Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Retro Gals: Lynda Carter

Bobbi Jo and the Oulaw with Lynda Carter

With the recent Wonder Woman TV news, a lot of fans can’t help but think about Lynda Carter.  Last week, the DC / Warners publicity machine released the first photo of Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman.  The reaction from the interwebs, I have to say, was not positive, but Lynda Carter told EOnline that it looked just fine.  A classy thing to say—but for all of us who grew up with the old TV show, Lynda Carter will always be a tough act to follow.  Born of mixed Irish and Spanish heritage in 1951, Carter had the most amazing resemblance to Diana Prince even before the TV show was filmed.  The picture above was taken around the time she starred in Bobbi Jo and the Outlaw, a 1976 film co-starring Marjoe Gortner.  Was it a poster?  I can’t recall, but it’s an image that represents Carter in her youth before the WW avalanche occurred.  While I’ve never seen anything with Adrienne Palicki, it is interesting to note that her IMDB resume contains a lot more work than Carter had before WW.  Lynda was a virtual unknown in 1975, having made a few guest appearances on a couple of TV shows such as Matt Helm.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was a big ratings hit on ABC TV when it debuted in November 1975.  All the kids talked about it at school the next day, and adults were talking as well.  A comic book collecting judge from Corpus Christi Texas was wildly enthusiastic.  I was amazed that the movie took place during World War 2!  That took guts on the part of the producers and it was appropriate, given the character’s first appearance in 1941.  But the biggest reason for the popularity of the show was Lynda Carter, and it wasn’t just because of her physical resemblance.  She owned the character of Diana Prince, in and out of costume.  I recently read about the casting of the new Superman.  Zach Snyder said that dozens of actors tried out for the role, but most of them failed to get the part after a costume test.  You have to be able walk out in front of people and not feel silly.  Carter gave off an aura of confidence, power, and noble grace when she wore Wonder Woman’s outfit.  And while she was sexy, Carter never came off as slutty—in fact, I can’t recall other women denigrating her during that time period.  I feel the exact same way about Christopher Reeve and Superman.  A perfect pairing of actor and super-icon.  I can’t say the same thing about the writing of the show, for the most of the episodes were downright silly.  It was also frustrating to see the low budget production.  In the comics, Wonder Woman could throw around planes and fought the Cheetah or other super-powered villains; she even battled Superman!  Despite the fact that the show never came close to the comic book version, Wonder Woman was good family entertainment.  I’ve heard that some of today’s kids watch the DVD sets (or repeats on cable) and have fun with it, largely in part because Lynda Carter is charismatic and fits the character so perfectly.  Over thirty years later, her name remains synonymous with Wonder Woman.  The other day I noticed that my Google Adsense results contained a link to Carter’s website on a WW article.

Lynda Carter, Country Gal

Lynda Carter became a big celebrity out of the Wonder Woman’s shadow when the show was over.  She was featured on many different magazine covers throughout the 1970s and 1980s and became the model for Maybelline cosmetics ads.  Carter had a singing career and appeared in a lot of made for TV movies and mini-series, most notably a biopic of Rita Hayworth in 1983.  In 1984, I was certain that Carter had found her next big hit TV series, a vehicle called Partners In Crime.  Co-starring Loni Anderson from WKRP In Cincinnati, the show was about two female private detectives in San Francisco.  What could be better than watching two beautiful women solving crime each week, one blonde, the other brunette?  It was like grown-up Betty and Veronica solving crime.  But the show was a failure, getting cancelled after 13 episodes.  I kept waiting for her to star in another TV series, or even take a supporting role in a show like Dallas or Dynasty.

Lynda Carter at home with kids

I suspect that never happened because Lynda Carter settled down with her second husband, Robert Altman (an attorney, not the film director).  The picture above was from a magazine in the 1990s, around the time her kids were small.  She still looked like a Wonder Woman!  Some of her more recent film appearances include Super Troopers, The Dukes of Hazzard movie (very funny scenes with Willie Nelson), and Sky High—a movie that most comic book fans will enjoy.  It’s about a high school for superheroes, starring Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Lynda Carter as Principal Powers.  Powers has a line with a nod to Carter’s past: "I can't do anything more to help you. I'm not Wonder Woman, y'know."  Nuff Said!


  1. Great post, Richard! Thanks for the memories -- I think all of us Bronze Age kids can relate to just about everything you said, especially the marriages of Carter to the WW character and Chris Reeve to Superman. I totally agree.




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