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Barbara Bach Biography

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Birth Name: Barbara Bach

While her striking beauty suggested all manner of far off, exotic origins, Barbara Bach actually hailed from Queens, NY. Born Barbara Goldbach on Aug. 27, 1947 to an Austrian Jewish father and an Irish Catholic mother, she attended a Catholic all-girls school. Bach regarded herself as a tomboy, but her considerable beauty suggested career possibilities as a model, so she left her education behind at age 16 to work for the Ford Modeling Agency. The work took her overseas and she made her acting debut as Nausicaa in "The Odyssey" (RAI, 1968), an Italian miniseries depicting the adventures of mythical hero Ulysses. That same year, she married businessman Augusto Gregorini and the couple went on to have two children. Now living in Italy fulltime, Bach learned to speak Italian and made her feature film debut in the comedy "Mio padre Monsignore" ("My Father Monsignor") (1971). She continued her filmography in fare like "Stateline Motel" (1973) and "Street Law" (1974), and was the female lead in "The Legend of Sea Wolf" (1975), a local adaptation of Jack London's classic novel, The Sea Wolf. Regardless, Bach's primary function in these movies was to serve as eye candy, with little in the way of acting challenges. On the personal front, she and Gregorini split up in 1975 and eventually divorced.

Although she had been working steadily in European features and television commercials, Bach's career took a major upswing when she won the role of seductive Russian agent Anya Amasova in "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977). The previous 007 installment, "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974), had been a box office disappointment, so it was decided to cut back a little on the campiness and bring back more of the large scale adventure seen during the Sean Connery period. The series' trademark innuendo and inherent sexism remained present - her code name was Agent XXX, no less - but Amasova was clearly Bond's equal and also outwitted him more than once. That sort of intelligence and ingenuity had been greatly lacking from recent Bond Girls and the change in direction helped to keep her character palatable to audiences in later years. Bach was not always up to the dramatic demands of the part and her Russian accent was less than convincing, but there was definite chemistry between her and Moore. Critics and fans largely agreed and a number expressed the belief that Bach was the most beautiful woman to have ever graced the series. That year, Bach's admirers were able to see even more of her via the first of several appearances she made in Playboy.

Having gained momentum from the Bond picture, the now multilingual Bach followed up with an uncharacteristic role as a partisan in "Force 10 from Navarone" (1978), but the latter day sequel to "The Guns of Navarone" (1961) flopped and she quickly found herself back in embarrassing Italian cheapies like "Island of the Fishmen" (1979). A trip to Hollywood to audition as Kate Jackson's replacement on "Charlie's Angels" (ABC, 1976-1981) ended in disappointment when the producers decided that Bach was too sophisticated and similar in appearance to Jaclyn Smith. The job was instead given to blonde, all-American model Shelley Hack, who went over poorly with viewers and was replaced after a single season. While stateside, Bach starred in the somewhat effective horror thriller "The Unseen" (1980), which, unfortunately, lived up to its title when the movie unspooled to mostly empty seats. Her sexy supporting turn in "Mad Magazine Presents Up the Academy" (1980) did little to help the film, which was a critical and financial bust that even Mad went out of its way to disown.

Bach's next Hollywood picture was another lowbrow comedy that did not perform much better, but the supremely campy "Caveman" (1981) turned out to be a game-changer in her life. Former Beatle Ringo Starr, who was still dabbling in acting at the time, was the project's headliner and he and Bach quickly fell in love on the set. Their bond was further solidified following a major car crash in which the two were lucky enough to escape with only minor injuries. In the wake of their subsequent marriage, Bach began to step away from show business, taking a small role in Paul McCartney's elaborate musical fantasy feature "Give My Regards to Broad Street" (1984), but doing little else as she and Starr had pledged to only accept projects where they worked together. A large amount of leisure time for the couple led to much substance abuse, with great amounts of alcohol and cocaine consumed. Starr also regularly indulged in other drugs and sometimes broke out in a violent rage. During one such instance, he severely beat Bach before blacking out. This incident finally prompted them to seek help and in the fall of 1988, Bach and Starr spent six weeks in an Arizona detoxification facility. While many celebrities relapse after similar treatment, the pair successfully kicked their respective habits and remained drug and alcohol free. In the wake of her recovery, Bach founded S.H.A.R.P. (Self Help Addiction Recovery Program) and furthered her education by attaining a Master's degree in Psychology from UCLA in 1993. She spent the ensuing years involved in various charitable endeavors and 31 years after first gracing the pages of Playboy, she posed again for the magazine in 2008.

By John Charles