Oil that glitters: Dynasty's Forsythe and Evans
Question: Linda Evans and John Forsythe were in a nighttime soap with the name Carrington. What was the name of that show?
Answer: I'm happy to answer that, but I demand an explanation — unless you spent the better part of the '80s living in a vacuum or, at least, manning a missile silo, I simply don't see how you could forget the over-the-top Dynasty. A fixture of a time when alluring TV women were rightly defined as those over 20, the series was a classic and the definition of the overused term "guilty pleasure."
A ratings powerhouse in the mid-'80s, Dynasty ran on ABC from January 1981 to May 1989, making Forsythe, Evans (The Big Valley) and costar Joan Collins household names while doling out paychecks to what seemed like half of Hollywood and upping the profiles of actors like Pamela Sue Martin (The Nancy Drew Mysteries), Heather Locklear (Melrose Place, Spin City), Catherine Oxenberg and Tracy Scoggins. Admittedly, I don't go for the nighttime soaps much myself, but even I'll admit the knock-down, drag-out catfights between Evans' Krystle and Collins' Alexis were not to be missed. (Nobody does a better bitch than Collins — and I use the term with no guilt whatsoever since she'd consider it high praise, I'm sure.)
Drilling for an answer to CBS' wildly popular, oil-rich Dallas, ABC hit a gusher of its own with the sordid tales of tycoon Blake Carrington (Forsythe), his young wife Krystle (Evans), their nemesis Alexis Carrington Colby (Collins), and the various other members of their dysfunctional clans and thoroughly warped community. And as you might expect, the stars of the show tore into their work with relish, particularly Forsythe, who was itching to shake the nice-guy uncle/dad role he'd played in the 1957-62 sitcom Bachelor Father — and have his face actually shown after putting in time as the heard-but-not-seen Charlie of Charlie's Angels.
However, Forsythe let it be known he had no desire to be the one-note schemer that Dallas
' J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman
) was. "There's enough in the series to be compared to Dallas
without that," Forsythe told TV Guide
of the unrelenting villainy he feared in 1981. "And everyone said, 'Oh, yes, yes, fine; you're absolutely right.' Well, then the scripts started coming out, and all of the despicable aspects of the character — such as his ruthlessness and domineering nature — were in there without the redeeming qualities — like his genuine love for his younger wife and his sincere effort to try to understand his son's homosexual tendencies. So there were some scraps over that. Later, as they made Carrington more dimensional, the programs became more interesting."
For her part, Evans lived much of her role before playing it. "She represents the woman I was 10 or 15 years ago," said the actress, who was married to and unceremoniously dumped by actor John Derek
(16 years her senior) for bombshell Bo Derek
before taking the Dynasty
role, in a TV Guide interview in 1986. "She's a woman whose whole life centered around a man, a woman who lived to love and be loved, a woman who wanted a child more than anything. Like me, she was forced to get stronger, grow up, speak for herself and find out who she was... When you're young, you just go right along. When you're older, you think, 'They've switched the rules on me.' Krystle and Linda get mixed up. It's both our lives."
Dynasty deserved its popularity for its monumental bed-hopping, plotting and intrigue, helping to pave the way for Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place and some of the other young-skewing but just as absurd prime-time soaps to come along. But fans loved it for its trashiness, just as Forsythe was brutally honest about his place in the dramatic hierarchy. "I try to be realistic about my talents," he said. "I know I'm not a great actor. I am a good journeyman actor and I always do my best, but I'm not jealous of Henry Fonda or George C. Scott or Brando because they have 'touched by the hand of God' talent and I don't."
Maybe not, but he played a heck of a cad and looked positively dashing while doing it.