Abby Dalton, who had a deceptively long career on TV that was capped off by her memorably successful run on the nighttime soaper Falcon Crest, died November 23 in Los Angeles at 88.
The cause of death, which was confirmed by her family, was not specified, but was attributed to "a long illness."
Born Gladys Wasden in Las Vegas on August 15, 1932, the saucy blonde got her start as a dancer and model.
She made her film debut in the Roger Corman (b. 1926) teen exploitation drama Rock All Night (1957). She went on to appear in several of his other lurid, crowd-pleasing flicks, including Teenage Doll (1957), Carnival Rock (1957), and The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957).
She was never fond of these roles, but chalked them up to being inexperienced. Presented with a cheesecake portrait of herself from the period in 2011, the actress laughed, declaring, "It's a perfect Hollywood picture — perfect. There's not an honest thing in it."
She was next directed by the esteemed actor Paul Henreid (1908-1992) in the not-so-esteemed Girls on the Loose (1958) and Oscar winner José Ferrer (1912-1992) in The High Cost of Loving (1958) opposite Ferrer and Gena Rowlands (b. 1930) before segueing into TV roles.
In 1958, she played Belle Starr on an installment of Schlitz Playhouse called Way of the West, and quickly became a familiar face on other westerns, including The Rifleman (1958), Have Gun - Will Travel (1958), Jefferson Drum (1958), Sugarfoot (1959), and Rawhide (1959).
On a 1959 episode of Maverick, the ingénue was the subject of a brawl between characters played by James Garner (1928-2014) and Clint Eastwood (b. 1930).
Other early TV work included appearances on Mike Hammer (1959) and Hawaiian Eye (1962) before she was cast opposite veteran Jackie Cooper (1922-2011) on the popular series Hennesey (1959-1962), playing nurse Martha Hale. She was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series in 1961.
Dalton immediately went into The Joey Bishop Show (1962-1965), playing Bishop's (1918-2007) wife for 90 of the show's 125 episodes.
She became an original and longtime recurring panelist on Hollywood Squares beginning in 1966, discovering that game shows offered her a venue to showcase her devilish wit and outsized personality.
Following her second series, Dalton was choosier with roles, making fewer episodic-TV appearances and averaging one feature per decade, including a winning turn as Calamity Jane in The Plainsman (1966) and a part in the children's movie A Whale of a Tale (1976).
She was in The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller in 1974 as the detective's wife, but the part was recast with Barbara Barrie (b. 1931) when it went to series in 1975.
Dalton achieved her widest audience as conniving, mentally disturbed vineyard heiress Julia Cumson on 98 episodes of Falcon Crest (1981-1986) and also gained a son-in-law for a spell — her TV son Lorenzo Lamas (b. 1958) was wed to her real-life daughter, actress Kathleen Kinmont (b. 1965), for four years.
Following her character's exit from Falcon Crest, Dalton made only a handful of appearances, including on Murder, She Wrote (1986) and in the features Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force (1989), Cyber Tracker (1994), Buck and the Magic Bracelet (1998), and Prank (2008).
In 2013, Dalton acted in a thriller short written and directed by Kinmont, which became her final performance.
In addition to Kinmont, Dalton is survived by her husband of 60 years, Jack D. Smith, their sons Matthew and John, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Check out these outrageously entertaining 1993 Vicki! talk show clips with not only Abby Dalton and her daughter, but also Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016), Sheila MacRae (1921-2014) and Florence Henderson (1934-2016) and their daughters: