Deborah Raffin: Movie & TV actress + Dove audio-book entrepreneur dead at 59
Deborah Raffin, film and television actress, and Dove Books on Tape co-founder, died yesterday, Nov. 22, of leukemia at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Raffin was 59. (Image: Deborah Raffin ca. 1975.)
Born in Los Angeles on March 13, 1953, Raffin was the daughter of mid-1940s 20th Century Fox contract player Trudy Marshall (Dragonwyck, Sentimental Journey) and meat broker and restaurateur Philip Raffin.
Deborah Raffin movies
Deborah Raffin was featured in only a handful of movies, beginning with a supporting role in the Liv Ullmann / Edward Albert Jr 1973 romantic drama 40 Carats. Next came a lead role opposite Joseph Bottoms in Charles Jarrott’s The Dove (1974), but the romantic adventure drama didn’t create much of a stir.
It was a difficult time to be an actress in Hollywood movies, as roles for women, even those young and pretty, were few and far between. The Deborah Raffin movies of the late ’70s and early ’80s – e.g., The Sentinel (1977), with Chris Sarandon; The Ransom (1977), with Oliver Reed; Touched by Love (1980), with Diane Lane – were neither critical nor box office successes. Touched by Love, however, received enough attention to earn Raffin two quite disparate award nominations: a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress - Drama and a Razzie Award nod for Worst Actress of the year.
Perhaps the best remembered among Raffin’s ’70s and ’80s movies is Guy Green’s widely panned all-star melodrama Once Is Not Enough (1975). Adapted by Casablanca‘s Julius J. Epstein from Jacqueline Susann’s sensational novel, Once Is Not Enough featured the likes of Kirk Douglas (as Raffin’s father), David Janssen, Brenda Vaccaro, Alexis Smith, George Hamilton, Gary Conway, and Melina Mercouri, in addition to Trudy Marshall in a small role.
Deborah Raffin’s movie career came to a halt following the release of André Szöts’ horror thriller Grizzly II: The Concert (1987). She would be featured in only one more big-screen effort, Steven Hilliard Stern’s 1993 drama Morning Glory, co-starring Christopher Reeve, and adapted by Raffin and her The Dove director Charles Jarrott from LaVyrle Spencer’s novel.
Deborah Raffin television work
Deborah Raffin was much luckier on television, keeping herself busy for about three decades. Her credits include the TV movies Nightmare in Badham County (1976), which, at least according to Raffin’s Los Angeles Times obit, made her a star in China; and Michael Tuchner’s Haywire (1980), based on Brooke Hayward’s autobiographical bestseller about her family: mother and Hollywood star Margaret Sullavan (played by Lee Remick), and father and powerful Hollywood agent Leland Hayward (Jason Robards). Raffin played Brooke Hayward.
Among Deborah Raffin’s other major television credits was a key role in Noble House (1988), a miniseries based on James Clavell’s novel and starring Pierce Brosnan, and several episodes in the 1990s’ series 7th Heaven.
Dove Books on Tape
Dove Books on Tape was launched as a family business – Deborah Raffin and then-husband, music producer Michael Viner – in 1985. The company name was an homage to Raffin’s movie The Dove, while the books-on-tape idea reportedly materialized after novelist Sidney Sheldon lost $8,000 to Viner following a backgammon game. Instead of hard cash, Viner asked to produce two of Sheldon’s bestselling novels as audio books.
Among those who would later contribute their voices and/or stories to Dove Books on Tape’s various projects were Burt Reynolds, Elliott Gould, Roger Moore, Ruby Dee, Jason Robards, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, and Kermit the Frog.
After several financial setbacks in the mid-’90s, Dove Books on Tape, which became known for sensational books such as the recollections of a friend of O.J. Simpson’s murdered wife Nicole Simpson, was sold in 1997. Viner (sources vary on whether or not Raffin was also involved) later founded New Millennium Entertainment, which filed for bankruptcy in 2003 after a jury ruled it should pay $2.8 million to bookstore owner Otto Penzler, following a prior lawsuit involving author David Baldacci.
Raffin and Viner were divorced in 2005. He died of cancer four years later.
As per the IMDb, Deborah Raffin’s last work in front of the camera was two years ago, in a guest role in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, starring Shailene Woodley.