Linda Cristal, an Argentine-born actress who played Victoria, the regal, fiery wife of the rancher Big John Cannon on the 1960s television series “The High Chaparral,” died on Saturday at her home in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 89.
Her death was confirmed by her son Jordan Wexler, who said she died in her sleep.
Cristal had made nearly a dozen films in Mexico before arriving in Hollywood to take her first English-speaking role, in the Dana Andrews film “Comanche” (1956), playing the kidnapped daughter of a Spanish aristocrat in Mexico. She went on to make several westerns before appearing in Blake Edwards’s knockabout comedy “The Perfect Furlough” (1958).
For her performance in that movie as Sandra Roca, “the Argentine Bombshell ” — the dream date chosen by the serviceman Tony Curtis in an Army publicity stunt — Cristal won the “New Star of the Year” award at the Golden Globes, an honor she shared with Tina Louise and Susan Kohner.
After a modest film career, followed by guest roles on television, Cristal auditioned for “The High Chaparral,” a western developed by David Dortort, the creator and producer of “Bonanza.” In her telling, it was a memorable occasion.
“The scene they handed me to read was all tenderness and sweetness, and I knew they were looking for a heroine with fire and spunk,” Cristal told The Boston Globe in 1968. “So I asked them if I could throw away the script and just improvise.”
She went full-throttle. “I made up stories showing love, hate, passion, envy, jealousy, etc.,” she said. “I tried a scene as a street walker. I was a mother who had lost a son in the war. Before I was through, I had taken off my hat, my shoes and even my jacket. In my intensity I was all over these people, roughing them up. But I walked out with the contract.”
The series ran from 1967 to 1971, with Cristal playing the daughter of Don Sebastián Montoya, a powerful rancher on the Mexican side of the Arizona border.
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