Joanna Barnes, whose many screen roles include the conniving fiancée of a divorced father in the 1961 film “The Parent Trap” and the character’s mother in the remake 37 years later — and who, while still successful as an actress, began on a successful second career as a writer – died on April 29 at her home in The Sea Ranch, California. She was 87.
The cause was cancer, her friend Sally Jackson said.
Mrs. Barnes’ role in the hit Disney movie “The Parent Trap” was part of her busy first five years in Hollywood, starting on television series such as “Playhouse 90” and “Cheyenne” and then moving on to supporting roles in “Auntie mom”. ” (1958), opposite Rosalind Russell, and “Tarzan, the Ape Man” (1959), starring Denny Miller in the title role.
In Life magazine, Ms. Barnes featured in a photo broadcast promoting “Tarzan.”
“The silk-clad debutante above, and the bare-legged tree climber on the right are the same — Miss Joanna Barnes of Boston and Hollywood,” the article said in part. “She’s the newest and, MGM points out, the brightest of the twenty girls who played Jane, the genteel Englishwoman in the Tarzan movies.”
In “The Parent Trap” (1961), starring Hayley Mills in the dual role of long-divorced twin sisters who meet and conspire to reunite their divorced parents, Mrs. Barnes played the vixenish fortune hunter who dated the girls’ father, played by Brian Kees. When the film was remade 37 years later starring Lindsay Lohan, Mrs. Barnes played the mother of her former character, who was played by Elaine Hendrix.
“She had no judgment about being in a remake,” Nancy Meyers, the film’s director, said in a telephone interview. “And she was one of those people who, after you say ‘Cut!’ want to keep talking to her.”
Mrs. Barnes never became a big star and in the 1960s she began to find distractions from acting.
In 1967, she hosted the ABC television series “Dateline: Hollywood,” on which she took viewers behind the scenes on studio tours and interviewed stars. She wrote a syndicated column, Touching Home, and a book, “Starting From Scratch” (1968), on interior decoration.
Her first novel, “The Deceivers” (1970), was a sexy Hollywood exposé that revolved around a former child actress and the powerful people in her job.
“Joanna Barnes is Jacqueline Susann with a brain,” wrote critic John Leonard in DailyExpertNews, citing the author of the savage 1966 saga “Valley of the Dolls.” He added, “A few of the characters in ‘The Deceivers’ appear to be stamped from old Saltines; the genus grows like grass between each plot; and, as in too many first novels, everything is resolved at one big party. But Miss Barnes is an excellent tourist guide to the land of the plastic cactus.”
She also wrote the novels “Who is Carla Hart?” (1973); “Pastora” (1980), on the rise of a 19th-century woman in San Francisco society, a DailyExpertNews bestseller; and “Silverwood” (1985).
“Acting and writing feed off each other,” she told The Associated Press, adding, “When I start to feel limited in writing, I take the time to act.”
And socialize. In 1971, she had a brief relationship with Henry Kissinger, then President Richard M. Nixon’s national security adviser. When Maxine Cheshire of The Washington Post reported that she and Mr. Kissinger had attended a party in Hollywood together, she noted that Mrs. Barnes had written “The Deceivers,” “which Kissinger didn’t read.”
Mrs. Barnes was born in Boston on November 15, 1934 and grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts. Her father, John, was an insurance manager and her mother, Alice (Mutch) Barnes, was a housewife. She studied English at Smith College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in 1956 – the year she earned her first film title in the TV series “Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers.”
In 1961, she was booted from the Boston Social Register, which, she told The St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times, did not approve of actors. She had just been in the hit movie ‘Spartacus’, starring Kirk Douglas.
“Played a degenerate Roman lady,” she said. “Delicious portion.”
Over the next three decades, she was featured in many TV series, including “Bachelor Father,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Love American Style,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Trapper John, MD” in the 1965 season. -66. she was a regular on “The Trials of O’Brien,” a short-lived series about a lawyer played by Peter Falk. She played his ex-wife.
She is survived by her stepdaughters, Laura and Louise Warner; her stepson, John Warner; and her sisters, Lally Barnes Freeman and Judith Barnes Wood. Her marriages to Richard Herndon and Lawrence Dobkin ended in divorce; her marriage to Jack Lionel Warner also ended.
For all her on-screen success, her interest in acting had faded — until the “The Parent Trap” remake came along.
“Her role was small but memorable, and I certainly didn’t have to tell her how to play it,” Ms Meyers wrote in an email. “She knew exactly what to do and played it to the limit.”