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Laurel Goodwin, who made her movie debut opposite Elvis Presley in Girls! Girls! Girls! and starred alongside Jeffrey Hunter in “The Cage,’ the rejected first pilot made for Star Trek, has died. She was 79.
Goodwin died Feb. 25 in Cathedral City, California, her sister, Maureen Scott, announced.
Goodwin also portrayed the elder daughter of Jackie Gleason and Glynis Johns’ characters in Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963) and appeared in The Glory Guys (1965), written by Sam Peckinpah.
After working in the 1964 feature Westerns Stage to Thunder Rock and Law of the Lawless and The Glory Guys, Goodwin was cast as Yeoman J.M. Colt opposite Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike and Nimoy as Mr. Spock in “The Cage” for Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.
The pilot, finished in early 1965, didn’t sell, but the producers held on to her, Hunter and Nimoy with the goal of trying again. Meanwhile, Goodwin had a choice: she had offers to make pilots for two network comedies.
“I said, ‘Oh, no. Star Trek is it. I’ve got to do Star Trek. It’s great, it’s gonna be wonderful,'” she recalled in a 2016 interview for StarTrek.com.
When negotiations with Hunter broke down, it was decided that Goodwin was no longer needed. William Shatner came aboard as Capt. James T. Kirk to star later in 1965 in the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and NBC picked up the Desilu series.
“In the meantime, I had turned down the two comedies, pulled my name out of consideration,” she said. “They both sold, and both were highly successful.”
Born on Aug. 11, 1942, in Wichita, Kansas, Goodwin and her family moved to San Diego and then San Francisco. She began working as a model when she was 7, then attended Lowell High School and San Francisco State.
After she served as a babysitter for the children of photographer Kurt Gunther, he circulated her photos at Paramount, and the studio wound up signing her to a seven-year contract when she was 19.
“I got in during the very last remnants of the old studio system, which believe me, lasted about six to eight months,” she said in Tom Lisanti’s 2003 book, Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties. “I did a lot of press when Paramount signed me.”
In Hollywood, she studied acting with Jeff Corey and, when he was away, his fill-in, Nimoy.
In the Hawaii-set Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), Goodwin played the wholesome rich girl Laurel Dodge, who battles with a singer (Stella Stevens) for the affections of Elvis’ tuna fisherman and helps him get the boat he always wanted. The two memorably share a dance in the clever “The Wall Have Ears” number.
Following her Star Trek disappointment, Goodwin appeared on episodes of Get Smart, The Beverly Hillbillies and Mannix before retiring from acting in 1971 and going into nursing.
Footage from “The Cage,” meanwhile, was incorporated into the 1966 two-part Star Trek episode “The Menagerie” before the entire pilot was seen for the first time on VHS in 1986.
Goodwin co-produced the Burt Reynolds-Loni Anderson film Stroker Ace (1983) alongside her husband, Walter Wood, who had acquired the rights to the book on which the movie was based. They had a 43-year relationship that ended with his death in 2010.
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