Carol Lynley Dies: ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ Actress Was 77

Carol Lynley Shutterstock

Actress Carol Lynley, whose popularity in the 1960s and ’70s grew with films Return to Peyton Place, Under the Yum Yum Tree and Bunny Lake is Missing, as well as TV appearances in some of the most watched series of the era (Mannix, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Big Valley) while peaking with 1972’s disaster film classic The Poseidon Adventure, died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack at her home in Pacific Palisades, CA. She was 77.

Her death was announced by her friend, the actor Trent Dolan.

With a modeling background, Lynley had a few small credits (she was Rapunzel in 1958 on TV’s Shirley Temple’s Storybook) before really making a name for herself that year in James Leo Herlihy’s controversial Broadway play Blue Denim, in which she portrayed a pregnant teenager seeking an illegal abortion. She starred in the feature film adaptation the following year, scoring a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

Then followed the steady work that made a fine case for the nomination. In addition to those named above, she appeared in The Pleasure Seekers, The Cardinal, The Invaders, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and, in 1970, Norwood, the feature film debut of Joe Namath and Glen Campbell’s follow-up to True Grit.

Lynley at a 2006 ‘Poseidon Adventure’ reunion with co-stars Red Buttons and Pamela Sue Martin Shutterstock

After Poseidon, Lynley became a familiar presence on ’70s TV fare like Night Gallery (she co-starred, with Bill Bixby, in a stand-out episode about a Druid statue that seems to come alive), Kojak and Hawaii Five-O, to name a few. She returned to the stage in 1975’s Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn. Her most recent credit was 2006’s Vic, a short directed by Sage Stallone.

But it was her poignant performance in The Poseidon Adventure that she’s most likely to be remembered. In addition to performing the film’s Oscar-winning theme “The Morning After” (the subsequent hit version was sung by Maureen McGovern), Lynley’s character Nonnie Parry, the ship’s singer grieving for her unlucky brother, formed a sweet and unlikely bond with Red Buttons’ bachelor character James Martin.

Lynley’s marriage to publicist Michael Selsman spanned 1960-1964 They had a daughter, Jill Selsman, who survives her.

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