Barbara Feldon was born in Pittsburgh as Barbara Hall on March 12, 1941. There is some question as to the exact year of her birthdate, but this is the "official" date provided by her agent, so I'm going to stick with it. She moved to New York City to become an actress and ending up winning the big prize on the game show, $64,000 question in 1957. She invested her money and her life in an art gallery, marrying her partner, Lucien Feldon in 1958. They later divorced in 1967.
Feldon had a successful career as a model and commercial star before being spotted by Buck Henry, who wrote the part of 99 specifically for her. Feldon signed on to do the pilot and just three more episodes, but after liking the pilot, she committed to starring in the series. Unfortunately, one of the show's sponsors had an objection to Barbara being a series regular, as a year earlier she had endorsed a competing product of the sponsor. This created quite a dilemma and the sponsor dug in his heels, despite the pleading of the network and the show's creative team. Barbara and Jay Sandrich both don't remember how they finally won the argument but win they did and Barbara signed a three year contract. However, as that contract ran out she "couldn't imagine anyone else using my number" and signed on for two more years.
Executive Producer Leonard Stern discusses her hiring:
"I remember when we signed Barbara because she made such an impression on us in a commercial where she was lying on a tiger and it was a very sensual performance and we thought shed be ideal. We had her under contract and we put her in a show in New York called Mr. Broadway with Craig Stevens. When we wanted Don to see who we felt was perfect for the role of 99 we ran this film for him. We had purposely shot it so that she would be able to be the role, but with another name. Don said, "My God, shes taller than Craig Stevens!" But, to his credit, he admired her. She generally worked the show without shoes, or with a models slump, or bending her knees. "
At a public appearance in 2003, she listed her favorite episode as The Impossible Mission because she loved the costumes and the romance. Her least favorite episode was "anything where we had to get wet, especially the one with the phone booth that filled with water (All In The Mind)."
Feldon's greatest post-Smart success has been in commercial voiceovers, which she continues to do today. She's also been busy as an actress as well, including guest shots on Cheers and Mad About You. Living in New York City, she recently performed a one-woman show off-Broadway, even singing her famous hit, "99".
Barbara has also written a book, "Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life" that was released Dec. 10, 2002. You can order the book online at Amazon.com. It's an excellent book that discusses how it's okay to not be married.
Unclassified Get Smart Site also has some great articles about Barbara.
Special thanks to Chris for helping me with the movie roles.
TV SHOW ROLES
Copyright 1995-2008 Carl Birkmeyer