Deborah Raffin: Actress and businesswoman

 

Deborah Raffin had a substantial career acting in films and on television, but made greater impact as an entrepreneur when she and her husband launched a series of books on tape, creating a multi-million dollar business.

 On screen, the tall, pretty actress with long fair hair and a wholesome quality will be remembered for her first starring role, in The Dove (1974), in which she portrayed the girl who proved an inspiration for yachtsman Robin Lee Graham as he sailed solo around the world, a trip that took five years.

In Charles Jarrott’s film, based on Graham’s autobiography, Joseph Bottoms played the sailor, who found support from Raffin as she followed him to Fiji, Australia, South Africa, Panama and the Galapagos Islands. Exquisitely photographed on exotic locations by Sven Nykvist, the film was also given a publicity boost by the participation of actor Gregory Peck as its producer. Raffin was later to name her publishing company Dove Books on Tape.

Born in 1953 in Los Angeles, she was the daughter of Trudy Marshall a model-turned-20th Century-Fox starlet who had small roles in such films as Springtime in the Rockies (1942), Heaven Can Wait (1943) and The Dolly Sisters (1945), and Phillip Jordan Raffin, a restaurateur. She studied drama at the age of 15 with Milton Katselas and in London with Kate Fleming at the National Theatre, but then followed in her mother’s footsteps by making her professional debut as a fashion model.   

She made her first screen appearance in the comedy Forty Carats (1973), as the daughter of a divorcée (Liv Ullmann). While her mother is falling in love with a man much younger than herself (Edward Albert), Raffin is attracted to an older one (Billy Green Bush). Though critics praised Raffin’s radiant beauty, the movie’s focus was on its star, Ullmann, whose misjudged comedy timing was blamed for the film’s mild impact.

After The Dove, Raffin played a father-fixated rich girl surrounded by corruption in an opulent production of Jacqueline Susann’s steamy best-seller about the jet-set, Once Is Not Enough (1975). Kirk Douglas played her father, a former film producer who marries a bi-sexual millionairess (Alexis Smith) to maintain his daughter’s lifestyle. Raffin next starred in a television movie, Nightmare in Badham County (1976), which was released theatrically in mainland China, becoming such a hit there that Raffin became the first Western actress to make a promotional tour of the country, after which she became an unofficial ambassador helping China make deals with Hollywood.  

Though Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To (1976) was a superior horror movie dealing with a religious cult and an anti-Christ, another horror film, but Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1977), was cliché-ridden and tedious. 

Two minor television films, Ski Lift to Death and How to Pick Up Girls! (both 1978) did not improve her stature, and she lost out on the role of Sandy in the film version of Grease when producer Allan Carr, who had decided to give her the part, went to a party at Helen Reddy’s at which a fellow guest was Olivia Newton-John, who captivated him and landed the part.  

In 1980 Raffin starred in Touched by Love, the true story of a nurse, Lena Canada (Raffin) who persuaded a withdrawn cerebral palsy victim to write to her idol, Elvis Presley; it began a correspondence between the girl and the singer that lasted until her death. Raffin also won acclaim for her portrayal of the troubled actress Brooke Hayward in the television movie Haywire (1980), after which her acting career was mainly confined to television movies and mini-series, including the Hammer House of Horror episode “Last Video and Testament” (1984) and a Twilight Zone story, “Something in the Walls” (1989).   

She starred as a business woman opposite Pierce Brosnan in the mini-series Noble House (1988) and her occasional feature films included Death Wish 3 (1985), in which she was a public defender tracking down the murderous vigilante (Charles Bronson), but after discovering his identity she falls in love with him.  

In 1974 she married Michael Viner, a music producer, and in the mid-1980s the couple launched Dove Books on Tape as a hobby, working out of their garage. They soon had a bestseller with Stephen Hawkings’ A Brief History of Time, followed by Sidney Sheldon’s The Naked Face.  

Raffin was responsible for persuading celebrities to provide voices for the tapes – among her recruits were Roger Moore, Ruby Dee, Burt Reynolds and Jason Robards Jr. She also compiled a book of celebrities’ Christmas anecdotes, Sharing Christmas (1990), for which she travelled to Calcutta to get a story from Mother Teresa, with other contributors including Margaret Thatcher and Kermit the Frog. The book’s profits went towards helping the homeless. The enterprise became a multi-million dollar business, though Viner was sometimes criticised for his more sensational projects (including two books by participants in the OJ Simpson case) and the couple sold the company in 1997. The pair, who had one daughter, were divorced in 2005, and Viner died in 2009. Raffin was diagnosed with leukaemia a year ago.

Deborah Raffin, actress and entrepreneur: born Los Angeles, California 13 March 1953; married 1974 Michael Viner (one daughter, divorced 2005); died Los Angeles, California 21 November 2012.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Head of Maths

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week