Carroll Baker (born May 28, 1931) is a Golden Globe Award winning and Oscar nominated American actress who has enjoyed popularity as both a serious dramatic actress and, particularly in the 1960s, a movie sex symbol. Despite being cast in a wide range of roles during her heyday, Baker's beautiful features, blonde hair, and distinctive drawl made her particularly memorable in roles as a brash, flamboyant woman.
After working as a magician's assistant, she began her film career in 1953, with a small part in Easy to Love. After appearing in television commercials and training at New York's famed Actors Studio, she took a role in the Broadway production of All Summer Long. That appearance brought her to the attention of director Elia Kazan, who cast Baker as the title character in his controversial Baby Doll. Her Tennessee Williams-scripted role as a Mississippi teenage bride to a failed middle-aged cotton gin owner brought Baker instant fame as well as a certain level of notoriety; Baby Doll would remain the film for which she is best remembered. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film.
She would go on to work steadily in films throughout the late fifties and early sixties, appearing in a variety of genres: romances, such as The Miracle co-starring a young Roger Moore and But Not for Me (both 1959); westerns, including The Big Country (1958) and How the West Was Won (1962); and steamy melodramas, including Something Wild (1961), directed by her then-husband Jack Garfein, and Station Six-Sahara (1962). She also found time to appear again on Broadway, this time starring in Garson Kanin's Come on Strong, produced in 1962.
Publicity still for The CarpetbaggersBaker's flashy portrayal of a Jean Harlow-type movie star in the 1964 hit The Carpetbaggers brought her a second wave of notoriety and marked the beginning of a tumultuous relationship with the film's producer, Joseph E. Levine. Based on her Carpetbaggers performance, Levine began to position Baker to be a movies sex symbol, casting her in the title roles of two 1965 potboilers, Sylvia and Harlow. Despite much pre-publicity, the latter film was not a success, and relations between Baker and Levine soured.
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