Popular '70s TV Actresses
Popular TV Actresses of the 1970s
Talented and lovely to look at, what a winning combination. This is a listing of some of the 70s most popular and busy television actresses. Some of these ladies entertained us each week working on shows like M.A.S.H, Maude, The Rockford Files and Police Woman to just name a few.
Others you may best remember as character actresses, who played a wide range of roles in made for television movies as well as appearances in our favorite TV series. How many of these ladies do you recall? Who is your favorite?
I would like you to note that this page has undergone a bit of a change. I have moved some information from here to its companion page, 70's Popular Female Teen Idols (you can find the link below) in an effort to not have over lapping material and to make this page a little more manageable.
Now, on with the show, so to speak, enjoy your visit!
Susan AntonClick thumbnail to view full-size
Born Susan Ellen Anton on October 12, 1950 (Libra). She graduated from Yucaipa High School in Yucaipa, California in 1968 and then attended San Bernardino Valley College.
She began entering beauty contests and won the title Miss California in 1969 and tied as second runner up in the 1970 Miss American contest.
Her first appearance on television was in the TV movie The Great American Beauty Contest (a young Farrah Fawcett also had a role in this movie). Other appearances in popular shows of the day followed.
In the early 70s she found work as the spokesperson for Muriel cigars and Serta mattresses. Her work in the commercials allowed her to gain a following and in 1978, ABC gave her a summer variety series, Mel and Susan Together costarring Mel Tillis. This four week venture allowed her to showcase her singing and comedic talents. Viewers did, though, find that pairing odd as she was a relative unknown while Tillis was a popular country singer.
In 1979, she landed she won the role of Susan Williams in a clever, but short-lived series called Cliffhangers which was NBC’s attempt to bring back to old-time movie serial genre (stories told in short segments over a period of weeks). Susan’s segment was Stop Susan Williams, and sadly, the series ended before her story line was finished, but her segments were made into a television movie, The Girl Who Saved the World that aired later in the year and offered up a satisfactory conclusion.
Also in 1979, she won her first leading role in a feature film Goldengirl which paired her with veteran actor James Coburn, but, sadly did poorly at the box office.
Around this time, the Pro Arts poster company (that’s right, the same company responsible for Farrah’s mega selling swimsuit pose) took an interest in Susan and released several posters that proved to be very popular.
When Time magazine named Susan one of the Most Promising Stars of 1979, NBC took another look at her and starred her in her own series Presenting Susan Anton, another variety series along the same lines as her 1978 venture, sans Mel Tillis, of course.
Today she is as busy as ever still active in the entertainment field, acting, singing, and even producing. She also donates a lot of her time and attention to a variety of charitable causes.
Susan with Fred Knoblock both Killin Time
Adrienne’s career began in 1968 on the Broadway stage with her debut in the classic play Fiddler on the Roof. A few years later, in 1972 she won the role of bad girl Betty Rizzo in the original Broadway production of Grease (which would earn her a Tony award nomination for Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Musical).
The 70s saw Adrienne winning the role of Carol Traynor in the classic sitcom Maude starring Bea Arthur running on CBS from 1972-1978. The role propelled her to stardom and opened the door to appearances on other popular shows of the day including Eight is Enough, Qunicy M.E. and The Love Boat.
In 1978, she joined the ranks of poster queen, when a cheesecake photo of her wearing a tight purple lingerie outfit became a best seller. It also adorns the front cover of her well received autobiography There Are Worst Things I Could Do released in 2006.
Barbeau's career moved from TV to the big screen in the 1980s, when she became a "scream queen" in horror films like The Fog (directed by her husband at the time, John Carpenter), Swamp Thing, Creepshow and others.
She is still a busy actress, working in both film and television.
Actress, singer and comedian Chelsea Brown was a regular on the classic Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In the sketch comedy show that ran from 1968 to 1973 on NBC. She was one of the first (along with Diahann Carroll in Julia) black women to have a regular role on a television series. She was often seen sporting a bikini wearing body paint all the while dancing and or exchanging one liners with Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn and Jo Anne Worley.
After her departure from the series she kept busy making appearances in Ironside, Matt Lincoln, Police Story and more. She eventually married Australian actor Vic Rooney and she moved permanently to Australia where she worked in film, television, stage and even recording a few albums. When her husband passed away in 2002, she came back to the US and lived in Chicago, Illinois until her death from pneumonia March 28, 2017.
Her Platinum blonde hair, buxom figure and memorable catch phrase of cuchi-chuchi made María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez, better known as Charo a house hold name.
This Spanish American actress, singer, comedian, and flamenco guitarist was discovered by bandleader Xavier Cugat and the two would marry on August 1, 1966 in Las Vegas. Cugat eager to show off his wife’s talents would regularly feature her in his shows in Las Vegas and New York. Between 1965 to 1967, she would make four appearances, along with her husband, on The Ed Sullivan Show, this coverage brought her to wider audience and by the early 70’s she was headlining in Las Vegas reportedly able to command fees that rivaled those of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
While not busy with her music career, Charo found time to make appearances on 70s favorites The Love Boat, Chico and the Man, Ironside and more.
In 1976 she starred in an unsold pilot episode of a series called Charo and the Sergeant. The episodes that were taped were only broadcast on the American Armed Forces Network overseas.
She would divorce Cugat in 1978 and then remarry to Kjell Rasten. The couple moved to Hawaii and lived for a number of years before returning to California in 2015. Charo still makes an occasional appearance on TV with her most recent being March 13, 2020 on Rupaul’s Drag Race.
Charo's Dance A Little Bit Closer
What was your favorite type of show to watch in the '70s?
It was a short-lived series in 1968, N.Y.P.D that got Gretchen her start on television. When the 70s rolled around, she found herself being cast in the Jon Voight comedy film Out Of It. The small screen called once again seeing her cast in a classic made for television movie, that has since become a cult favorite, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death in which she played a mute girl, simply known as The Girl.
She signed a contract with Universal Studios and soon found herself working in the pilot episode for the series Kojak. This allowed for other appearances in Ironside, Columbo, Hawaii Five-O and more.
Her career really took off when she was cast as lawyer Beth Davenport on The Rockford Files. She left the show after four years due to a contract dispute between Universal, which owned her contract, and the show's producers. That didn't slow her down, however, and she continued to make appearances in a variety of series over the years including some of her most recent work in the comedy series Portlandia that aired from 2011 to 2018.
Cathy Lee Crosby
Cathy Lee is a multi talented individual; actress, writer, producer, and professional tennis player.
Her first screen appearance was in 1968 in an episode of It Takes a Thief. When the 70s dawned, it wasn’t uncommon to find her guest starring in a variety of popular shows of the day like Marcus Welby, M.D., Canon, and Barnaby Jones to just name a few.
In 1974, she was cast as Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman in a made for television movie of the same name that was to be the pilot for a potential series. While the movie did well in the ratings, ABC wasn’t happy and wanted a bit of a revamp which is how, a year later, Lynda Carter would be cast as the popular comic book heroine.
Cathy kept busy during the 70s and by the beginning of the 80s found herself in the role that most remember her for, being co host for the That’s Incredible, a reality show of sorts that ran on ABC from 1980-84.
Crosby still works in front of and behind the camera. Look for an old copy of One Woman magazine from 1984. She was featured in the magazine's second edition, which includes beautiful, full-color photos of Crosby taken by six different photographers, quite the collector’s edition.
Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman
Did you watch Cathy Lee Crosby's 1974 television movie Wonder Woman?
In the mid 1960s, Phyllis went to California in order to pursue an acting career. She attended acting classes and managed to get very small parts in several films in 1966; Lord Love a Duck, Spinout with Elvis Presley and The Swinger with Ann-Margret. She was regarded as a promising up and coming star and continued to find work, though small roles until 1970 when she was cast as Susan Lake in the feature film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a film that is regarded today as both a cult favorite and one of the worst films ever made.
The 70s saw Phyllis getting more television roles, among them a seven episode stint on Love, American Style between 1970 and 1973. She would continue to make guest appearances on popular 70s shows including The Odd Couple, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman and the role that she is probably best remembered for that of Beatrice Travis on the popular Robert Urich series Vega$ which ran from 1978 to 1981.
She continued to work sporadically into the 1990s. Sadly this lovely lady died of cancer on September 27, 2013, at age 73 in Henderson, Nevada.
Angie Dickinson has had a long career in films and television beginning back in the 1950s with bit parts on various television shows and feature films.
In 1974, she became a house hold name when she starred as Sergeant Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson in Police Woman, a series that broke new ground with its portrayal of a woman as not only a police officer, but the focal point of the show. This series would open the door to other shows that had a female lead including The Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels and Wonder Woman.
In 1999, Playboy Magazine listed Angie as number 42 on their "100 Sexiest Stars of the Century" list and in 2002, TV Guide would ran her as number three on their “50 Sexiest TV Stars of All Time." Not bad for a woman who once considered a career in journalism.
Lola was discovered by singer Sammy Davis, Jr., who became her friend and mentor and gave her a role in his 1964 Broadway show Golden Boy.
A talented singer, she recorded first single in 1965, My Baby released on Mercury Records. In 1966, she was cast in her first feature film, A Man Called Adam, opposite Sammy Davis Jr. The movie was a musical drams about the life of self destructive jazz musician played by Davis.
Falana's career took off in the '70s with guest-starring roles in TV series including The New Cosby Show and The Streets of San Francisco. She was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her work in the feature film The Liberation of L.B. Jones.
In 1970, she posed for Playboy magazine and was hired by Fabergé to advertise their line of cosmetics and perfumes under the Tigress brand.
The 70s also saw Lana have a lucrative career in Las Vegas being awarded the title of "Queen of Las Vegas" as her numerous shows at The Riveria, The Sands, and the MGM Grand hotels always sold out. At that time she was the highest paid female performer in Las Vegas earning up to $100,000 per show with her show running twenty weeks a year. She never failed to dazzle and entertain her audiences.
In 1980, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but continued to work until the summer of 1987 when the disease came to a crest and brought her career to a halt. By the fall of that year, the disease had paralyzed the left side of her body and she was unable to move her arm or leg and she found it difficult to talk as well. While her doctors offered her little hope, she was determined to over come and she turned to God, becoming a Catholic. Armed with faith and prayer as well as physical therapy, she was up and walking within five months.
Falana no longer performs and spends much of her time involved with the Lambs of God Ministry, which helps orphan children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Lynda Day George
Lynda began modeling at age 12 and in the 1960's she started to get work in television by making appearances on popular shows of the day.
In 1966, she met actor Christoper George when they worked in the film The Gentle Rain. They worked together again in the 1970 John Wayne film, Chisum. They eventually fell in love and married on May 15, 1970.
In a magazine article interview done in 1971, she had three goals: She wanted to be the best wife and mother she could possibly be. She wanted to fulfill what the rest of her family, friends and pets needed of her. She wanted her career to continue.
In 1970-71, she starred as Amber Cole in the short-lived series, The Silent Force. She was then cast as Lisa Casey an expert in makeup and disguise in Mission:Impossible. Her work in the series garnered her a Golden Globe nomination in 1972 and an Emmy nomination in 1973.
Sadly, her husband, Christopher died of a heart attack at age 52 (some sources state age 54) on November 28, 1983. Lynda worked only sporadically after his death.
Erin Gray's modeling career began at age 15, but TV viewers got their first glimpse of this beautiful lady when she appeared in commercials for Camay soap, Breck shampoo, and RC Cola. It wasn't long until Gray was making guest appearances on TV shows like Police Story and the short-lived Gibbsville.
In 1978 she took a role in Evening in Byzantium, which led to the role of Colonel Wilma Deering on the series Buck Rogers in The 25th Century. Her role in the series was an important one, because she was TV's first female colonel who showed that women could be strong and in charge. Back in the 70s this was a fairly new concept.
After appearing in the Buck Rogers, she made an appearance on Magnum P.I. starring Tom Selleck. Her character, Joy 'Digger' Doyle was a security expert and rumor had it that she was to star in a spin-off series that never materialized.
Gray is still active in the business and some of her most recent work was a role on the web series Star Trek Continues as Commodore Gray.
Shelley Hack began her career as a teen fashion model and becoming the face associated with the Revlon perfume Charlie.
It was when she replaced Kate Jackson, in the fourth season of Charlie's Angels, that Hack got her big break. She was Tiffany Welles, a beautiful young woman who hailed from Boston. She was tall, educated, and refined. She stood out from the other angels and some fans felt that she simply didn't fit in. She left the series, but not before being blamed publicly for the series falling ratings. She was replaced by another lovely lady, Tanya Roberts, but ratings didn't improve and the show was cancelled.
Hack went on to work in a variety of television movies and stared in two short-lived comedy series, Cutter to Houston (1983) and Jack and Mike (1986-87). Both series received positive reviews from critics, but simply couldn't find their audience.
Hack continues to be involved in the world of entertainment as she and her husband produce content for television and film and new media through their production company Smash Media.
Charlie's Angels: Shelley Hack's Tiffany Character
Did you like Shelley's character, Tiffany Welles?
Mariette Hartley's career began on stage and her first film role was in the 1962 film Ride the High Country with Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea.
Hartley did more TV and film work during the '60s, but her career took off in the 70's with a series of commercials for Polaroid instant cameras opposite James Garner. The pair was successful as a couple that it was rumored, falsely, that they were married in real life. Hartley won an Emmy in 1978 for "Married" an episode of The Incredible Hulk.
I remember Mariette Hartley in the Disney movie, Mystery in Dracula's Castle. How cool it would be if Disney would release their old TV movies on DVD!
Pamela Hensley career in television and movies began in the early '70s with roles on popular shows including Marcus Welby, M.D., Ironside, and The Rockford Files. She also appeared in the films Doc Savage: Man of Bronze and Rollerball.
There are two roles that most folks associate with Hensley. The first is the evil, scheming Princess Ardala on the '70s sci-fi series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The second is her role was CJ in the '80s series, Matt Houston. After Matt Houston ended, Hensley disappeared from the entertainment business, only to reappear as an author in 2004 with the publication of The Jewish-Sicilian Cookbook.
Jayne Kennedy is an actress, model, and sportscaster. In 1970 she became the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss Ohio. She went on to become one of the ten finalists for Miss USA. Kennedy married actor and writer Leon Isaac Kennedy and in 1978 they moved to Hollywood to pursue careers in entertainment.
Kennedy did guest stints in many popular '70s shows, including Shaft, Kojak, Sanford and Son, Starksy and Hutch, and The Six Million Dollar Man. Kennedy also starred as a model who moonlighted as a secret agent in a short-lived series called Cover Girls.
In 1978, she broke into the male-dominated world of professional football when she became the first female sportscaster on NFL Today.
At the age of 12 Audrey Landers wrote a country song that got her a recording contract with Epic Records. She made appearances on Merv Griffin and eventually signed a contract to star on the daytime drama, The Secret Storm. More than just a pretty face, Landers studied music at Julliard School in New York while majoring in psychology at Columbia University.
Landers made several guest appearances on television, including episodes of Emergency, Happy Days, Police Woman, and even a very short-lived series called Highcliff Manor. But her biggest success came in the 1980s when she took the role of Afton Cooper on Dallas.
Landers has recorded ten albums and has a successful music career in Europe. With her younger sister, Judy Landers, she did a photo shoot for Playboy in January, 1983.
Judy Landers has made a career playing dim-witted blondes. One of her first television appearances was as Boom Boom on Happy Days in the episode titled "Bye Bye Blackball." Landers landed an 11-episode stint on Vega$ and her next role came in 1981, playing Stacks in BJ and the Bear.
Landers worked with her sister Audrey on several projects. The venture they are the most proud of is the kid's show, The Huggabug Club. The sisters created the show and wrote nearly 150 songs to be used on the episodes. The Huggabug Club won the Parent's Choice Award and the Dove Foundation Award.
Thanks to the reader who suggested that I add Carol Lynley to this list. Lovely Lynley was a child model before she began acting at age 15. She worked on both the stage and screen and was nominated in for a Golden Globe in 1959 for her work in Blue Denim on Broadway. It was a controversial play about a young girl who has to find a way to deal with the fact she is pregnant. Lynley was in the film version too. Pretty dramatic and shocking stuff for the 1950s!
Lynley went on to appear in a variety of films and TV shows. In the '70s she guest-starred on The Immortal, The Sixth Sense, Mannix, and appeared in the pilot episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
Sadly, Carol passed away at age 77 on September 3, 2019.
Lee Meriwether won the 1955 Miss America pageant and began to do guest spots on a variety of TV shows. A popular misconception is that Meriwether portrayed Catwoman on the classic '60's Batman series. In reality, she only played that role in the 1966 film, Batman: The Movie.
Starting in 1969, Meriwether replaced Barbara Bain on the series Mission Impossible, completing eight episodes. We might remember Meriwether best for her role as Betty Jones on the series Barnaby Jones ,which ran from 1973 to 1980.
She continues to work on TV, stage, film and game voice-overs.
London born Joanna Pettet's acting career started on the Broadway stage in a series of plays which brought her to the attention of director Sidney Lumet who cast her as Kay in the 1966 film The Group. The film was a success at the box office and this opened doors for Pettet to work in a variety of other 60's films including The Night of the Generals and Casino Royale and she appeared in a variety of roles on popular 60s television shows as well.
Once the 70s rolled around her work in feature films slowed and she took to making a string of made-for-television-movies as well as making multiple appearances in popular 70s and 80s television shows.
Pettet's last film appearance was in 1995 film Terror in Paradise. She has since retired from the entertainment business and spends much of her time working for animal charities.
Lovely, sultry-voiced Suzanne Pleshette began acting on the stage in 1957. By the 1960s, she started to get work in films and eventually television, too.
In 1972 Pleshette was cast as Emily Hartley, wife of psychologist Robert Hartley (Bob Newhart), on The Bob Newhart Show. After the series ended in 1978, Pleshette worked in a variety of other roles.
In 2006 Pleshette had surgery as part of lung cancer treatment. Sadly, she died of respiratory failure on January 19, 2008. She is buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Stefanie Powers was just 15 when she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures. The studio considered Powers to be one of the brightest new talents at the time, but her career in film was short-lived. Powers took five years off and then focused her attention on the small screen, taking on the role of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. in 1967. When that series ended, Powers made numerous guest appearances on television series including The Mod Squad, Banacek, The Rookies, and Harry O.
In 1976, Powers starred in a series called Feather and the Father Gang which lasted for 14 episodes. She also did a turn on the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, playing a space traveler named Shalon.
In the 1980s she went starred with Robert Wagner in the very successful series, Hart to Hart. In 2010 she released a memoir, One from the Hart.
Katherina Freiin Schell von Bauschlott, better known to American and British audiences as Catherine Schell, graced our TV screens in the classic sci-fi series Space 1999 from 1975-77.
Schell joined the cast in the second season in the role of Maya, from the planet Psychon. Maya had the ability to morph into any life form, but could stay in that state for less than an hour. She added a super-hero aspect to the show, shape-shifting into one creature or another and coming to the rescue.
Schell also had the distinction of being a Bond girl. She appeared in the 1969 film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, credited as Catherina Von Schell. It wasn't until her role in the television movie Madame Sin that she began to go by the name of Catherine Schell.
In 1972, Laurette Spang signed a seven-year contract with Universal Studios which led to guest appearances on a variety of shows including Lou Grant, Charlie's Angels, and Adam 12 among others.
Spang was cast as Cassiopeia in the television movie Saga of a Star World, the pilot for the Battlestar Galactic series that ran from 1978-79.
After that series ended, Spang made a series of guest appearances on other TV shows. In 1980 she married actor John McCook and in 1984 she retired from acting to begin a family.
Loretta Swit began her career in 1967 doing stage acting. In 1969 she came to Hollywood to do guest stints on popular series including Mannix, Gunsmoke, Hawaii 5-O, and Mission: Impossible.
In 1972, she took the part of Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the television adaption of the film M*A*S*H. She took over the role from Sally Kellerman. Swit remained with the series for its entire run, from 1972-1983.
After leaving M*A*S*H, Swit was cast in the pilot movie for the series Cagney and Lacey, playing Chris Cagney. She was unable to continue with the role due to contractual obligations. Meg Foster, and finally Sharon Gless, would assume the role in the classic female cop series.
Swit is very committed to animal rights causes and lends her time as a spokesperson for those issues.
Lovely Carol Wayne's career began in the 1960s with appearances on such popular shows as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, and I Dream of Jeannie.
Wayne's career expanded in the '70s with roles on Mannix, Love American Style, and Emergency!. But she may be most remembered for her work with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. She played the Matinee Lady alongside Carson's Art Fern, who would often make jokes about her lovely appearance and ample bosom.
Sadly, while vacationing in Manzanillo, Mexico in 1985, Wayne went for a walk on the beach and disappeared. Her body was found three days later by a fisherman, floating in a shallow bay. At first, her death was ruled suspicious but after an autopsy revealed no sign of foul play, her death was labeled accidental. There are those, however, who still believe that her death was not an accident.
Again, I just want to remind you that I "cleaned" this page up a bit, removing some material and placing it on my Popular 70s Female Teen Idol page where it seemed to fit better. You can find the link to that page below.
Also below is a guest book and please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question (I will answer to the best of my ability), tell us about your favorite TV actress of the 70's (whether she is listed here or not). All comments are moderated before appearing, so please keep things reader friendly.
70s Female Teen Idols
- 1970s Popular Female Teen Idols
A listing of 70s television actresses who were some of that decades most popular female teen idols!
© 2010 Glory Miller