The major film studios encountered economic chaos in the 1960s and 1970s and produced fewer and fewer films allowing small independent studios to rise up to deliver movie product for the second half of double features for American theatres and drive ins. While unable to match production clout with the majors, these small independents were a lifeline for struggling actors and actresses looking for work. They were also a showcase for talented performers who, if they were lucky, could carve a niche for themselves in supporting roles in ‘B’ movies. Sometimes (as in the case of Pam Grier) these roles would turn into work for major film companies. More often, these performers would flash by quickly and burn out brightly. One of the best of these ‘shooting stars’ from these low budget productions was actress Linda Haynes.
Pretty, blonde and exhibiting a sweet down home quality, Linda Haynes had a brief 12-year career in TV and film. Her first film was a small part in the schlocky Japanese American sci-fi film Latitude Zero and she followed this up with roles in popular TV shows of the day like My Three Sons and Room 222. Her next role was in one of the classic exploitation films from the decade, Jack Hill’s Coffy (1973). Haynes plays Meg, a drugged out prostitute, who becomes insanely jealous of her pimp’s infatuation with new recruit Pam Grier. She makes the mistake of challenging Grier and ends up a bloody mess when she tries to pull Grier’s afro and cuts herself on the razor blades that Grier placed there earlier.
Perhaps Haynes best role is that of waitress and barmaid Linda Forchet in 1977’s Rolling Thunder. In the film, Haynes’s Forchet is a weary young woman who has grown up learning life’s tough lessons. She has worn Major Charles Raine’s (William Devane) POW bracelet throughout the Vietnam War and since his return has harbored a secret crush on him. Haynes becomes his lone lifeline after Devane’s wife and son are killed by a group of ruthless thugs. She even goes with him to Mexico unaware that he’s seeking brutal revenge with no thoughts as to the consequences. Throughout the film, Haynes tries desperately to connect (she is the film’s emotional center) with Devane who doesn’t respond and is not above using her as a lure to get information. Her best scene is when she wakes up in a fleabag motel knowing full well that Devane has left her without allowing her into his wounded world. Her realization that she has been left all alone again is achingly poignant.
Haynes stopped acting in 1980. Her last performance was in Stuart Rosenberg’s Brubaker (1980). Though her career was brief, she specialized in portraying women who grew up learning life’s lessons the hard way. She could be tough but she could also portray real vulnerability onscreen. She created memorable characters that still live on in classic celluloid.