Diane Marie Antonia Varsi
Film & Television Actress
Varsi @ the Cosmic Baseball Association|
Varsi was drafted by the Paradise Pisces during the 2005 rookie draft. She joined the team as a right fielder last season. She had a very good rookie season, especially at the plate. She is currently on active duty playing her second season with the team. Quiet and aloof she is an important component of the Pisces team.
An Anti-StarDiane Varsi, like Francis Farmer before her, rebelled against the powerful Hollywood star system.
She began her career playing the role of Allison MacKenzie in the 1957 movie Peyton Place. For that debut performance she won an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her competition included winner Miyoshi Umeki (Sayonara), Carolyn Jones (The Bachelor Party), Elsa Lanchester (Witness for the Prosecution), and her co-supporting actress in the film, Hope Lange (Peyton Place).
Based on Grace Metalious's novel, the film was successful and Varsi began riding the wave of stardom. A headline for an article by Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons in Pictorial TView (6/8/1958) declared Varsi to be “Hollywood's Female Brando". She was "The strangest and most exciting actress in Hollywood today...the Marlon Brando of actresses" declared columnist Joe Hyams. But the quiet introspective daughter of a florist, who had had a "troubled [and] confused" childhood decided that fame and fortune were not her cup of tea.
She left Hollywood March 20, 1959 en route for New England with her young son, Sean, in tow.
Varsi didn't like what her career was doing to her. She hated the publicity, the prying questions, the exploding flashbulbs. She resented people trying to tell her how she must dress, walk and talk in order to keep her stardom. She resented having her private life stripped so completely from her. She felt herself continually naked before a group of peeping Toms...She and Shawn went to the airport and just flew away. She refused to do any stories on why she was leaving, but she did make a few statements. "It has nothing to do with the studio (20th Century Fox) itself. I just don't want to act anymore, or to be a part of this business. I don't like some of the ways of Hollywood. But my reasons go deeper, much deeper. It is the performing itself I object to. I find it too destructive to me. If I have any talent I will try to find some other outlet for it that will make me less unhappy." (Ref: Robert Aiken)
Varsi's friend, astrologer Robert Aiken observed that, "What the somewhat bohemian Diane I knew so well was truly unable to cope with was her own hypersensitivity. She was "Piscean," a psychic sponge. And, being epileptic (not commonly known), she would have occasional seizures -- often being very still and quiet for long periods, staring off into the distance -- "going remote" -- I would call it."
She returned to Hollywood and began making films again. In 1968 Varsi played Sally Leroy a former child star turned Congresswoman who experiments with LSD in the American International Pictures release of Wild in the Streets. Nominated for a Best Editing Oscar this film explores what a social reality would be like if everyone over thirty was forced into internment camps and dosed with lysergic acid (LSD)? The portrayal of the kinetic youth movement of the 1960s was typically Arkoffian (exploitive and sensational as many of producer Samuel Z. Arkoff's AIP films were). Varsi as Leroy declares that "America's greatest contribution has been to teach the world that getting old is such a drag."
Varsi was married three times and had two children: a son, Sean and a daughter, Willo.
Varsi's last film, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, was released in 1977 and little is known about her between then and her death from respiratory disease in 1992.
Related Links & References
Wild PlacesPeyton Place is about the hypocrisy that festers just below the surface in a small apparently "wholesome" New England town in the 1940s. Novels such as Grace Metalious's Peyton Place, muckraking journalistic exposes such as Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders and The Status Seekers, and films such as Rebel Without a Cause shattered the conventional images of suburbia. These successful works "revealed" to public view a brittle, hypocritical suburban life whose placid surface concealed mindless conformity, self-destructive hedonism, bitter hostility between parents and children and between husbands and wives, marital infidelity, and desperate unhappiness. Writers who focused on the lives of American women demonstrated that the majority of women whom society consigned to conventional roles of wife and mother were increasingly stultified by and discontented with these roles -- only to find that the larger society dismissed such feelings as "neurotic." Although largely ignored or trivialized at the time by the mass media, the discontents of suburbia presaged a societal and cultural upheaval that soon overtook American life as a whole.
Wild in the Streets is a warning shot at an increasingly youth-centric society. Teenage Jones leaves his home, blows up the family car, and sells LSD until he finally makes it big as a rock star named Max Frost. Rolling in the millions he's made, Jones accepts an offer to help Holbrook get elected to the office of US senator, appealing to the nation's youth. Jones manages to get the voting age lowered to 14 and inevitably is himself elected President. The "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30" banner is waved as Jones legislates work camps for the adults where they are fed LSD. His position is challenged, however, by those even younger than he who look at 14-year-olds as "old."
The distance from Peyton Place to Wild in the Streets, some ten years, traces an American culture at odds with its moral itself. Diane Varsi participated in that turmoil, professionally and personally.
Diane Varsi 2006 Cosmic Player Plate
Published: May 29, 2006