Barbara Bain Played Cinnamon on TV's "Mission: Impossible." See Her Now at 90.
Here's what the actress has to say about her work on the famous spy show.
The wildly popular film adaptation of Mission: Impossible hit theaters in the mid-'90s, and with Tom Cruise headlining as the secret agent, Ethan Hunt, it was an instant blockbuster. But long before Cruise starred as the spy action hero, there was another version of the story: a CBS TV series by the same name. The show lasted for seven seasons, from 1966 through 1973, and was later revived in 1988 on ABC. The original cast featured Steven Hill, Peter Lupis, Greg Morris, Peter Graves, and Martin Landau as Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agents.
The gang also featured one female lead, Barbara Bain, who played the femme fatale, Cinnamon Carter. A triple-threat fashion model, actress, and IMF agent, she quickly became a fan favorite among the show's followers. Today, Bain is 90 years old and seemingly hasn't slowed down since the day she was cast. Read on to see her now, over 55 years after the show began!
Bain got her start as a dancer and model before she started acting.
Bain was born Mildred Fogel in Chicago, Illinois in 1931. Though the actress says she grew up planning to become a teacher or social worker, she found a passion for the performing arts after "wandering" into a dance class while attending college at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. At the time, both of her roommates were in the drama department, she recalled in a 1992 interview, a pursuit she found "amazingly heroic."
Soon after becoming "enamored" with dance, she moved to New York City to study at the Martha Graham Dance Studio and threw herself into acting classes during her free time. "I was modeling at the time in order to pay for my classes, and I walked into this theater space and I was called up to do something. I could do nothing. I was hopeless!" she recalled, describing her early acting as "quite extraordinarily inept."
She says she succeeded out of sheer "stubbornness."
Bain says that through "stubbornness" and determination, she was able to master the craft of acting. Though Bain says she wasn't immediately good at acting, she says she was immediately drawn to the stage. "There was some kind of incredible sense of coming home. I didn't know why. But something about my feet on that stage floor and in that place felt like home to me."
From there, Bain relocated to Los Angeles with her husband, actor Martin Landau, thanks to a theater opportunity there. "We were young actors and work was still very exciting," Bain told NBC Chicago in 2012. "We had come from New York in a tour of a Broadway play and stayed here because all sorts of work offers kept showing up, so we never got back to New York though that was our intention."
For nearly ten years, she continued her acting classes while landing small roles on TV series—some of which, like Hawaiian Eye, Perry Mason, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, were exceptionally popular in their day. Finally, in the mid-'60s, she was cast as Cinnamon Carter, a role that would land her three Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award nomination.
She inspired the role of Cinnamon Carter.
Bain shared with NBC that she became cast as Cinnamon Carter thanks to an acting class she studied in alongside Landau and the show's eventual creator, Bruce Gellar. She later learned, despite auditioning for the role against many other young actors, that Gellar had in fact written the part with her in mind.
"He wanted her to be terribly sexy and terribly smart, and the combination was not sort of exactly running around in Hollywood at the time," Bain told NBC. "You were either the dumb blonde or the intellectual, nice person that lived next door. He wanted this combination, and, he said, there I was. He never told me that he actually wrote it for me until after I was cast, and I auditioned over and over and over with all kinds of other folks," Bain recalled.
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She has also enjoyed a successful career after Mission: Impossible.
In 1969, three seasons in, Bain left the show with Landau following a contract dispute with the network. Shortly following her departure, she starred in a string of made-for-TV movies, including Murder Once Removed, Goodnight My Love, and Savage.
In 1975, Bain once again headlined with her husband on the sci-fi TV series Space: 1999. The show lasted two seasons, during which she played Dr. Helena Russell, Chief Medical Officer of Moonbase Alpha. Though the series itself was short-lived, she would later reprise the role for several TV movies, including Alien Attack, Journey Through the Black Sun, Destination Moonbase Alpha, and Cosmic Princess.
Incredibly, at 90 years old, Bain is still acting to this very day. Over the past few decades, she's performed in feature films, shorts, TV episodes, and theater productions. Most recently, in 2020, she appeared in the Sofia Coppola film On the Rocks, starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones.
"I don't have a complaint in the world about this career that I've had," she told NBC in 2012. "That was a great launch that I had with Mission, and I value it and everything since."