Pamela Tiffin and Clay Felker: “We still have dinner. But life, it seems, is not a Doris Day movie.”

From a New York Times obit by Anita Gates headlined “Pamela Tiffin, 78, Star Who Left Holly.wood for Italy in the 60s, Dies”:

Pamela Tiffin, the bouffant-haired brunette model turned actress who leapt to movie stardom at 19 in a Tennessee Williams drama and a Billy Wilder comedy, then ran away to make Italian movies and retired from acting before her 32nd birthday, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Manhattan. . . .

Ms. Tiffin began her Hollywood movie career in two very different films. In “Summer and Smoke” (1961), based on the Williams play about a spinster (Geraldine Page) and her love for a local doctor (Laurence Harvey), she played the innocent and much younger woman who steals him away.

That same year she starred as the perky daughter of a Coca-Cola executive in Mr. Wilder’s political comedy “One, Two, Three.” Her character travels to Berlin and marries a sexy young Communist (Horst Buchholz) — very much against the wishes of her corporate watchdog (James Cagney).

But not long after making a 1965 film with Marcello Mastroianni, she largely abandoned Hollywood to star in Italian films. And in 1974, when she was barely in her 30s, she retired from acting altogether. That was not what movie-industry experts had predicted.

Interviewed by The Daily News of New York in December 1961, Mr. Wilder called her “the greatest film discovery since Audrey Hepburn.”. . .

He’d seen a lingerie ad in The New York Times Magazine; the photographer was Bert Stern, and the model, wearing only a slip, turned out to be Ms. Tiffin. In a 1962 photo essay in Esquire magazine, Mr. Stern recalled the shoot and called her “the movies’ hottest new female star.”. . .

Ms. Tiffin made two dozen films in the 1960s and the first half of the ’70s. She remained visible and marketable — playing a novice flight attendant in the romantic comedy “Come Fly With Me” (1963) and a rich man’s flirtatious daughter in “Harper” (1966), a mystery starring Paul Newman. . . .

In 1962, Ms. Tiffin married Clay Felker, then an editor at Esquire magazine. A year later he became the founding editor of New York, The Herald Tribune’s Sunday supplement, which later became New York magazine. He edited the magazine until 1977, while the marriage, not as long-lived, ended in divorce in 1969, after a long separation.

“We still love each other,” Ms. Tiffin told Earl Wilson, the syndicated columnist. “We still have dinner. But life, it seems, is not a Doris Day movie.”

In her memoir, “Daring: My Passages” (2014), the author Gail Sheehy, who became Mr. Felker’s next wife, reprinted a particularly civilized post-separation note from Ms. Tiffin.

“I hear that you have stopped seeing Gail Sheehy,” she wrote. “Don’t be foolish. She is a woman of fine character and great talent. Be good to her.”


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