Jeanne Bal

Active - 1970 - 1970  |   Born - May 3, 1928   |   Genres - Crime, Science Fiction, Western, Thriller, Drama

Share on

Biography by Bruce Eder

Jeanne Bal's career took her from important roles in the musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to the science fiction of Gene Roddenberry, all in less than 20 years. She was a natural fit in show business by temperament and birth. Born in 1928 in California, she was the daughter of Peter Bal, a scene designer at Monogram Pictures. By her own account, she was a gangly girl -- too tall and gawky until her final year of high school when she blossomed and developed an interest in acting. Bal attended Los Angeles City College until she was lured away by a role in Gypsy Lady, a musical that took her from Los Angeles to New York and then to London. She returned to New York after the show closed and discovered that she also made an excellent model on top of being an actress; she supported herself that way between shows. Bal appeared in a series of flops until George Abbott picked her for a role in Call Me Madam. She subsequently joined the cast of Guys and Dolls as Sarah Brown, replacing Jan Clayton during the Los Angeles run of its national tour. Bal later made her mark as Nellie Forbush in the national touring company of South Pacific. Bal married Russ Bowman, the show's stage manager, during the tour. In between stage engagements, Bal made numerous appearances on television during the '50s in comedy and drama, and sang at local night spots such as The Maisonette in the St. Regis Hotel in midtown Manhattan. In 1958, Bal became a regular on the Sid Caesar Show on ABC, doing sketches with Caesar and co-stars Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner. The following season she was a regular cast member of the situation comedy Love and Marriage, playing William Demarest's daughter. From there she returned to Broadway in the cast of The Gay Life, and during the early '60s appeared in such dramatic series as Perry Mason, Route 66, Wagon Train, and The Fugitive. In 1963, she was also a regular member of the cast of the series Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus. Bal occasionally played romantic roles, such as a guest on the touching "Instant Family" episode of the sitcom Hey Landlord (co-created by Garry Marshall), in which she played a single mother with a child who becomes seriously involved with the young protagonist Woody Banner (Will Hutchins). But her most memorable television role was ultimately far-removed from (though intertwined with) romance: Bal had the honor in 1966 of portraying the first monster ever seen on Star Trek, in the episode "The Man Trap." She gave a bravura performance in the role of Nancy Crater, the one-time love of series regular Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley); the role was far more complex than that, however, for the being who appears to be Nancy Crater to the starship's landing party is actually the last surviving member of a predatory alien species that has adopted the guise of the woman, stalking members of the crew, killing them for the salt content of their bodies. Bal plays a this deadly, thirsting predator (and immensely strong, as we see when she tosses Leonard Nimoy across a room) and was convincingly vulnerable, loving, and even flirtatious, and intensely ferocious and savage, having a look of desperate hunger in her eyes. At other times, she was just bone-chilling as she switched from acting like "Nancy" to behaving as the "salt vampire," touching her victims' faces in a mysterious deadly caress, the purpose of which becomes horribly clear in the final two minutes. Bal retired from television and from acting at the outset of the '70s.