Oftentimes an actress is remembered for one role that defined her career. Very few people might recall that Lucille Ball was a film star, war-era pin-up girl and one of Hollywood’s top beauties before she landed her very own television program that elicited laughs courtesy self-effacing humor. Lynda Carter is Wonder Woman and Lisa Kudrow will always be remembered as the ditzy Phoebe on the popular sitcom Friends. Belinda Montgomery, that chameleon-like actress from north of the border, to many, would fit into this bracket of actresses for her role of a boy doctor’s mother in the wildly popular series Doogie Howser M.D. However, to label the lovely Miss Montgomery as Mrs. Howser and nothing more would be to erroneously sum up Belinda’s solid career. She has been a working member of the film industry for six decades now, with a diversity of roles not limited to the mommy typecast.
A native of Winnipeg, the lovely fair-haired Canadian began work as an actress in the late 1960s when just a teenager. A classic beauty, Miss Montgomery’s full rose-tinted cheeks and delicate, enchanting eyes were well-suited for girl-next-door roles, but as a serious actress, Belinda seemed to enjoy accepting roles that failed to adhere to the typecast her soft beauty all but mandated. Her first role came in the now forgotten television series BARNEY BOOMER. Two years later she caught her big break in a made-for-tv movie titled HEY CINDERELLA! Her doll-like beauty, which came with the good-girl typecast, was well-suited to play the title role as Belinda shined in this lesser known adaptation of the famous children’s story. She ended the decade of the 1960s with a couple guest spots on television.
With a new decade came a new genre for Miss Montgomery. Her first film of the 1970s was a horror/thriller titled RITUAL OF EVIL that starred Louis Jourdan and the former World War II era pin-up girl Anne Baxter. Jourdan played a demon-hunter, his second such role, thanks to the popularity of an earlier made-for-tv film, that pitted him against a band of satanists. Although an entertaining flick, the story was flawed and failed to achieve the success of Jourdan’s first demon-hunting foray. Belinda left the satanists behind and accepted a few television guest roles in such series as IRONSIDE and ALIAS SMITH AND JONES. In 1971 she would shock filmgoers with her exceptional portrayal of a wayward youth in the classic social commentary flick titled THE TODD KILLINGS. The teenagers in a smalltown are enamored with a charismatic young psychopath who sets his lusty, deviant designs on Belinda. Belinda excels at employing the typecast her looks elicit while spinning that typecast around. She seems the proper girl but when among the degenerates and cads, Belinda’s sultry Roberta takes a shine to the decadence and becomes the serial killer’s preferred moll.
In the early 1970s Belinda worked mostly in the medium of television, taking on roles on such series as THE SIXTH SENSE and MANNIX. Miss Montgomery also became a common face in made-for-tv movies during that span with a starring role in the women-in-prison flick WOMEN IN CHAINS. Perhaps the most toned-down prison flick ever made, most viewers who insert a WIP film into their VCR expect crudeness and breast-baring behavior, but such ingredients weren’t employ in Belinda’s foray behind bars. In perhaps her finest made-for-tv movie, or, at least, the one in which her character receives plenty screen time, is the horror film THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER. Starring alongside such notables as Shelley Winters and Jonathan Frid, Belinda plays the distraught daughter of a recently deceased woman who staged an elicit affair with the prince of darkness. Belinda’s Diane Shaw is destined to become the bride of a demon, but the proper young lady tries to steer fate in another direction. A well-written horror/thriller, Belinda is exceptional in the main role, exuding her uncommon charm, which only adds to the suspenseful plot given that her character is easy to like.
Belinda would work on MARCUS WELBY M.D. and PETROCELLI during the mid 1970s as her avenue always seemed to lead back towards television. Her first non-tv role came in the 1975 film THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN opposite Beau Bridges and Marilyn Hassett. A tear-jerking love story, Belinda was able to sojourn away from television and made-for-tv movie thrillers to offer support for lead Hassett. Her next film was BREAKING POINT before she returned to familiar confines with roles as guest stars in leading series. She landed several gigs, although not recurring, in the series MEDICAL CENTER and guest starred in an episode of MOST WANTED in 1977. A sequel to THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN came in 1978 with Belinda reprising her role as Audra Jo, but around that time she accepted the female lead in the sci-fi cult classic MAN FROM ATLANTIS. Miss Montgomery played Dr. Elizabeth Merrill in the short-lived series with beefcake Patrick Duffy. Superhero series were quite popular around that time, with Lynda Carter tantalizing audiences as WONDER WOMAN, but MAN FROM ATLANTIS didn’t quite have twenty episodes produced before it was cancelled.
In 1978, with MAN FROM ATLANTIS no longer in production, Belinda returned to motion pictures and starred in the sleazy thriller BLACKOUT. Degenerates escape from prison and break into a highrise apartment complex where Belinda resides and terrorize the tenants. The shapely beauty, of course, arouses the interest of the escaped rapist who tries to lay hands on Belinda. Although the film is rather weak, with a paper-thin plot and poor script, Belinda has more to do than just offer up a scream here and there. Her Annie Gallo character assists a cop in helping him nab the intruders. Her last roles in the 1970s were in the film STONE COLD DEAD with Richard Crenna and a made-for-tv mini-series titled HOW THE WEST WAS WON.
When the 1980s came around, Belinda’s primary medium remained television as the classic beauty found work on FANTASY ISLAND and TRAPPER JOHN, M.D. in guest starring gigs. In 1982 she accepted a two-episode run on the hit series DYNASTY before making back-to-back tv movies BARE ESSENCE and UNCOMMON VALOR. In 1984 she returned to the horror genre, albeit not the made-for-tv medium, with the female lead in SILENT MADNESS. A rather weak entry in the slasher subgenre, Belinda nonetheless shines as Dr. Gilmore, a head doctor who investigates the background of her shady establishment. But the film was, by most anyone’s standards (to include slasher fans) a weak entry, and Belinda shunned films for a time while making a return to television. After several guest spots in sitcoms and television series, Belinda landed her most recognizable role in the series DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D. in 1989.
Miss Montgomery had recurring roles in MIAMI VICE and AARON’S WAY before she accepted the role of the mother to boy genius Doogie. Although the show revolved around a teenybopper’s escapades working at a hospital, Belinda was still a pivotal piece to the puzzle, offering that needed motherly influence. DOOGIE HOWSER offered Belinda a steady paycheck as she worked on the show for five seasons. When the show ended in 1993, Belinda returned to that revolving door of tv guest bits she knew all too well. She brightened up the set of BURKE’S LAW and HOPE ISLAND, but her career on television, after her run as Doogie’s mother, began to slow down, as is the case with most actresses in their forties–screenwriters like to write lead roles for younger gals for some reason. As of this writing, Belinda’s latest role came in the remake of TRON.
ACTING ABILITY: 7.1
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