Deborah Raffin, Actress and Audiobook Entrepreneur, Dies at 59

Deborah Raffin 2003 - P 2012
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Deborah Raffin 2003 - P 2012

A star of movies and telefilms, she founded Dove Books-on-Tape with her then-husband, music producer Michael Viner.

Deborah Raffin, an actress and entrepreneur who launched audiobook powerhouse Dove Books-on-Tape with her husband, music producer Michael Viner, has died. She was 59.

Raffin died Wednesday of leukemia at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, her brother William told the Los Angeles Times. She was diagnosed with the blood cancer about a year ago, he said.

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The blond Los Angeles native, who as a college student was spotted by a talent scout while on an elevator, started her career by appearing in such films as 40 Carats (1973) with Liv Ullmann; Once Is Not Enough (1975), starring Kirk Douglas and Alexis Smith and based on the novel by Jacqueline Susann; and The Ransom (1977), with Oliver Reed.

Raffin gravitated to telefilms and starred in 1976's Nightmare in Badham County as a UCLA co-ed falsely imprisoned in the South; in the 1979 thriller Mind Over Matter; as actress-author Brooke Hayward, the daughter of tragic Hollywood star Margaret Sullavan (played by Lee Remick) in 1980's Haywire; and as a businesswoman in 1988's Noble House, based on the James Clavell saga set in Hong Kong.

Raffin was nominated for a best drama actress Golden Globe for playing a compassionate caretaker opposite 15-year-old Diane Lane in Touched by Love (1980).

She was a regular on the short-lived 1981 ABC drama Foul Play, also starring Barry Bostwick, and guest-starred on such series as 7th Heaven, ER and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

In the mid-1980s, she and Viner -- who as a music producer had assembled the Incredible Bongo Band -- launched Dove in 1985 in the garage of their Coldwater Canyon home. Viner had won an $8,000 bet in a backgammon game with Sidney Sheldon; rather than collecting his winnings, Viner asked the author to let him publish two of his works as audiobooks.

Dove would publish Sheldon's The Naked Face and salacious titles that included You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again, about prostitutes and Hollywood celebrities, and Faye Resnick's book about Nicole Brown Simpson. But it did serious fare as well, like Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.

Jason Robards, William Conrad, Burt Reynolds, Elliott Gould, Roger Moore and Ruby Dee were among those who performed on the audiobooks for Dove.

The couple expanded into movie and television production but sold Dove in 1997 amid a series of financial setbacks. After they launched New Millennium Entertainment, Raffin and Viner divorced in 2005. He died of cancer in 2009.

Raffin was the daughter of Trudy Marshall, a contract player at 20th Century Fox in the 1940s.

In addition to her brother, Raffin is survived by her daughter Taylor Rose and her sister Judy. Services will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Culver City.


Twitter: @mikebarnes4