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If the name fails to ring a bell it's either because you aren't old enough to have gone to the movies in the '70s, or you weren't born in China.

Deborah Raffin, the American actress with archetypal girl next door good looks, died Wednesday at the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center. Raffin, 59, was diagnosed with Leukemia about a year ago.

Raffin began her big screen career with a pair of unremarkable genre pictures. She assumed the "other woman" role opposite Liv Ullmann and Edward Albert in the May/December romcom, 40 Carats. The Ingmar Bergman connection continued with The Dove, a true-life sailing drama photographed by Sven Nykvist.

Three of her films have taken up permanent home in my video collection. Jacqueline Susann's Once is Not Enough is a veritable scream fest with Kirk Douglas' brow and jaw working overtime to prevent his spiteful daughter from banging everyone in Tinsel Town. Scripted by Julius Epstein (The Strawberry Blonde, Casablanca), it's a disastrous attempt to meld old Hollywood style with what once passed for modern thinking.

It was death-by-association when Raffin signed on to play Charles Bronson's love interest in the sublimely scuzzy Death Wish III. No woman who assumed the role ever lived to see the final cue mark.

Larry Cohen's God Told Me To is the one legitimate masterwork in the Raffin canon. It's a deeply unsettling horror film and one of the first since Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse or Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt to openly explore the sick psyche of a serial killer.

Everything that follows DW3 is either made-for-TV, unwatchable, or both. She could have been Hollywood's next big thing were it not for one fatal character flaw: she refused to doff her clothes off for the camera.

Nightmare in Badham County, a 1976 small screen release, became a huge theatrical hit in mainland China. Raffin's popularity was such that she became the first Western actress ever to make a movie promotional tour of the city.

She earned the distinction of being nominated for both a Golden Globe and Razzie Award for her performance in Touched by Love (1981).

A books-on-tape business she ventured into in the '80's turned out to be a multimillion-dollar success. Raffin is survived by her two siblings, William and Judy Holston; and a daughter, Taylor Rose Viner.

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Comments

Colonna Nov. 23, 2012 @ 12:31 p.m.

From IMDb:

Second choice for the part of Sandy in Grease (1978) after Susan Dey. Laurie Partridge passed and producer Allan Carr had Raffin in mind before a fateful dinner at Helen Reddy's house where she invited a fellow Australian singer, Olivia Newton-John.

Raffin was out and producer Carr told Olivia "you're the one that I want".

Rest in peace, Deborah.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxfMefmRHzE

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 23, 2012 @ 2 p.m.

Interesting story.......It is hard to watch that clip, Chuck Connors as a bad guy, being a huge Rifleman fan........

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denfrank Nov. 23, 2012 @ 12:37 p.m.

Oh, not Helen Reddy again, she fricken screws lots of things up.

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Jay Allen Sanford Nov. 23, 2012 @ 12:40 p.m.

"God Told Me To" being one of my all-time favorite films (and the topic of my first published non-fiction article back in an '80s issue of Midnight Marquee magazine), this is sad news indeed. I'll have to screen that one tonight in tribute, along with her other wonky "masterpiece" The Sentinel and Scanners 2.

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Scott Marks Nov. 23, 2012 @ 12:47 p.m.

I just pulled it off the shelf. We'll be together in spirit tonight.

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