The Cult of Gutsy Beauty of Linda Haynes (Part One)

*contains spoilers

Linda Haynes is an actress who worked for a short period in the film industry. In that time she gave a few unforgettable performances before retiring while not yet 35 years old, a victim of depression and substance abuse.

Beauty and talent: Linda Haynes

Linda felt trapped in the industry. She was also so beautiful that she probably had every bugger in the industry hit on her!

Her cynical persona is almost ironic, as you don’t know why a woman as beautiful as Linda would be in this situation in the first place.

This is part of her dynamic and maybe the reason why she left an indelible mark.

It must have been a question she must have posed for herself and for a time she lived within its parameters. Perhaps that is why she is so perfect to watch, or comfy… somebody described hers as a comfortable beauty. I think of it as a gutsy type of beauty as she is the woman who has been treated badly by men – yet still loves them.

Ladies first! A portrait of Linda around the time of Latitude Zero (1969)

Linda Haynes (1947-) left the industry after her persona played itself out to the end. From the fresh-faced young doctor in Latitude Zero (1969) to the cynical prostitute of Brubaker (1980) as well as the supposed Christian of The Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980 tv movie), you can watch Linda through her less than a dozen features as she grows and gradually faces the humiliation of being an actress in Hollywood who doesn’t quite make the top rank.

Toho Studio’s Latitude Zero (1969) trailer

She started off in Toho Studio’s Latitude Zero, the same company which made the Godzilla movies. Latitude Zero is a non-monster film, a kind of Captain Nemo adventure. She is “introduced” in the opening credits and indeed it is her first role as a young doctor on board a nearly 200-year-old submarine.

Latitude Zero costume

There is a scene where she and a couple of men must dive naked into a pool containing a liquid that will make their bodies bulletproof.

“Ladies first,” says Richard Jaeckel (1926-97 cancer) about who is to step first out of the pool.

“I think you better go first,” says Linda, her evident blonde and blue-eyed beauty a possible cause of an involuntary response from the men.

Her next feature would be in the Pam Grier (1949-) Blaxploitation flick Coffy (1973). She would play a bad girl prostitute who tries to humiliate Grier at a party full of fellow prostitutes and criminals but ends up with salad and dressing all over her clothes, only to be doubly humiliated when she grabs Grier’s hair, only to find she has concealed razor blades there.

Blaxploitation movie Coffy (1973) trailer

This led to a screen test at 20th Century Fox.

It would be Linda’s next film where she would make a permanent mark. That film is The Nickel Ride (1974) directed by Robert Mulligan (1925-2008 heart disease) and starring Jason Miller (1939-2001 heart attack) fresh from his success as Father Karras in The Exorcist (1973) and writing his play That Championship Season.

Coffy poster

Linda would play the wife to Miller’s character, who is some mid-range mafioso, who looks after buildings for storing stolen goods and hangs onto a big bunch of keys.

“Is there anything else?,” he asks his wife Linda in one scene.

“I need some money,” says Linda, whose voice, which sounds like a 1930s movie star, crackles immediately with life on the soundtrack. It is iconic and unforgettable. She is no dumb blonde.

Linda with her lover/pimp in Coffy was a first in interracial love affairs

This woman should have been a star you may tell yourself.

But as Linda said about her career: “I never wanted to be an actress. That just came to me. I never wanted to be in the spotlight at all. If anything, I wanted to be obscure.”

Jason Miller with Linda in The Nickel Ride (1974)

“This lady can do things you never thought of! Gimme a shimmy,” says Miller in The Nickel Ride as Linda indulges, naturally.

She is at home in the kitchen and in Miller’s bed. She is a natural beauty who will grow more beautiful with age.

Miller’s character in The Nickel Ride has fallen out of favour and his paranoia is real as he is shadowed by a hit-man he knows on a first name basis.

“What is it Coop? What’s happening?,” Linda asks Miller.

The Nickel Ride poster

“New people, new faces… things change,” says Miller.

Miller could well be talking about the movie business. Linda embraces him with her hair unbrushed. If there is any shabbiness in his being deposed in the business – there will be a new heir – but whether it will be the stupid hit-man Bo Hopkins (c1938-) remains to be seen.

The couple leave for the country to get away and get in a row-boat.

“It’s good for the bust,” says Linda “…they’re getting bigger” as they start rowing.

The Nickel Ride (1974) trailer

Living with Linda seems like domestic bliss and that is part of her charm and beauty. Indeed, I think she would have preferred that life than one in the movies and the possible pressures of refusing the casting couch.

She would reach her peak with Rolling Thunder (1977) and in that film we want to save her and she really wants to be saved. She is sick of the life of being a barmaid or possible prostitute as much as she hates the business of movies.

But I’m jumping ahead…

Life with Linda at home would be nice. Here with Miller again in The Nickel Ride.

Born to Swedish immigrant parents in 1947 in Florida under her original name of Linda Sylvander, she had a father who worked as a sea captain and as a result was away from home much of the time. She was a popular child model and had a younger pair of twin sisters who also worked in the industry. At sixteen she eloped to Los Angeles and found life tough despite her movie star looks. Then, in something out of the movies, she was discovered by a passing motorist who handed her his card, something which led to work in a play. Her married name, Handelman was proclaimed as too Jewish and so it was changed to Haynes – and it stuck. She preferred the camera to live audiences and admitted to having a personal relationship with the camera rather than an audience. Whatever it is, it works.

Linda conveys something more than just raw beauty in her acting

During her career, Linda became a lifetime member of the Actors Studio, something which shows she took her acting seriously. To the casual viewer, her performances of women who have been frequently trodden on during their life-time, aren’t performances from an actress of the Actors Studio.

Rolling Thunder poster

You would never know. I guess viewers just think playing the characters Linda did play was as simple as a whore playing a whore. Her near typecasting are in roles which would be regarded as below a method actress. But the real reason why we are left with such memorable performances… is that Linda’s portrayals are far more complex and the method she uses has created something incredibly natural. There is a dramatic dynamic in the supposedly simple type of woman she plays.

But the career trajectory wasn’t there after the financial and critical failure of The Nickel Ride and Rolling Thunder… something which would drive anyone to drink and prescription medication.

Linda is a life member of The Actors Studio

The Nickel Ride deserves repeat viewings as it is definitely an “art” picture.

“I know… I’m a big girl,” says Linda in that film before Miller shuts her out of his life and ends up throwing a punch at her.

Director Robert Mulligan

This is the reality of the gutsy Linda Haynes woman and the genesis of the world-weary persona in Rolling Thunder and to a lesser degree in The Drowning Pool (1975) and Human Experiments (1980).

The guilty dream Miller has as a result in The Nickel Ride where Linda is shot and killed by the friendly hit-man after his assault on Linda is one of the highlights of the movie.

Sadly, Linda doesn’t get enough scenes in The Nickel Ride and its failure is why her career didn’t blossom. But we know as she says “hold me for a second”, her blonde hair pulled back as she leaves Miller behind, we have seen a special actress at work.

Robert Mulligan’s The Other (1972) trailer

“That’s one fine woman. I’ve got a nose for good people,” says Victor French (1934-89 lung cancer) to Miller as the “key man” drops his bunch of keys from his lifeless hand, a victim of his assassin. It is like a comment on Linda the actress and person. It would be up to her to forge a career and a life in the industry without a man to help and protect her.

The Drowning Pool (1975) poster

There would be a bit of television for Linda before her next feature, the Paul Newman (1925-2008 lung cancer) movie The Drowning Pool. It is a sequel to Newman’s Harper (1966) and is based on a detective novel by Ross Macdonald (1915-83 Alzheimer’s disease).

“What’s so sexy about names?,” says Linda in The Drowning Pool, foreshadowing her name in her next feature Rolling Thunder.

The Drowning Pool (1975) trailer

She is playing a prostitute again and her features are harder than they would be a couple of years later in Rolling Thunder. I don’t know why that is… perhaps it’s the make-up, perhaps she was more relaxed by the time of the making of that movie… perhaps it was purely acting. But that voice is there… and surviving by the fact she knows where the bodies are buried, she has the closing line in The Drowning Pool: “Harper, you’re not such a tough guy”. She is a woman who knows the vulnerability of men. Good men and bad.

The final scene from The Drowning Pool slightly altered

Again there was no great fanfare or success for Linda and she had to wait a couple of years for her best acting role in Rolling Thunder. She also married again, this time to a rich man, described as “Svengali-like”. Despite having the riches for Rodeo Drive, Linda remained an unpretentious jeans and a tee type girl. But her husband wouldn’t be one to mix with the Hollywood elite and Linda would drift eventually into drink and prescription medication in isolation.

In Rolling Thunder, Linda plays a character named Linda Forchet. When I mentioned the reference to sexy names in The Drowing Pool… forchette is the name for a part of the female vagina, although it is pronounced differently.  Thus Linda has the ultimately sexy name for this film.

Linda in the crowd at the beginning of Rolling Thunder

In it, she plays a young yet world-weary Texan barmaid, who has been wearing the wrist band of an American soldier who has been held in captivity in a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam. He has been freed after a number of years and must now return back home to civilian life much to the admiration of his hometown of San Antone.

He is Major Charles Rane and is played by William Devane (1939-).

Linda has been wearing Rane’s bracelet as the two meet

“I have been looking forward to the day that I could be giving this back to you,” says Linda about a gift from the town of one silver dollar for every day he was in Hanoi’s hell hole – 2555 – and one for good luck! She kisses him on the cheek and there is an unspoken bond although Rane doesn’t realise it yet.

Rane’s wife has been unfaithful with the local sheriff who calls Rane’s son a “runt” for being too soft… Rane is a man with sadomasochistic impulses which have grown from his time of being tortured in Vietnam.

An English quad poster for Rolling Thunder (1977)

“It’s good to be home, Cliff,” he says to the sheriff – Rane faces a cliff symbolically – before he makes the sheriff perform a torturous recreation of a little rope trick they did to him in the Vietnamese prison.

“Higher until you feel the bones about to crack,” says Rane during the trick, before the sheriff relents. “That’s how you beat people who torture you – you learn to love them.”

Linda with William Devane behind the scenes of Rolling Thunder

This maybe a key to any woman who has lived and survived an abusive relationship… although that love came first! It continues after each session of torture. For some reason many stay in such relationships like a prisoner in hell. Linda doesn’t play a prostitute in the strictest sense in this movie, but she is definitely all woman. She has seen men at their worst with women, but also their best.

Devane’s character is a seriously traumatised after his experience

Linda’s character can relate to Rane. They’ve both been tortured and abused in relationships… as well as disappointed. They bump into each other in town and agree to have a drink. Despite being a barmaid at night, she still hangs out at the bar during the day. She clears her throat at the explanation. Perhaps she picks up a new friend for a few drinks… and it goes from there.

“You’re the strong, silent type, aren’t you?,” she says trying to charm him, as he’s better than the fat drunks she usually puts up with.

He thanks her for wearing his bracelet.

Devane gets his hand put down the garbage disposal much to his delight

“I’d love to do more,” she says, inviting him back to the bar when she’s working.

But before then, Rane’s house is invaded by murderous thugs who want the silver dollars, torturing him when he doesn’t reveal their location and placing his hand down the kitchen garbage disposal. Not that he really minds, as there is a perversity to his not giving in to the bastards. Then they take the money when his son reveals where it is upon arriving home with his mother. The son and Rane’s wife are shot and killed and Rane too is left for dead.

Does this relationship stand any chance? Linda gives a great performance.

Linda visits him in hospital, as does a fellow prisoner of war played by Tommy Lee Jones (1946-).

Rehabilitated and with a prosthetic arm, Rane returns home and grinds the hook on the arm to a point… he also asks Linda to join him in Mexico.

“Wednesday was always a slow night,” she says, inimitably, literally dropping her drinks tray to join him on his journey of possible revenge.

Rane gets her to ask for “Fat Ed” at local Mexican bars, hoping to find a contact to the men who slaughtered his family. “He’s a friend of a friend,” she says before being taken into a back room upon which she is almost set upon, before being saved by Rane and his hook and gun.

Linda knows The Cheatin’ Side of Town which is played in the background

Linda’s beautiful 70s and 80s – timeless really – blonde locks look beautiful with her sharp blue eyes and lightly tanned face. She is in full blossom in Rolling Thunder. And her acting chops are up to it as well…

“I’ve had it with lying men, Charlie. The one’s that say one thing and do another. The one’s that always let you down.”

Linda’s asking: are you gonna let me down? It’s been a seemingly long hard life for Linda but I don’t think Rane cares anymore. He just wants to hit target like any war veteran. She just wants to hit the target of Rane’s heart. She knows it’s there still, buried deep inside. Encased purely.

Linda is a woman who knows the best and worst of the best and worst men

They sit together at a café with the song Cheatin’ Side of Town playing in the background. It’s a theme for both their lives and symbolic of their hidden bond which hasn’t been realised physically!

Let’s take a break and read more on the Linda Haynes mystique in PART TWO.

1 Comment

  1. Adam Zanzie

    Not sure if you’ve seen it or not, but you should check out my video essay about the making of “The Nickel Ride”, currently available to watch on YouTube.

    Linda was a huge help in sharing her memories of the production with me.


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