Grace Lee Whitney

Last updated
Grace Lee Whitney
Grace lee whitney 1980.jpg
Grace Lee Whitney at a Star Trek convention (circa 1980)
Born
Mary Ann Chase

(1930-04-01)April 1, 1930
DiedMay 1, 2015(2015-05-01) (aged 85)
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1947–2007
Spouse(s)
  • Sydney Stevan Dweck
    (m. 1954;div. 1966)
  • Jack Dale
    (m. 1970;div. 1991)
Children2

Grace Lee Whitney (April 1, 1930 – May 1, 2015) was an American actress and singer. She was known for her role as Janice Rand on the original Star Trek television series and subsequent Star Trek films. [1] [2]

Contents

Early life

Whitney was born Mary Ann Chase on April 1, 1930, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was adopted by the Whitney family, who changed her name to Grace Elaine. She started her entertainment career as a "girl singer" on Detroit's WJR radio at the age of fourteen. After she left home, she began to call herself Lee Whitney, eventually becoming known as Grace Lee Whitney. In her late teens, she moved to Chicago where she opened in nightclubs for Billie Holiday and Buddy Rich, and toured with the Spike Jones and Fred Waring Bands. [1]

Early theater, film and television roles

Whitney debuted on Broadway in Top Banana , with Phil Silvers and Kaye Ballard, playing Miss Holland. Following the successful run of the show, she joined the cast in Hollywood, where she recreated the role in the 1954 movie of the same name. While in Los Angeles, Whitney auditioned for and was cast in the starring role of Lucy Brown in the national tour of The Threepenny Opera , taking over the role from Bea Arthur, who had played the part in New York off-Broadway.[ citation needed ]

Whitney made more than a hundred television appearances following her television dramatic debut in Cowboy G-Men in 1953. She appeared on episodes of The Real McCoys , Wagon Train , The Islanders , Hennesey , The Roaring 20s , Gunsmoke , Bat Masterson , The Rifleman , 77 Sunset Strip , Bewitched , Mike Hammer , Batman , The Untouchables , and Hawaiian Eye .

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Whitney was a frequent semi-regular on between 80 and 100 live television shows including You Bet Your Life hosted by Groucho Marx in 1953, The Red Skelton Show , The Jimmy Durante Show and The Ernie Kovacs Show , largely appearing in gag sketches. [1] From 1957 to 1958, she appeared as a "Vanna-type adornment" on the popular daytime show Queen for a Day . [1]

Other appearances included an episode of The Outer Limits , "Controlled Experiment", co-starring Barry Morse and Carroll O'Connor, Mannix , Death Valley Days , The Big Valley , and The Virginian . In 1962, she appeared in the episode of The Rifleman entitled "The Tin Horn". In 1964, she played a character Babs Livingston on Bewitched in the episode "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog". [1]

Whitney was cast as a member of the all-female band in Billy Wilder's comedy Some Like It Hot (1959). She shared several scenes with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe, including the famed "upper berth" sequence. She had uncredited roles in House of Wax (1953), Top Banana (1954), The Naked and the Dead (1958), and Pocketful of Miracles (1961). Whitney was credited as Tracey Phillips in the drama A Public Affair (1962), and as Texas Rose in the western The Man from Galveston (1963). Billy Wilder then gave her the featured role of "Kiki the Cossack" in Irma la Douce (1963).

Star Trek

The original series

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry cast Whitney in the role of Yeoman Janice Rand, the personal assistant to Captain James T. Kirk, in 1966. Whitney said: "I was on diet pills trying to stay thin—and I was very thin. They wanted you to fit into the uniforms and I couldn't quite so I went on amphetamines." [3] Whitney appeared in eight of the first fifteen episodes, after which she was released from contract. She had claimed that, while still under contract, she was sexually assaulted by an executive associated with the series. [4] Later, in a public interview, she stated that Leonard Nimoy had been her main source of support during that time. She went into more details about the assault in her book The Longest Trek, but refused to name the executive, saying in the book, "This is my story, not his." [1]

In a later interview, she said of her termination from the series:

They wanted William Shatner to have romances in each episode with a different person, because for him to be stuck with one woman was not good for him and it wasn't good for the audience. That's what they told me, so I was written out. There were two blond girls and one black girl. Nichelle was a more important character and couldn't be written out. Everything's political in America. One of the blondes had to go. The other one was engaged to the boss, so guess who went? I just about killed myself. I drank, that's what we do, we drink to get rid of pain. I was really mad. My God, was I bitter. [3]

Return to Star Trek franchise

Whitney posing with a Star Trek prop at a science fiction convention, 1975 Grace lee whitney sfcon.jpg
Whitney posing with a Star Trek prop at a science fiction convention, 1975

Whitney returned to the Star Trek franchise in the 1970s after DeForest Kelley saw Whitney on the unemployment line and told her that fans had been asking for her at fan conventions. [5]

Whitney reprised her role as Janice Rand, who had received a promotion to chief petty officer in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). She also appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), with another promotion, as Lieutenant Commander Janice Rand.

Five years later, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise, she returned in the 1996 Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback", along with George Takei. She reprised her role in two internet Star Trek episodes: "Star Trek: New Voyages" and "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men". "New Voyages" premiered on August 24, 2007, while "Of Gods and Men" made its debut in late 2007. The fifth episode of Star Trek Continues , "Divided We Stand" (released 26 September 2015), was dedicated to her "lovely and endearing spirit".

Later TV roles

Her roles in the 1970s included The Bold Ones , Cannon , and Hart to Hart . In 1983, she had a small part in the television film The Kid with the 200 I.Q. , with Gary Coleman. In 1998, she appeared in an episode of Diagnosis: Murder , which reunited her with her Star Trek colleagues George Takei, Walter Koenig and Majel Barrett.

Whitney played the historical figure Nellie Cashman, then a restaurateur, in the 1969 episode "The Angel of Tombstone" of the syndicated western series Death Valley Days , hosted by Robert Taylor not long before his death. In the story line, Cashman and several men from Tombstone, Arizona, travel to Baja California in search of gold found by a Mexican prospector. On reaching the site, Cashman learns how a Catholic mission has been quietly financing its charitable work. Gregg Barton, Tris Coffin, and Joaquin Martinez also guest starred in this episode.

Music

Whitney at the first Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Awards, December 5, 1976. Grace Lee Whitney 1976.jpg
Whitney at the first Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Awards, December 5, 1976.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Whitney sang with a number of orchestras and bands, including the Keith Williams Orchestra. Later, she concentrated on jazz/pop vocalizing while fronting for the band Star. In the 1970s, with her then-husband, Jack Dale, she wrote a number of Star Trek-related songs. A 45 rpm record was released in 1976 with the songs "Disco Trekkin’" (A side) and "Star Child" (B side). She recorded such tunes as "Charlie X", "Miri", "Enemy Within" and "USS Enterprise". Many of these songs were released in the 1990s on cassette tape: Light at the End of the Tunnel in 1996 and Yeoman Rand Sings! in 1999.[ citation needed ]

Autobiography

Whitney's autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, was released in 1998 ( ISBN   1-884956-05-X). Along with her hiring and firing from Star Trek, the book recounts her work as the first Chicken of the Sea mermaid as well as her struggles with and eventual recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. [6]

Personal life and death

Whitney had two sons, Scott and Jonathan Dweck. [7] She moved to Coarsegold, California, in 1993 to be close to Jonathan, and she “continued her fellowship work in Fresno and Madera [counties], completely dedicating her life to helping herself and others find daily sobriety and a higher power out of addiction.” [8] Jonathan Dweck said his mother wanted to be known more as a survivor of addiction than as a Star Trek cast member. [2]

Whitney died of natural causes at her home in Coarsegold on May 1, 2015. She was 85 years old. [9]

Filmography

YearTitleRoleNotes
1954 Top Banana Miss HollandUncredited
1958 The Naked and the Dead Girl in Dream SequenceUncredited
1959 Some Like It Hot RosellaUncredited
1961 Pocketful of Miracles Queenie's 'Broad' in Black DressUncredited
1962A Public AffairTracey Phillips
1963 The Virginian NinaEpisode "Echo of Another Day"
1963 Critic's Choice Minor role
1963 The Man from Galveston Texas RoseTV Series, 1 episode
1963 Irma la Douce Kiki the Cossack
1964 Controlled Experiment Carla DuveenOnly comedy episode of The Outer Limits
1966 Star Trek Yeoman Janice Rand TV Series, 8 episodes
1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture
1984 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Woman in Cafeteria
1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Lt. Commander Janice Rand
1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
1996 Star Trek: Voyager TV Series, 1 episode
2007 Star Trek: New Voyages web series, 1 episode
2007 Star Trek: Of Gods and Men (final film role)

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Whitney, Grace Lee; Denney, Jim (1998). The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy (1 ed.). Linden Publishing. pp. 35–36, 39, 51. ISBN   1884956033.
  2. 1 2 "'Star Trek' actress Grace Lee Whitney dies at 85". Los Angeles Times . Associated Press. May 4, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  3. 1 2 Cox, Emma (May 2, 2009). "Star Trek, Jim, but not as we know it". The Sun .
  4. Moyer, Justin Wm. (May 4, 2015). "Actress Grace Lee Whitney who alleged sexual assault by TV executive, dead at 85". Washington Post . Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  5. Rioux, Terry Lee (2005). From sawdust to stardust: the biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy. Simon and Schuster. p. 218. ISBN   0-7434-5762-5.
  6. Whitney, Grace Lee; Denney, Jim (1998). The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. Foreword by Leonard Nimoy. Clovis, CA: Quill Driver Books. p. 36. ISBN   978-1884956034.
  7. Staff, AP (May 4, 2015). "Grace Lee Whitney, Yeoman Janice Rand on 'Star Trek', Dies at 85". The New York Times . Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  8. Staff (May 3, 2015). "Grace Lee Whitney, original Star Trek cast member, dies in Coarsegold". The Fresno Bee . Archived from the original on May 7, 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  9. Staff (May 4, 2015). "Star Trek Actress Grace Lee Whitney Dies at 85". ABC News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 4, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2015.