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Linda Harrison Felt the Heat in Her Planet of the Apes Outfit

The beautiful Linda Harrison will always be known as the beauty amongst the apes by fans of her generation. She made a lasting impression on audiences in the 1960s as the silent Nova in the science fiction classics Planet of the Apes (1968) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), opposite Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor. Linda possessed the ideal physical traits to bring Nova to life on television, including long, dark hair, wide brown eyes and a cute costume. Come along and discover why Linda Harrison felt the heat in her Planet of the Apes outfit.

Cult Siren status can be attained with relatively minimal effort. It’s not necessary to have an extensive resume full of performing accolades or to have been in the business for decades. As proven by Linda Harrison, a small window of opportunity can be all that’s needed at times. Harrison is best recognized for her sole film role as Nova, whom she portrayed in two films but which featured a grand total of one line of dialogue between the two.

Harrison never failed to remind everyone around her that “Nova means new “. She was such a natural fit for the part that she didn’t even have to audition for it. Richard Zanuck, the CEO of 20th Century Fox at the time, cast her because she personified the role’s essential qualities. Harrison and Zanuck soon developed a liking for each other not too long after meeting each other.

They then got into a relationship which led to their marriage in 1970.

Through her participation in beauty pageants, Linda was introduced to a young agent named Mike Medavoy, who eventually negotiated a contract with 20th Century-Fox for her. At that time, the studio was re-establishing its acting academy for its contract actors. Some of the few actors under contract with 20th Century Fox at the time were Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Selleck, Christina Ferrare, Lara Lindsay, and Corinna Tsopei. Prior to Zanuck casting her as Nova in Planet of the Apes, the brunette beauty mainly appeared in comedies.

She had bit parts in comedies like Walter Matthau and Robert Morse’s The Guide for the Married Man (1967) and Jerry Lewis’s dreadful Way…Way Out (1966).

Linda was a part of John Chambers’ makeup designs for Planet of the Apes before the studio gave the green light to the film’s development. This was required of her and the others who were contract actors. The studio executives were interested in seeing if their concept film’s makeup could actually be accomplished.

Makeup models needed to have excellent body control in order to lie back and remain completely motionless while this plaster mould was being applied to their faces. The duration of the makeup lasted about three hours.

Movie production was given the go-ahead once the desired ape appearance was realized.

As opposed to their co-stars, Hunter and McDowall, Harrison and Charlton Heston were spared the everyday ordeal of spending three hours in the makeup room. Harrison, thinking back on the ensemble, said that Charlton was the most kind and protective of the bunch. She supposedly picked up some valuable lessons from him, including how to play up for the camera. Their off-screen chemistry was great for the picture, as sparks between actors are easily palpable on screen.

A memorable sequence from the film that stuck with Linda was the one with the marauding gorillas on horseback hunting the people in the forest to the tune of Jerry Goldsmith’s eerie Oscar-nominated score. According to Linda, the action scene was quite intricate. In one direction, humans were stumbling over one another as they ran, while in another, apes were beating the bushes as riders rode through the crowd. Although the scene was risky, Harrison never worried that she might be hurt on set since she trusted the directors implicitly. Malibu’s 20th Century-Fox property served as the setting for this scene; it was there that the Ape City was constructed as well. The heat on set is another memorable aspect of Harrison’s time working on the film. She was only partially clothed, but her outfit was constructed of actual bark with a rubber backing, which kept her body boiling. She remarked, saying, “I definitely felt the heat.”

On July 26, 1945, Linda was born in Berlin, Maryland. In spite of the fact that she studied acting in high school beginning in 1963, she won a string of beauty pageants as a teen, including Miss Berlin in ’63, Miss Del-Mar-Va in ’64, Miss Ocean City in ’65, and Miss Maryland in ’65. With her success in beauty pageants, she launched a modelling career in New York. In the same year, 1965, she placed second at the Miss USA pageant held in Long Beach, California.

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Linda, at the age of twenty, was given the opportunity to screen test for 20th Century Fox, and with a staggering performance, she signed a seven-year deal with the studio. In addition to making numerous guest appearances on television, including as a cheerleader in two 1966 Batman episodes featuring the Joker as the main villain, her acting career officially kicked out with the film The Fat Spy in 1965. Later that year, Linda appeared in Way…Way Out, a science fiction comedy co-starring Jerry Lewis and including a guest appearance by Boris Karloff as the original Frankenstein Monster.

In the 1967 comedic hit A Guide for the Married Man, Linda appeared for only a few minutes as the nearly silent Miss Stardust. Though she said nothing, her stunning beauty and picture-perfect teeth said more than a thousand words. Linda’s legacy would grow thanks to the help of some amazing apes.

Within a short time, the Planet of the Apes adventure was underway, and of course, not many people would ever forget Nova, a young primitive who would be the twinkle in the eye of tragic astronaut George Taylor. The first ape film was a worldwide smash, so it seemed to reason that Hollywood would make a sequel.

For the 1970 release of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Linda recast herself as Nova. This time she caught the eye of James Franciscus’s John Brent, a fellow lost adventurer. Linda’s most iconic scene is when she finds her long-lost sweetheart and shouts, “Taylor!” demonstrating that Nova was capable of learning simple language patterns. The film’s cliffhanger suggested a sequel, but Nova didn’t show up in any of the three that followed. On top of everything else, Linda started appearing regularly on the TV show Bracken’s World. She appeared on a classic and iconic Cosmopolitan magazine cover, and she quickly grew close to the publication’s famed editor Ellen Gurley Brown. Brown later served as the godmother of Linda’s two sons, Harrison and Dean, when she was married to Richard D. Zanuck. Because of the boys, Linda didn’t appear on TV for a while; the next time we saw her was in Airpot (1975) when she used the peculiar new name Augusta Summerland. Due to the fact that her husband produced the 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws, Linda was almost cast as the lead female character. However, Zanuck’s boss’s wife ended up playing the part.

Sadly, Linda and Zanuck’s marriage ended in divorce in 1978. Linda’s only film appearances with her given name were in the 1985 original Cocoon and its 1988 sequel, Cocoon: The Return. None of the roles Harrison played afterwards matched the popularity Nova brought her. Later, in 1995, Linda returned to feature in Wild Bill, a film about Wild Bill Hickok written by Walter Hill. The complete Planet of the Apes series was later re-released on DVD, which, as it should, increased awareness of Linda Harrison and her enduring role.

After experiencing a slump in her acting career in 1990, Harrison returned to Berlin and launched a consignment shop there under the name Harrison’s Peach Tree. But after a while, she decided she missed her sons and relocated back to Los Angeles. She got her real estate license and did some minor acting work on the side.

She still remains in the memory of some despite the fact that she played a very passive role in the Planet of the Apes series.

The rest of her career is forgettable, but this one part made her a cult icon. Despite the fact that many other popular actresses from the era have been forgotten, she is still a welcomed guest at many science fiction conferences, even 35 years later.

When Harrison attended a science fiction convention in New Jersey in 1998, she was blown away by the reception her work received. Bela Lugosi Jr., Sara Karloff, and the original “Lost in Space” ensemble were among the other actors who attended the event.

At her first convention, she remarked that it was very rewarding since she hadn’t done anything for a number of years, but fans still wanted her autograph. She added that the fans were more receptive than she imagined, and it felt gratifying to know she was being appreciated for her work.

Harrison was later acknowledged for her accomplishments in 2008. She was honoured with the Maria Honorifica at Spain’s Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya, timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of “Planet of the Apes.” Evidently, Harrison has a strong emotional connection to the “Planet of the Apes” films.

Harrison hasn’t done much acting lately because she’s been too busy with conventions, but she still performs occasionally. According to IMDB, she most recently acted in and produced the film “Midnight Massacre,” which premiered in 2021. Although the website does not currently feature any further projects, she may have something else in the works.

Harrison is currently 76 years old, but she still maintains her youthful appearance. In spite of the fact that she is over seventy-five years old, Harrison has retained every bit of the beauty that made her a famous actress in her youth. She has two wonderful children and is still enjoying brief periods of success in the entertainment industry.

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