Most people will not know or recognize Joanna Pettet’s face or name, but if you grew up in the ’70s and watched a lot of TV, such as I did, then you might at least recognize her face. She had a promising career in the ’60s & ’70s in both film and TV, and even appeared in the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967). She didn’t do a lot of work in the horror genre, but enough to once again, make her very memorable to younger fans like myself. She appeared in the 1974 film Welcome to Arrow Beach, a very strange film starring Meg Foster and Laurence Harvey. She also was in The Evil (1978), alongside Andrew Prine and Richard Crenna.
But it really was because of her appearances in Rod Searling’s Night Gallery in the early ’70s where I’ve always remember her from. Pettet had such a unique and beautiful look to her that I immediately became entranced by her. The first episode she appeared in was called The House and was directed by actor John Astin, making his television directorial debut. On working with Pettet, Astin said directing her “was a lovely experience.” In her second appearance on the show, he co-starred with her husband Alex Cord, in the episode Keep in Touch – We’ll Think of Something, which is a story about the woman of your dreams…and murder.
But by far, my favorite episode that she was in was entitled The Caterpillar, with her future Arrow Beach co-star Laurence Harvey. Very unforgettable, mainly due to the pain and agony that we see Harvey go through. Even Pettet enjoyed the torturous tale, saying “I’m most proud of that. It was incredible, horrible…gave you kind of a crawly feeling.”
Her last appearance in the show was in an adaptation of Fritz Leiber tale The Girl with the Hungry Eyes, also starring James Farentino as a photographer that becomes entranced by Pettet’s beauty.
During her marriage to Cord, they had a son, who would later die from a heroin overdose when he was 26, which by that time Pettet had already withdrew from her career. She later moved to England and stayed and cared for her friend and fellow actor Alan Bates as he battled cancer. She cared for him until his death.
Pettet was one of those actresses that even though she was only in a few things, she always stuck in my head. Could have been the age I was at during that time, or how beautiful she was, or maybe a combination of both. But I still have fond memories of her and her work even today and thankfully most of the work she did in the genre is available, so I can re-visit those great episodes of Night Gallery anytime. And because of that, even though she left the life of movies and TV years ago, we can still enjoy the little part that she gave us then.