‘High Chaparral’ Beauty Linda Cristal Dies @ 89

Linda Cristal, the Argentine beauty who scored on TV as the matriarch of a ranching family on The High Chaparral, died Saturday at 89.

ExtraTV reports she died in her sleep at her Beverly Hills home.

Born on February 23, 1931, in Buenos Aires, she lived and studied in Uruguay, then made a series of successful films in Mexico prior to her English-language debut.

Choosing acting over the nunnery, she said at the time she wasn't a very big actress in Mexico, "But then again, I wouldn't have been a very big nun."

For her English-language debut, she appeared in the CinemaScope western Comanche (1956) opposite Dana Andrews (1909-1992), setting the tone for her career.

One non-western in which she excelled was The Perfect Furlough (1958), and early Blake Edwards (1958) romp starring Tony Curtis (1925-2010) and Janet Leigh (1927-2004). As "The Argentine Bombshell," she made such an impression she received New Star of the Year from the Golden Globes — along with Tina Louise (b. 1934) and Susan Kohner (b. 1936). Good company.

Her other films were largely forgettable, including 1959's Legions of the Nile, a preposterous Cleopatra drama she thought would be her big breakthrough in the U.S., presuming that Americans liked nonsensical historical epics. Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was set to star in Cleopatra (1963), and the studio buried Cristal's take on one of history's most famous women.

On The High Chaparral (1967-1971), Cristal was Victoria Cannon, married to a powerful rancher (Leif Erickson, 1911-1986), a part she later revealed she had nabbed by giving an improvised, passionate audition.

She won an acting Globe in 1970 for her contributions to the series.

After that, her roles were few and far between, though she did guest on both The Love Boat and Fantasy Island (1981) in her late forties, looking perhaps more stunning than she had 20 years earlier. Her final performances were on a dozen General Hospital (1988) episodes.

Cristal, who was married and divorced twice, is survived by two sons and two grandchildren.

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