Grace Lee

Grace Lee Whitney

Grace Lee Whitney (born April 1, 1930) is an American actress and entertainer, also known as Ruth Whitney and Lee Whitney. She is most famous for playing the role of Janice Rand in a number of Star Trek television series and films.

Early life

Whitney was born Mary Ann Chase in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was adopted by the Whitney family who named her Grace Elaine Whitney. After she moved out on her own, she would later called herself Lee Whitney, and eventually, she became Grace Lee Whitney. Whitney started her entertainment career as a "girl singer" on Detroit's WJR radio at the age of fourteen. In her late teens, she moved to Chicago and started to open in nightclubs for the likes of Billie Holiday and Buddy Rich, and toured with the Spike Jones and Fred Waring Bands.

Theater

Whitney debuted on Broadway in Top Banana with Phil Silvers and Kaye Ballard where she played Miss Holland. Following the successful run of the show, she joined the cast in Hollywood where she recreated the role in the 1954 movie of the same name. While in Los Angeles, Whitney auditioned and was cast in the starring role of Lucy Brown in the national tour of The Threepenny Opera, taking over the role from Bea Arthur who had played the part on Broadway.

Film highlights

Whitney was cast as a member of the all-female band in Billy Wilder's classic comedy Some Like It Hot, released in 1959. She shared several scenes with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe, including the famed "upper berth" sequence. In her memoir, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, she maintains that as one of the only girls in the band with a speaking role, Wilder had hired her specifically for the role of Rosella. Various credit sources list the name of another actress for that role, even though she is directly addressed by the name Rosella in two different scenes in the film; the first by band leader Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee), and the second by a fellow band member.

She also had uncredited roles in House of Wax with Vincent Price, The Naked and the Dead with Cliff Robertson, Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis and Glenn Ford, and Critic's Choice with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. Whitney appeared in the credited role of Tracey Phillips in the 1962 drama A Public Affair. Billy Wilder subsequently gave her the featured role of Kiki the Cossack in the 1963 film Irma La Douce with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon. She also appeared in The Man from Galveston as Texas Rose with Jeffrey Hunter that same year.

Television

Whitney has made more than a hundred television appearances since her television debut in Cowboy G-Men in 1953. She had guest starring roles in such westerns as Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, The Rifleman, Wagon Train, and Zane Grey Theatre, as well as other shows including 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, and The Untouchables.

She had notable roles in Bewitched (as Babs Livingston) and Batman (as Neila) starring opposite comic actor Victor Buono. She also appeared in an episode of The Outer Limits entitled "Controlled Experiment" with Carroll O'Connor and Barry Morse. This episode was shot as a pilot for a proposed series starring O'Connor and Morse as two Martians sent to Earth to examine human life and experiences. CBS instead opted for the series My Favorite Martian with Ray Walston and Bill Bixby.

In the late 1960s, Whitney appeared as guest star on such programs as Mannix, Death Valley Days, The Big Valley, and The Virginian. Roles in the 1970s were far fewer, but included The Bold Ones, Cannon, and Hart to Hart. In 1983 she had a small part in the television film The Kid with the 200 IQ with Gary Coleman and in 1998 she appeared in the Diagnosis: Murder episode "Alienated" with fellow Star Trek cast members Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, and Wil Wheaton.

Star Trek

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry cast Whitney in the role of Yeoman Janice Rand, the personal assistant to Captain James T. Kirk in 1966. She appeared in eight of the first thirteen episodes; then was released from contract. She had reported that, while still under contract, she was sexually assaulted by an executive associated with the series, and, later, in a public interview, she stated that Leonard Nimoy had been her main source of support during that time. She details the assault in her book The Longest Trek and refuses to name the executive. She was not given a reason for her termination from the series. She reprised her role as Janice Rand, who had received a promotion to Chief Petty Officer (CPO), in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). She appeared again in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), with another promotion, as Lieutenant (jg) Janice Rand.

Five years later, to celebrate the thirtieth year of the franchise, she returned to Star Trek in 1996 in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback" along with George Takei.

She has filmed roles in two Internet Star Trek episodes: "Star Trek: New Voyages" and "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men" (reprising her role as Janice Rand in both). "New Voyages" premiered on August 24, 2007. "Of Gods and Men" is scheduled to debut in late 2007.

Music & recordings

In the 1960s and 1970s, Whitney sang with a number of orchestras and bands, including the Keith Williams Orchestra. Later she concentrated on jazz/pop vocalizing while fronting for her band Star.

In the 1970s, with her then-husband, Jack Dale, she wrote a number of Star Trek-related songs. A 45 RPM record was released in 1976 with the songs Disco Trekkin’ (A side) and Star Child (B side). She recorded other tunes including Charlie X, Miri, Enemy Within, and USS Enterprise. Many of these songs were released in the 1990s in cassette tape format: Light at the End of the Tunnel in 1996 and Yeoman Rand Sings! in 1999.

Books

Whitney's autobiography is entitled The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy and was released in 1998 (ISBN 1-884956-05-X). The book delves into her hiring and firing from Star Trek, her fight and eventual victory over alcohol and drug use, particularly marijuana, and her conversion to Judaism.

A comprehensive interview with Whitney is to be published in the book Talkin' Trek and Other Stories by Anthony Wynn, coming from BearManor Media in 2008, which also includes interviews with such actors as George Takei, Armin Shimerman and James Doohan.

Filmography

References

External links

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