, whose career playing spoiled rich girls included turns as the yacht owner Daphne Dutton on the ABC crime show Surfside 6 and an author stalking Elvis Presley in Spinout, has died. She was 81.
McBain died Wednesday morning at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills after a battle with liver cancer, her friend and writing partner, Michael Gregg Michaud, told The Hollywood Reporter.
McBain also guest-starred on four episodes of ABC’s Batman, first as a hat shop assistant who’s in cahoots with David Wayne’s Mad Hatter in 1966 and then as stamp company proprietor Pinky Pinkston — she wore only pink and had a pink dog — on the memorable 1967 installment that featured The Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee).
In her first film, McBain appeared with Richard Burton in Vincent Sherman’s Ice Storm (1960), then starred alongside Troy Donahue and Claudette Colbert in Delmer Daves’ campy Parrish (1961) and as the title character, a farm girl who meets a tragic end, in Claudelle Inglish (1961).
A contract player at Warner Bros. straight out of high school, McBain broke out as the loopy Daphne on the 1960-62 Miami Beach-set crime show Surfside 6. Her character owned a yacht, the Daffy II, that was berthed next door to the houseboat that served as home base for the private detectives portrayed by Williams, Donahue and Lee Patterson.
She portrayed Diana St. Clair, an author of books that help women get their men, in Spinout (1966), finding Elvis’ Mike McCoy the perfect subject to track for her next project, The Perfect American Male.
In Tom Lisanti’s 2001 book, Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema, McBain said she regretted being typecast as bad girls. “I wanted to play the ingenue,” she said. “I could never understand why everyone wanted to play the bitch. Because when you go into society, people view you as they see you onscreen. It’s terrible to be thought of as this messy, horrible person when you’re not!”
Born in Cleveland on May 18, 1941, McBain moved with her family to Glendale in 1944. She modeled for TV commercials and magazine ads as a teenager, and while appearing in a play at Glendale High School, she was spotted by a talent scout and signed by Warners to a seven-year contract on her 18th birthday.
“When I was about to graduate from high school, they offered me the role of Richard Burton’s granddaughter in Ice Palace,” she told Lisanti. “And believe it or not, I didn’t even know who Richard Burton was! … He was an English actor, and I was a teenybopper.”
She had made her onscreen debut in 1959 on an episode of ABC’s Maverick, and in addition to Surfside 6, she showed up on many other Warner Bros. TV shows, including The Alaskans, Sugarfoot, Lawman, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye and Bourbon Street Beat.
McBain beat out Shirley Knight for the lead in Claudelle Inglish, then starred as a farm owner in Black Gold (1962), a nurse opposite Joan Crawford in The Caretakers (1963) and a health nut in Mary Mary (1963), starring Debbie Reynolds. She then reunited with Donahue for A Distant Trumpet (1964), the last film directed by Raoul Walsh.
She left Warner Bros. after refusing a small part in Sex and the Single Girl (1964). “I was doing leads and thought this wasn’t a good idea,” she said.
McBain battled with characters played by Shelley Fabares and Deborah Walley for Elvis’ affection in Spinout, but her Diana wound up marrying an older guy portrayed by Carl Betz.
McBain then appeared in the low-budget AIP films Thunder Alley (1967), directed by Richard Rush; Maryjane (1968); and, as the savage leader of a motorcycle gang, The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968).
Her résumé included the films Five the Hard Way (1969), I Sailed to Tahiti With an All Girl Crew (1969), The Broken Hearts Club (2000) and Besotted (2001) and episodes of Burke’s Law, The Wild Wild West, Police Story, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Hawaii Five-O, Charlie’s Angels, Eight Is Enough, Dallas, Days of Our Lives and Knight Rider.
She entertained U.S. troops overseas in the ’60s and counseled rape survivors after she herself was victimized in 1982.
McBain published her autobiography, Famous Enough, a Hollywood Memoir, co-written by Michaud, in 2014, then wrote two novels, 2020’s The Laughing Bear and 2021’s The Color of Hope.
“She lived a full life and experienced every opportunity that presented itself. She was very kind, thoughtful, loyal and generous, and she had a wicked sense of humor,” Michaud, her friend of 35 years, wrote on social media. “Despite her remarkable professional accomplishments, she was the most un-affected movie star I have ever known.”
The pair did numerous book signings and autograph shows, the latest just months ago, he said.
McBain was married to Rodney Burke, whom she met at a Buddhist camp, from 1972 until their 1974 divorce. Survivors include her son, Evan, and her goddaughter, Mary.