Television watchers of the 70s and 80s likely have memories of actress Diana Hyland, at least in some capacity. Despite generally being relegated to the status of a guest star, the acclaimed television actress worked in many roles. Some of her most notable roles include her turn as the titular character’s mother in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, as well as the role of the mother in the first few episodes of Eight Is Enough. In this video, we’ll be taking a look at Diana Hyland’s career, and how come she didn’t end up making it through the entire first season of her breakthrough television role. Join Facts Verse as we attempt to uncover the reason Diana Hyland only shot 4 episodes of Eight Is Enough.
To understand the fall of any star, we must first take a look at the rise. Diana Hyland was born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on January 25, 1936. Upon graduating from high school, the young star began taking a fairly serious interest in acting. She would dabble in semi-professional theater in and out of Ohio for around two years. However, Hyland felt that her future lied in New York, whether that be on stage or television.
Although her sights were set predominantly on the Broadway stage, Diana Hyland began finding her initial success in television. Her first big break came in the form of various roles on television dramas. She began to make a name for herself, appearing in three episodes of The Plays of the Week. The Plays of the Week was a drama anthology meant to showcase up and coming actors and actresses, just like Hyland herself. Around the same time, she would also end up getting a few notable roles in a handful of Broadway plays.
According to Diana, the success of both her Broadway and television roles had empowered her. However, her current agent was not all that supportive. Diana felt that, after gaining some traction in New York, it was time for her to head out to California and take a stab at Hollywood. However, her agent discouraged her, something that the young actress would grow to resent. Her agent wanted her to continue pursuing her television roles in New York, the place where he felt her real future was.
Her agent ended up getting her a fairly solid role in the soap opera series Young Doctor Malone. This role provided Diana Hyland with 15 month of solid work. After those 15 months, Hyland met a television producer named Dick Berg, who offered her a new role that she found fairly tantalizing. The role would be in an episode of another drama anthology series, this time ABC’s Alcoa Premiere.
The role Hyland was being offered would end up being in the episode The Voice of Charlie Pont. This episode is widely considered one of the most notable of the series. She gladly accepted the role, and it ended up netting her an Emmy nomination. In taking the role in The Voice of Charlie Pont, she ended up leaving her role in Young Doctor Malone. Her character on that program was killed off. Soon after The Voice of Charlie Pont made waves on television, Hyland finally made the decision to head to California. She left her agent behind. In California, Hyland would end up finding the true peak of her success. In a matter of time, she would end up becoming one of the most prolific television guest stars of the time.
From 1962 to 1977, Diana Hyland appeared in nearly 80 different film and television roles. Although the actress’s roles were often fairly small, she would put a good deal of effort into her portrayal of them. For this reason, she quickly began gaining both attention and traction in the Hollywood sphere. A few notable television series she appeared on include The Defenders, Happy Days, and Convoy. She also appeared in a few feature films, including Hercules and the Princess of Troy, Jigsaw, and The Chase.
With every new script she got involved with, Diana would go out of her way to give the role her absolute all. She would go so far as to method act as her characters outside of filming. In one notable instance, the television actress adopted a full Russian accent and begin only consuming Russian food and drink. To all those around her, Hyland was an actress who took her craft seriously. If her commitment was any indication, the television star had big things ahead of her. If You’re enjoying this video so far, hit the like button to support more content like this being made in the future! As well, be sure to subscribe to Facts Verse if you’d like to be the first to know when more videos are on their way!
The longest role that Diana Hyland got in her heyday was in the primetime soap opera Peyton Place. She would end up performing in 56 episodes of the series, airing from 1968 to 1969. The role that she was given was that of Susan Winter, the wife of character Reverend Tom Winter. Understandably, Hyland was fairly excited about getting this serious long-term role. Having done dozens and dozens of guest-starring roles, the opportunity to perform in a recurring role seemed like a blessing. According to Diana, the opportunity to “settle down and fully develop one character” was what she had always wanted. She was very pleased with her time spent of Peyton Place, feeling it allowed her to share her craft with a “large cast of talented players”. Still, the role only lasted around a year, at which point Hyland was on to even better things.
One of Diana Hyland’s most memorable roles would come several years later. That, of course, would be in the 1976 made-for-television movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. In it, Hyland would play the role of the titular character’s mother. The titular character himself would be played by the burgeoning young actor John Travolta. On top of the film being a big role for Hyland, it was also somewhat of a breakthrough for Travolta. As well, it would end up being the start of a serious romance between the two, even though Diana was 18 years older than Travolta.
John Travolta had made a small name for himself already, starring in the show Welcome Back, Kotter. Although the show had only barely just started it’s second season when The Boy in the Plastic Bubble premiered, people had begun recognizing the young actor. As well, he had gotten a small feature film role in Brian De Palma’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel Carrie. His breakthrough roles in Grease and Saturday Night Fever were only just around the corner. Perhaps it was the shared thirst for Hollywood success that drove Travolta and Hyland together. For whatever reason, their romance would end up being a pretty big deal to the two stars. This romance would last until Diana Hyland’s death.
Soon after The Boy in the Plastic Bubble wrapped filming, Hyland would be offered an even greater role. Sadly, though, it would be the actress’s final role she would ever portray. This role would be in the sitcom Eight Is Enough. The sitcom was based on the real-life story of a news anchor and journalist with eight children. In the show, Hyland would play the wife of Dick Van Patten, and the mother of the eight titular children. However, it was a role that she wouldn’t get very far into before her passing.
Eight Is Enough appeared like it was going to be a pretty big success for it’s network as soon as it went into production. It not only had a very promising concept, but had managed to attract a very promising cast to go along with it. However, things would take a turn for the worse soon into filming. Dick Van Patten recalls that Hyland began “complaining about a backache” as soon as filming started. As it turns out, she had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer only a week prior. She had kept the diagnosis a secret, hoping that she would be able to fight it and keep her new television role.
Sadly, this didn’t end up being the case. During the filming of the show’s fourth episode, Hyland was driven to the hospital by her boyfriend, Travolta. Upon arriving, she called for the cast and crew of Eight Is Enough. It was at this time that she revealed to them her struggle. Although she had every intention of giving her all to her new television role for as long as she could, fate had other ideas. Less than three weeks after revealing to the cast and crew her diagnosis, Diana Hyland was dead.
John Travolta stuck by Diana Hyland until the very end, staying by her side on her death bed. Travolta had a long and promising career ahead of him, but his time spent with Hyland would be something he would never forget. Likewise, the world retains fond memories of the television starlet. Even if she never quite found that breakthrough role that was warranting of her skills as an actress, she definitely carved out a niche as a talent guest star.
If you were watching television during the 60s and 70s, chances are that you have fond memories of Hyland and her work. Even if she never achieved true stardom, she was a success. If she had survived to see her role in Eight Is Enough truly come to fruition, she likely would’ve been even more successful than she already was. Eight Is Enough ended up killing off her character to explain the actress’s absence after only four episodes. It would go on to be a fairly successful sitcom, lasting for five seasons.
Diana Hyland is just one of many actresses and actors who died before their time. Still, in the few decades where she was able to make a name for herself, she achieved a good deal. Comment down below to share what your favorite of Hyland’s role was, or how you think Eight Is Enough might’ve changed if she had managed to survive her battle with cancer. As always, be sure to like the video if you enjoyed it to support more content in the future, and subscribe and hit the notification bell to be the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way.