Back in the 60s, when Hollywood had two very specific roles for women, Barbara Bain came and changed the game.
At that time, female characters were either sexy and dumb or intelligent and modest.
Once an actress picked one of the two, she was stuck with being typecast for the rest of her career.
In 1966, a revolutionary television series “Mission Impossible” premiered, and for the first time, the TV audience saw a tight-knit group of cool undercover agents.
One of the agents, “Cinnamon Carter,” particularly stood out, making Emmy-winning drama actress Barbara Bain an overnight sensation.
Life Before Mission Impossible
Barbara Bain was born on 13th September 1931 in Chicago. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. The American actress was a studious child, and she graduated from the University of Illinois, majoring in Sociology.
Initially, Barbara was interested in becoming a dancer. She went to New York for formal training under Martha Graham’s guidance. However, she soon realized that it wasn’t for her and started trying her hand at modeling.
She was strikingly gorgeous, and in no time, big fashion magazines, like Vogue and Harper’s, started featuring her.
After seeing success as a model, the Gilligan’s Island star wanted to try something else. To broaden her horizons, she decided to study acting at Theatre Studio.
She studied under renowned professors like Curt Conway, Lonny Chapman, and Lee Strasberg.
In 1957, she got her first acting gig in Paddy Chayevsky’s theatre play “Middle of the Night.” The theatre group embarked on a national tour with that play. It was there that she met Martin Landau, and the two became an item.
The tour’s final stop was Los Angeles. Originally, the new couple planned to return to New York after the tour ended, but Hollywood opened its doors for them instead.
They stayed in Los Angeles, and Barbara even started teaching acting classes.
The young couple finally tied the knot in 1957 and had two daughters Susan Landau Finch and Juliet Landau. Sadly, Bain and Landau parted ways in 1993.
Experience Of Playing Cinnamon Carter
While Barbara was conducting acting workshops, Martin was asked to teach creative writing classes. He took a different approach to that and often asked writers to act out their scenes.
In his class, two pupils became an important part of their journey. One was Robert Town, writer of Chinatown and many other classic films, and the other was Bruce Geller, creator of “Mission Impossible.”
When Geller came up with the concept of Mission Impossible, he wrote the roles specifically for Landau and “The Girl” – referring to Bain at the time. The character “Rollin Hand” became one of Landau’s trademarks, and “Cinnamon” ended up fuelling Bain’s career.
Still, Bruce Geller didn’t tell Barbara that the role was written for her, and she had to go through multiple rounds of auditions like everyone else.
He only told her after show-creator Lucille Ball’s final approval.
Initially, Bruce described Cinnamon’s character by saying she is “terribly smart” and “terribly sexy.”
When Bain was asked what made her say “yes” to such a unique character at that time, she replied the dialogues were more than “Yes Dear, No Dear.”
Impact Of Barbara’s Character
After 55 years, Cinnamon Carter is still being used as a blueprint for a female undercover agent’s character. The longevity of this role is something that even Bain couldn’t imagine when she played it.
She may not have understood it then, but she truly does value it now. After this, she always chose roles that showed empowered female characters.
In an interview with NBC Chicago, the television actress revealed that she hadn’t seen the Mission Impossible film series, much like other cast members of the original show.
She also shares Greg Morris’s opinion that the movies are just a “Tom Cruise show,” whereas the television series focused on team effort.
Barbara is one of those few actresses who never stopped doing what she loves. Despite being a 90-year-old, she is still working actively and apparently enjoys every bit of it.