Brooklynite Brenda Vaccaro was raised in Texas, where she began acting in amateur theatricals. She returned to New York to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse, securing stage and TV roles from 1961 onward. Vaccaro's first important film appearance was as Jon Voigt's "intellectual" vis-à-vis in the latter portions of Midnight Cowboy (1969). In 1971 she co-starred in Summertree with her longtime lover Michael Douglas; the eventual breakup of this relationship was made doubly traumatic by the disproportionate amount of press coverage it received. Shortly after earning an Oscar nomination for 1975's Once Is Not Enough, Brenda Vaccaro briefly became a weekly TV star, playing a 19th century frontier schoolteacher in Sara; she later appeared in another short-lived series, 1979's Dear Detective.