Carroll Baker, 'Baby Doll's Scandalous Star: Her Rise And Fall

By | July 23, 2019

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Left: Carroll Baker as depicted on the lurid poster for 'Baby Doll.' Right: Baker in character in the title role of 'Sylvia.' Sources:; Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Even today, the image of Carroll Baker sucking her thumb on the poster for Baby Doll (1956) seems a little wrong. The controversy hurt the film's box office, but brought Baker, who appeared in Giant in the same year, into the limelight. She won the Golden Globe as "New Star of the Year" in 1957, and for a decade was a sex symbol who shared top billing with some of the biggest male stars. Baker's Hollywood run came to a sudden end in the late '60s, and she took her talent to Europe for a time. She returned to the U.S. and resumed her acting career in the '80s, and today is underappreciated icon.

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Left: Eli Wallach and Carroll Baker in 'Baby Doll.' Right: Baker in 'Giant.' Source: IMDB

Carroll Baker was born to a traveling salesman in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and when her parents divorced, she moved to Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania with her mother and younger sister. She spent a year at St. Petersburg Junior College before becoming a magician’s assistant in vaudeville and a professional dancer. She then moved to New York, where she rented an apartment in Queens, making ends meet as a nightclub dancer and chorus girl.