A great many people bought the weekly TV Guide in the 1960s. It seems certain that a sizable portion perused the now iconic magazine to read the brief synopses and identify the coming week’s shows and casts. The perspicacious reader as well as the fans of the series’ stars and guest stars would have noticed how often the likes of Yvonne “Batgirl” Craig and Anne Helm appeared in the magazine. In fact, Helm had prominent roles in over 80 series during that decade.
As a teen in the late 50s, Anne left Toronto with her mother and brother and studied dance and modeled in New York City. Before long she was in California making her movie debut in a hothouse potboiler, Desire in the Dust (1960). Anne was “introduced” along with Jack Ging. Raymond Burr was one of the main stars, and Anne would soon encounter him again on the Perry Mason TV series. (Season 4, Episode 26, “The Case of the Duplicate Daughter,” 1961)
Anne appeared in such other hit series as The Untouchables, Gunsmoke, Run for Your Life (5 episodes as Molly Pierce), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Season 6, Episode 14, “The Changing Heart,” 1961), and The F.B.I. Because she was genuinely cute and exceedingly pretty, Anne excelled as both bad and good girls. In the original Hawaii 5-O she played a mobster’s gal in “By the Numbers” (Season 1, Episode 9, 1968), and a policewoman in “Just Lucky, I Guess” (Season 2, Episode 4, 1969). On Route 66 she played Sweet Thing, callously tempting Jack Warden on his date farm where date “milk” shakes were available. (One viewer wondered if she were to be addressed as “Miss Thing”? Another pointed out that the cash stash in Warden’s rocker consisted entirely of one dollar bills!)
On the big screen Anne was Elvis’s leading lady in what is not his best musical film (although there were a couple instances of singing) but is certainly the cutest and most amusing, Follow That Dream (1962). That year was a banner one for Helm as she also starred as Princess Helene in the fantasy film The Magic Sword, and was part of an ensemble cast of promising young performers in the very successful and for the time graphic doctor drama, The Interns. Compared to today, The Couch was a somewhat mild thriller. She played the sexy resident of the apartment building where resided the sociopathic Grant Williams. Today her character would be collateral damage. In ’62 she survived.
In 1964 Anne was cast in Strait-Jacket, one of those post-What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? thrillers that might today be termed psycho-dramas that gave a new lease on life to the likes of Hollywood veterans Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and even Olivia de Havilland. Strait-Jacket ’s star was Crawford, miffed when Anne came to work sipping a Diet Coke. Recall that Crawford had married Pepsi’s CEO and took his place on the board after his death in 1959. For her faux pas with the Coke and other trumped up charges, Anne was fired and replaced by Diane Baker, one of Crawford’s co-stars in The Best of Everything (1959). Years later, when Anne realized that her own mother was bipolar, she read Crawford’s daughter’s memoir Mommie Dearest and felt vindicated in her negative assessment of the star.
Thenceforth, with a few exceptions, Anne focused her energies on what would prove to be a fruitful TV career. She loved the opportunity to play so many different characters. Sweet Thing was obviously the most evocative character name, but she essayed many others, including Abigail Pettigraw, Dulcie Morrow, Rita Vulner, Helena Dales, Lisa Klemm, Blanche Chante, and on Perry Mason, Glamis Barlow.
After retiring from the screen, Anne taught art to, as she put it, the elders near her home in California. These days she spends most of her time taking care of her grandchildren. Anne, who prefers to be called Annie, attended the 14th annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (MANC) in Hunt Valley outside Baltimore from September 12 to 14, 2019. She was very surprised that her attendance at MANC attracted so many fans. Anne Helm, not forgotten.
Helm, Anne. Follow that Dream: A Collection of Memories. [unpublished mss.]
Holston, Kim. Starlet: 54 Famous and Not-So-Famous Leading Ladies of the Sixties. 1988.