The daughter of a traveling salesman, actress Carroll Baker joined a dance company after one year of college, then worked as a magician's assistant. After a brief marriage to a furrier, she went to Hollywood to act, but was unable to get anything more than a bit role (in 1953's Easy to Love) and so left for New York. At first finding work only in commercials (plus a walk-on in the Broadway play Escapade), in 1954 she enrolled at the Actors Studio; there she met director Jack Garfein, whom she married the following year (they were divorced in 1969). After her appearance in a few TV dramas and Robert Anderson's play All Summer Long (1955), she was noticed by Warner scouts and subsequently cast in James Dean's vehicle Giant (1956). Her success continued that same year when her role as the thumb-sucking wife in Baby Doll (1956) earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She also delivered an exemplary lead performance in director Irving Rapper's The Miracle (1959). With the success of Marilyn Monroe, Hollywood started looking for other Monroe "types" and producers began grooming Baker for the role, as is evident from her work in such films as The Carpetbaggers (1964); in 1965, she played the doomed title role in the film Harlow, another attempt to cast her in the Monroe mold. However, she never caught on with American audiences; in the late 60s, she moved to Italy and began appearing in Italian productions. In 1977 she made her London stage debut in W. Somerset Maugham's Rain, then made a few Hollywood and UK pictures in the late 70s and 80s, as well as putting in a "camp" appearance in Andy Warhol's Bad (1977) and a more straightlaced role as the mother of Dorothy Stratten in Star 80.
Biography by Rovi
- Was named Miss Florida Fruits and Vegetables in 1949.
- Originally worked as a dancer and a magician's assistant.
- Film debut was in Easy to Love in 1953.
- Appeared on Broadway in All Summer Long in 1955, which led Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams to cast her, instead of Marilyn Monroe, in the title role of Baby Doll.
- Was a member of the famed Actors Studio.
- Felt she was blacklisted by Hollywood in the late 1960s, so she moved to Italy and starred in numerous horror and exploitation flicks.
- Made a comeback in the U.S. in 1977 by starring in Andy Warhol's Bad.
- Prominent supporting roles in The Watcher in the Woods, Star 80 and Ironweed brought her back to acclaim in America during the 1980s.
- Published Baby Doll: An Autobiography in 1983; also wrote the non-fiction To Africa With Love and the novel A Roman Tale.