Lynda Carter In 'Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw:' The Young Wonder Woman Actress' Only Movie
Before Lynda Carter locked down the part of '70s Wonder Woman, she made a film called Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw. A B-movie about young people on a Bonnie and Clyde-style crime spree, it is the only theatrically-released movie Carter starred in. As described on the movie poster:
Bobbie Jo was a carhop,
she wanted to be a country singer.
He was a hustler who dreamed
he was Billy The Kid.
For a while they
It's standard low-budget fare from American International Pictures, the studio known for producing cheaply-made grindhouse/drive-in movies designed to appeal to teenagers. Was this the fate that awaited Lynda Carter had she not scored the career-defining part of Wonder Woman?
Lynda Carter Was -- Yet Wasn't -- Already Wonder Woman
Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw hit theaters on March 26, 1976, which was very interesting timing for Carter. Months earlier, she had played Wonder Woman in a made-for-TV-movie (retroactively considered the series pilot), but she wouldn't start her run playing the DC superheroine on a weekly basis until April. According to the American Film Institute catalog, Bobbie Jo was filmed in the summer of 1975, before Carter had ever appeared on TV in the famous Wonder Woman costume.
Carter made her way to showbiz in fits and starts -- she had tried college in the late'60s, only to drop out to pursue a career in music. She gave up on music to pursue acting, taking a detour into the pageant circuit. She won the title of Miss World USA 1972, and finished in the top 15 in the international pageant. She returned to acting and by the mid-'70s had the skimpiest of TV-performer resumes, really little more than a couple of guest spots.
Careers Were Born At AIP
It's hard for us to think of Lynda Carter as anything but Wonder Woman, but that wasn't the case in 1975. Maybe the Wonder Woman gig would pan out, maybe it wouldn't. As a working actress, Carter had to take any decent job that came her way, and the chance to star in a movie -- with her name on the poster and everything -- was potentially a big break for an actress who was still just starting out. A B-movie was still a movie.
American International Pictures movies weren't great movies, but the company was an important one in the '60s and '70s because it served as a stepping stone for many actors who went on to be famous. Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, Bruce Dern and Nick Nolte all made pictures with AIP early in their careers that don't compare favorably with their later work, but that were useful credits in the building of a resume. AIP was also the studio behind the beach movies of the '60s that featured Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. The company wasn't turning out high art, but it knew how to make money and was good at spotting star quality.
The First And Only Real Nude Scenes Lynda Carter Ever Did
For an unknown actress in a drive-in action movie, a nude scene or two wouldn't be out of the ordinary. For TV's Wonder Woman, eventually hailed as a feminist icon and role model for young girls, stripping for the camera would have been scandalous. But Carter wasn't really the official TV Wonder Woman when she made Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw. Her nakedness, or at least toplessness -- in a changing room scene, a skinny-dipping scene, and a sex scene -- persist as anomalies in a career that is otherwise quite wholesome. When Lynda Carter finished her run as Wonder Woman in 1979, she was an American hero; like Christopher Reeve as Superman, the performer had defined the part but had also been defined by it. There would be no further nakedness, not for Wonder Woman -- and besides, her post-Wonder Woman roles were all network TV shows or made-for-TV-movies. By 1979, any fanboys hoping for further nudity from Lynda Carter were obviously going to be disappointed.
Lynda Carter Appeared In 'Apocalypse Now' With A Staple Through Her Navel
Eagle-eyed moviegoers did see Lynda Carter nude again -- in the 1979 Vietnam film Apocalypse Now. In the very early stages of shooting the film, Carter was to play one of the Playboy Playmates who visit the troops. Production of Apocalypse Now was beset with complications, and stretched out for nearly a decade. By the time director Francis Ford Coppola was ready to shoot the infamous scenes that would have involved Carter, she was committed to Wonder Woman, so actual Playmate Colleen Camp was subbed in.
Carter shot a centerfold picture that was used in certain scenes in the film, and was affixed to a bulkhead in the boat in Apocalypse Now. This has almost nothing to do with Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw, but it makes you wonder what sort of alternate career she might have had if not for Wonder Woman. Would Carter have gone on to play sexpot characters on celluloid? Would she have been a gun-toting, midriff-baring vixen comparable to Pam Grier but (obviously) outside the Blaxploitation genre?
If you ever caught a glimpse of the centerfold in Apocalypse Now and wondered whether the green-eyed brunette might possibly be Lynda Carter, you were right. It was.
What Was 'Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw' Like?
Here's how Brian Orndorf of Blu-Ray.com describes the movie Lynda Carter made:
Mark L. Lester, the director of Truck Stop Women, returns the drive-in circuit with 1976's Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, which invests fully in violence and sex to help attract an audience. An updated take on western formula, the feature is a wily offering of exploitation cinema, resting somewhere between a sobering exploration of American violence and a broad sampling of bare breasts and gunplay, with Lester unsure where exactly he wants to land with this effort.
'Bobbie Jo' Was Not A Great Movie
What was it like to actually watch this film? In a contemporaneous review, esteemed critic Vincent Canby of the New York Times dismissed Bobbie Jo as
another terrible film about young people on a crime spree in Texas and environs.
Donald Guarisco of All Movie Guide is much more charitable. "This amiable little b-movie offers a good example of drive-in thrills, 1970's-style," he writes, adding that
The film also benefits from a confident, naturalistic lead performance by Marjoe Gortner as the "outlaw" of the title, who veers from easygoing charm to sudden brutality with disarming ease. Lynda Carter has less to do as his lady love but she fulfills the film's eye-candy requirements nicely and creates a character that is the polar opposite of her more famous role on the Wonder Woman t.v. show.
Tags: American International Pictures | B-Movies | Bobbie Joe And The Outlaw | Lynda Carter | Wonder Woman
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