Lola Albright was one of the most overlooked actors of her time
The Peter Gunn beauty waited more than a decade for the spotlight to find her.
In the Sixties, a pretty, yet distinctly older blonde with piercing blue eyes called Lola Albright suddenly became one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors.
It happened after she spent more years than she could count "wandering in the Hollywood jungle," despite appearing in meaty femme fatale-like parts in two massively successful films and critics universally praising her "enthralling power."
For Lola Albright, the spotlight just swerved her again and again, from the time she entered Hollywood in the mid-1940s to the time she took the role of Edie Hart on TV’s Peter Gunn in 1958.
As Edie Hart, Albright was 100 percent believable as a jazz singer because she was a jazz singer in real life.
"She was perfect casting for that role because she had an off-the-cuff kind of jazz delivery that was very hard to find," said Peter Gunn composer Henry Mancini in 1992. "Just enough to believe that she'd be singing in that club and that she shouldn't be on Broadway or doing movies."
She was so believable, in fact, she earned an Emmy nomination, and Columbia Records quickly moved to produce a follow-up to her 1957 record Lola Wants You, called Dreamsville.
(Mancini did the music on both. Today, both records are considered rare and cost a pretty penny when you can find recordings, even in CD form.)
After Peter Gunn, Albright had her choice of roles, and in her career, she appeared on the Big Screen as love interests to icons like Elvis and Frank Sinatra.
On TV through the Sixties and Seventies, she was also memorably featured in hit shows like My Three Sons, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Columbo.
She was also particularly effective in Westerns, especially in Bonanza episodes like "The Search" — where she played a saloon girl hired to track down Adam Cartwright’s impersonator — and "A Bride for Buford" — where she played a saloon singer with a shady boyfriend.
But just as quickly as Albright’s star rose in the Sixties, by the end of the Eighties, it had faded again.
After a final appearance in a 1984 episode of Airwolf, she retired, and in 2017, she passed away without returning to the screen again.
By the time Albright retired, she’d been lost in the Hollywood jungle for more than three decades, and she said in all that time, people were constantly scolding her for not taking more demure roles.
She didn’t see eye to eye with these fans and friends, even if playing the girl next door every now and again perhaps would’ve made her more famous, as they suggested.
"Some people come up to me and say, ‘Lola, you shouldn’t play that kind of part — it isn’t you,’" Albright said. "Well, I count to 10, bite my tongue and then tell them that I’m an actress: I don’t want to play myself."