Carol Lynley, the fresh-faced blonde whose character was a performer on the ill-fated S.S. Poseidon in the blockbuster disaster flick “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972), died of a heart attack in her Pacific Palisades home September 3. She was 77.
Born February 13, 1942, in New York City, Carole Ann Jones was a child model for such brands as Clairol and Pepsodent who appeared on a 1957 Life magazine cover ahead of a long acting career under her new name: Carol Lynley. Her TV debut was on a 1956 episode of “Goodyear Playhouse,” which her film debut was in “The Light in the Forest” (1958), her first and last Disney movie.
An early success found Lynley starring on Broadway and then in the movie version of “Blue Denim” (1959), in which she and actor Brandon deWilde starred as a young couple dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. For her efforts, she was nominated for a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer — Female.
Lynley made a strong impression in a variety of films, including the potboiler “Return to Peyton Place” (1959), the Jack Lemmon comedy “Under the Yum Yum Tree” (1963), the Otto Preminger-directed “The Cardinal” (1963), the romantic drama “The Pleasure Seekers” (1964), as ’20s sex siren Jean Harlow in “Harlow” (1965), and — in her most acclaimed performance — as a mysterious young housewife who insists her toddler has vanished in “Bunny Lake Is Missing” (1965), also directed by Otto Preminger.
That same year, Lynley sensationally posed nude for Playboy.
She also excelled in TV roles, appearing in the made-for-TV movie “The Night Stalker” (1972) and making countless guest appearances on episodic television. In 1983, she played the role of a lesbian who comes out to her old friend on “Hotel,” a controversial subject for its time.
But it was “The Poseidon Adventure,” in which she lip-synched the Oscar-winning song “The Morning After” (sung for her by Renee Armand and a massive pop hit for Maureen McGovern) and in which her character became one of the few to survive a catastrophic New Year’s Eve tsunami that leaves an aged luxury liner upside-down in the middle of the sea.
She said of the enduring hit, “It was the most physically demanding role you can possibly imagine. We had to swim underwater, climb across tiny catwalks, walk over flames… and they kept us wet all day long. They hosed us down at least 20 times a day. And there were no safety precautions for the first two weeks of shooting. I’d be up there on a catwalk, and if I slipped, it was six stories straight down through flames to a concrete floor.”
Lynley’s acting career slowed dramatically after the ’80s — she would go on to appear just eight more times on-screen. Her position in Hollywood history afforded her the privilege of working with an incredible range of legendary figures, including Josh Logan, Gene Tierney, Ginger Rogers, Joanne Woodward, Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, John Huston, Dorothy Gish, Barbara Stanwyck and many others.
In recent years, Lynley could often be found greeting fans at autograph shows, and keeping the candle burning for “The Poseidon Adventure” for its ardent fans, along with some of the film’s other surviving cast members.
Lynley was famously romantically involved for many years with English broadcaster David Frost, dated Frank Sinatra, and was rumored to be engaged to her great friend Fred Astaire, who wound up marrying another woman many decades younger than himself instead.
Lynley was married to PR man Michael Selsman (1960-1964), with whom she had her daughter Jill Selsman, who survives her.