Abby Dalton, Actress on 'Falcon Crest' and 'The Joey Bishop Show,' Dies at 88

Abby Dalton
Courtesy The Procko Group

Abby Dalton

The Emmy nominee also starred on 'Hennesey,' played Calamity Jane on the big screen and was an original panelist on 'The Hollywood Squares.'

Abby Dalton, the bubbly actress who starred on the 1960s sitcoms Hennesey and The Joey Bishop Show before portraying the scheming winery heiress Julia Cumson on the primetime soap Falcon Crest, has died. She was 88.

Dalton died Nov. 23 in Los Angeles after a long illness, her family announced.

Dalton began her career appearing in several Roger Corman movies, including The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), and was an original and longtime panelist on The Hollywood Squares, which premiered on NBC in 1966.

She worked for two seasons (1967-69) on the CBS sketch comedy program The Jonathan Winters Show and portrayed Calamity Jane opposite Don Murray and Guy Stockwell in The Plainsman (1966), a remake of the classic Gary Cooper-Jean Arthur 1936 Western.

She also played the wife of Hal Linden's character in the pilot for the ABC comedy Barney Miller but was replaced by Barbara Barrie when the show was picked up as a midseason replacement in January 1975.

From 1981-86, Dalton starred as the older daughter of Jane Wyman's Angela Channing and mother of Lorenzo Lamas' lazy playboy Lance Cumson on the CBS primetime soap opera Falcon Crest, created by Earl Hamner Jr. and set in the Napa Valley.

Oppressed by her domineering mom, Julia winds up psychologically disturbed, shoots two people, escapes from a psychiatric hospital run by nuns, presumably dies in a cabin fire and then goes to live in a convent early in the sixth season, never to be seen on the series again.

Born Marlene Wasden in Las Vegas on Aug. 15, 1932, Dalton worked as a model and a dancer at the Sands Hotel in her hometown and at the Moulin Rouge in Hollywood.

She made her onscreen debut for Corman in Rock All Night (1957), followed by Teenage Doll (1957), Carnival Rock (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women — as Desir, the leader of a group of women who take to the high seas in search of their missing men — and Stakeout on Dope Street (1958).

"I was never really fond of any of [those films], quite honestly," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. "I was so naive and such a novice. The first time I ever walked on to a soundstage was to play the lead in one of his films."

She also kept busy with guest-starring turns on such shows as Have Gun — Will TravelRawhideMaverickThe Rifleman and Mike Hammer before landing on the CBS comedy Hennesey. She played Martha Hale, a Navy nurse and girlfriend of Jackie Cooper's doctor character, and received an Emmy nomination in 1961. (After three seasons, the couple got married on the final episode in 1962.)

Soon after the Hennesey nuptials, Dalton joined NBC's The Joey Bishop Show as Ellie Barnes, the newlywed wife of Bishop's TV show host character, for its second season. In 1963, Ellie gave birth to a son played by Dalton's real-life infant, Matthew David Smith; later, Ellie and Joey had another child, and that was Dalton's daughter, Kathleen.

Dalton also appeared on episodes of My Three SonsNanny and the ProfessorPolice Story and The Waltons and in the William Shatner-starring A Whale of a Tale (1976) before Falcon Crest beckoned. She did little acting after leaving the CBS series.

Dalton was always fun to have on game shows; in addition to The Hollywood Squares, she was a frequent player on iterations of The $25,000 PyramidPasswordMatch Game and Body Language.

An avid skier, accomplished equestrian and ranked amateur celebrity tennis player, she was a major supporter of the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes higher education and cultural enrichment in the Mammoth area.

Her daughter, Kathleen Kinmont, was married to Lamas (her mom introduced them) and starred with the son of Arlene Dahl on the '90s TV show Renegade. (Kinmont later married and divorced actor Jere Burns).

In addition to her daughter, survivors include her husband of 60 years, Jack D. Smith; their sons Matthew and John; grandchildren Mac, Jack and Ayden Grace; and great-grandson Mathias.