Deanna Lund, Actress on 'Land of the Giants,' Dies at 81

Deanna Lund - P 2018 Photofest

Earlier, she appeared in the films 'Johnny Tiger' and 'Tony Rome' and as The Riddler's moll on 'Batman.'

Deanna Lund, who played one of the seven castaways trying to survive in a world of large, unfriendly people on the 1960s ABC series Land of the Giants, has died. She was 81.

Lund died Friday at her home in Century City of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, actress and novelist Michele Matheson, told The Hollywood Reporter. She was diagnosed in September.

Lund starred as Valerie Scott, a selfish party girl, on the Irwin Allen-created series, which aired for two seasons, from September 1968 until March 1970.

Set in the year 1983, 20th Century Fox's Land of the Giants revolved around the crew and passengers of the spaceship Spindrift, which on the way to London crashed on a planet whose humanoid inhabitants were hostile and unbelievably huge. The show was extremely expensive to make, costing a reported $250,000 an episode.

The sexy Lund had appeared as a redheaded lesbian stripper opposite Frank Sinatra in Tony Rome (1967) and as Anna Gram, a moll working for The Riddler (John Astin), on ABC's Batman, leading to her being cast on the show.

The "little people" did many of their own stunts, and Lund hung from ropes over flames and was carried off by an ape, dropped into specimen jars, taped to tables and used as a pawn on a giant chessboard.

In 1970, the actress married the late Don Matheson, who portrayed tycoon Mark Wilson on Land of the Giants, shortly after the series was canceled. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1980, but her daughter told THR in 2014 that they remained the best of friends.

"They talked several times a day, laughed and drove each other nuts and lived across the street from one another or within a couple blocks for the last 35 years," said Michele, who played Angela Shostakovich on the 1985-90 ABC sitcom Mr. Belvedere.

Born on May 30, 1937, in Oak Park, Illinois, Lund was raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. Her father, Arnold, ran a beach motel, The Surf and Sand, where the family lived. Lund studied acting at Rollins College in Winter Park, and, after a brief marriage to a rodeo rider, worked as a weather girl on a TV station in Miami.

A single mother with two young children, Lund came to Hollywood, then appeared as a beautiful robot in Norman Taurog's Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), starring Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman.

In 1966, she could be seen in The Oscar as "Bikini Girl"; in the Elvis Presley films Paradise, Hawaiian Style and Spinout as a nurse and a "redheaded beauty," respectively; and in Johnny Tiger, playing Chad Everett's slutty girlfriend.

While waiting for Land of the Giants to begin shooting, Roman Polanski offered her the part of Rosemary's (Mia Farrow) friend Terry in Rosemary's Baby (1968).

"Even though Roman promised he'd finish with me in time for Giants, Irwin didn't trust him and said no. My first obligation was with Irwin, so I couldn't do it," Lund said in Tom Lisanti's 2001 book, Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema. "I really didn't fight for it. I wimped out. Roman somehow got my home phone number and just read me the riot act. It was stupid on my part for passing on it. I should have fought harder." (Victoria Vetri got the job.)

"Land of the Giants was not an actors' show," she continued. "We were always upstaged by the special effects. At the time I was embarrassed because it wasn't Chekhov, it was Land of the Giants! I thought then, 'My God, is this what I studied acting for?'"

She changed her mind a bit after coming across the series in reruns.

Later, Lund worked on programs like Love, American Style; The Waltons; The Incredible Hulk and General Hospital; and in the films Hustle (1975) opposite Burt Reynolds; Hardly Working (1981), written, directed and starring Jerry Lewis; and Transylvania Twist (1989). She taught acting as well.

Lund also wrote a 1992 novella, Valerie in Giantland, based on Land of the Giants but set 10 years later.

In addition to Michele, survivors include daughter Kimberly; son Randy; grandchildren Phyllis, Elizabeth, Shawn, Tyler, Ryan, Jack and Jolene; and great-grandchildren Ellie, Charlotte and Quinn. A celebration of her life will take place in July.