Pamela Tiffin, movie ingenue of the 1960s, dies at 78

As she recited the Gettysburg Address and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” from memory, she projected star quality.

“Upon seeing Pamela for the first time, I was struck by an elusive regal quality as rare as it is difficult to define,” Wallis said, according to Tom Lisanti’s book “Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-74.” “She is that fascinating combination of poise and the unpredictable.”

She was cast in “Summer and Smoke” (1961), a Tennessee Williams drama, and before the film was released was “in that enviable position where producers are bidding for her although the public has yet to see her first performance,” syndicated columnist Hedda Hopper wrote.

Still in her teens, Ms. Tiffin landed a part in the 1961 Cold War comedy “One, Two, Three,” written and directed by Billy Wilder. As the headstrong daughter of a soft-drink executive, Ms. Tiffin’s character, Scarlett Hazeltine, becomes involved in a series of scrapes that threaten to become international incidents. The company official responsible for keeping track of Scarlett was played by James Cagney.

In one scene, Scarlett casually mentions that she wandered into East Berlin: “There’s this boy over there.”

“You’re not engaged again, are you?” Cagney’s character asks.

“Thank God,” Cagney says.

The film was not a box-office hit, but Ms. Tiffin raised her profile with a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress. She specialized in characters that were a carefully calibrated blend of innocence and sex appeal.

Over the next few years, she appeared in several popular movies, including the wholesome “State Fair” (1962), opposite Pat Boone and Bobby Darin. She was in the frothy romp “Come Fly With Me” (1963), about the romantic adventures of a crew of “stewardesses,” as airline flight attendants were then called, then had a similar role in “The Pleasure Seekers” (1964), about three young American women seeking love in Europe.

After the beach movie “For Those Who Think Young” and a car-racing picture, “The Lively” (both from 1964 and both starring James Darren), Ms. Tiffin appeared in the comedy western “The Hallelujah Trail” (1965), with Burt Lancaster.

In 1966, Ms. Tiffin had one of her most celebrated roles in “Harper,” a detective movie starring Paul Newman as the title character. Ms. Tiffin plays the seductive daughter of a businessman whose kidnapping Newman seeks to solve.

In one memorable scene, Ms. Tiffin appears unselfconsciously in a bikini, dancing on diving board and flirting with both Newman and Robert Wagner, who plays a pilot. Newman asks about her father, who had a private bungalow at a hotel.

“Daddy keeps a lot of clothes at the bungalow. He likes to be able to pick up fast,” Ms. Tiffin says. “So do I,” she adds, as she takes a sandwich out of Newman’s hand, gives him a lingering look, then glides away, eating the sandwich.

After “Harper,” Ms. Tiffin seemed to vanish from Hollywood. She was in a 1966 Broadway revival of “Dinner at Eight,” then drifted away from the limelight.

“She is a cult sixties pop icon in part because she is an enigma,” Lisanti wrote in his book about Ms. Tiffin. “The sultry brunette disappeared from Hollywood just when she was on the verge of superstardom and left moviegoers craving more.”

Pamela Tiffin Wonso was born Oct. 13, 1942, in Oklahoma City and grew up in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, Ill. Her father was an architect.

Ms. Tiffin began modeling as a child, completed high school in three years, then moved with her mother to New York in 1959 to pursue a modeling career. She used her middle name — her mother’s maiden name — professionally.

She was featured in the pages of leading magazines and posed for such renowned photographers as Philippe Halsman and Horst P. Horst. Even when her film career was at its height, Ms. Tiffin continued to live in New York, where she studied acting with Stella Adler and took courses at Hunter College.

When Esquire magazine published a story about her, she went to the magazine’s office to ask for a copy of a photo. One of the editors, Clay Felker, invited her to dinner, and they were married in 1962.

Their divorce in the late 1960s contributed to Ms. Tiffin’s decision to leave the United States for Rome.

“It was my running away from home,” she told Lisanti for his book “Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema.” “And of course, that was stupid on my part. I abandoned a career that deserved attention and nurturing.”

Except for “Viva Max,” a 1969 film with Peter Ustinov, and a short-lived 1970 TV series, “The Survivors,” Ms. Tiffin worked almost entirely in Italy, appearing on screen with actors Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman and Franco Nero.

Her final film role came in 1974, the year she married Edmondo Danon, a philosophy scholar whose father, Marcello Danon, was the producer of the film “La Cage aux Folles.”

The couple later moved to New York, where Ms. Tiffin lived quietly, granting few interviews. In addition to her husband, survivors include their two daughters, Echo Danon, a music supervisor and actress, and Aurora Danon, an art director.

In her later years, Ms. Tiffin did not go to autograph conventions or appear on talk shows. Her air of mystery, Lisanti wrote, only enhanced her reputation as “the sex kitten masquerading as the girl next door.”

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