When you talk about a mixed background, you can’t go wrong with BarBara Luna. She’s of Italian, Hungarian-Jewish, Spanish, Portuguese and Filipino descent, and what a delightful recipe this is, resulting in a beautiful, multi-talented person. She has been associated with the Star Trek world for a memorable appearance and also to many classic TV shows. Let’s see what we can learn about this unique performer.
She was born in Manhattan on March 2, 1939, growing up on Broadway, where she literally started a career. Still being in high school, she was cast in the Broadway hit musical South Pacific, a part that required speaking and singing only in French. Another Rodgers and Hammerstein project followed, mainly The King and I, where she portrayed one of the children (she moved on to another more visible child role during the play’s duration).
Still in school, she won the understudy role of Lotus Blossom for Teahouse of the August Moon, a part that this time was entirely in Japanese. BarBara finally became the lead and toured for three years with the show, after her graduation. She began to appear in small parts and cameos for television shows and motion pictures, having made her big screen debut in 1958 for Tank Battalion, a Korean War drama. In 1961, for The Devil at 4 O’Clock, BarBara was cast as Frank Sinatra’s blind girlfriend; this led to more interesting roles.
Oddly, one opportunity that was not meant to be was to be in West Side Story, where she was the first choice to play Anita but the part eventually went to Rita Moreno. Considered a bit as look-alikes, there was no way that BarBara could play Maria, either. She would be Anita later in a stage revival in New York City. For reasons that I can’t explain, many of her roles and career choices always make me think of France Nuyen’s own credits, as the two share some similarities in their achievements.
Still in 1961, BarBara married stolid actor Doug McClure, an union that didn’t last more than two years. Listing all her television appearances would be quite a chore: for the last 50 years, she seemed to pop up in an amazing list of classic shows, notably in Mike Hammer, Have Gun – Will Travel, Perry Mason, Zorro, Bonanza, The Untouchables, Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits, The Wild Wild West, Ben Casey, The Invaders, Tarzan, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Kung Fu, The Six Million Dollar Man, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, Dallas, you name it. Of course, she often specialized in native girl parts or exotic women. Also, she could be seen in a couple of soap operas, mainly being bitchy in One Life to Live.
There were some interesting roles in motion pictures also, mainly for Five Weeks in a Balloon in 1962, Ship of Fools in 1965 and the very bizarre Che! in 1969. Still, you had a better chance to catch her on the small screen at that time if you were a fan. Her unique beauty was a breath of fresh air in any production. She was in a couple of Women in Prison films, namely Women in Chains in 1972 for TV and The Concrete Jungle in 1982, one of her most appreciated cult role as cell block queen Cat.
In 1967, BarBara was introduced to Star Trek fans as Lt. Marlena Moreau for the Mirror, Mirror episode, where some members of the crew got beamed up in a mirror universe ruled by barbarians. In that universe, Marlena is Captain Kirk’s partner, and here BarBara is astonishingly beautiful… there’s at least two action figures for that memorable character! For Star Trek: New Voyages (a non-official homage show), she took part in a 2004 episode, In Harm’s Way.
Let’s not forget her theater work, where she was part of A Chorus Line and eventually performed her own nightclub act to great reviews, An Evening with BarBara Luna. She also opened up for Bill Cosby on many occasions. That amazing ease to exploit her many talents is one of the reasons why she remains a very fascinating performer.
These days, BarBara is mainly active as a spokesperson for the Thalian Organization, a charity foundation at Cedars Sinai Hospital. It was recently announced that Clint Eastwood was their Mr. Wonderful 2008! Besides that, let’s admit that she still looks incredibly gorgeous… must be the positive attitude! This is our favorite kind of Cult Siren, who looks amazing, can do many artistic things at once, is very friendly at towards her legion of fans at conventions and doesn’t seem to age one single bit!
1958 Tank Battalion 1959 Cry Tough; The Blue Angel 1960 Elmer Gantry 1961 The Devil at 4 O’Clock 1962 Five Weeks in a Balloon 1963 Dime with a Halo 1964 Mail Order Bride 1965 Synanon; Ship of Fools 1968 Firecreek 1969 Che! 1973 Gentle Savage; The Gatling Gun 1976 Woman in the Rain 1982 The Concrete Jungle 1997 Fool’s Paradise