Baby Love: An Exclusive Interview with Linda Hayden
by Dr. Adrian Smith
Network: How old were you when you got the role in Baby Love, and how did it come about?
LH: I was fifteen years old. I was at the Aida Foster stage school and I was asked to go to this audition and within a couple of days it materialised that they wanted to screen test me. I had to screen test topless, and a lot of people weren’t doing that, and my mother wasn’t too thrilled about the idea. My dad was not at all well, but he wanted me to go ahead. Another girlfriend of mine was also up for a screen test and we went together to Twickenham Studios. They seemed a lovely group of people, and they were very hospitable. I did the screen test and learned quite soon afterwards that I got the part, which was terrific! And then of course the publicity machine started and I was interviewed by the newspapers. I’d actually worked quite a bit before that; it wasn’t the first thing I’d done. I had been in a television series with Dick Emery, and had filmed segments to go in the middle of his variety series.
Network: How did you find the experience of shooting Baby Love?
LH: Baby Love was a very exciting time. My father lived another four years after that. He was not at all well, and I truly believe that getting all the excitement of Baby Love, even though it didn’t come out for another year and a half after it was filmed, pulled him right back. He was so excited and thrilled. I’m sure it gave him an extra lease of life. There were some good people involved. The director Alastair Reid was good. It was a good subject from a good story by Tina Chad Christian, who was an extraordinary lady. Michael Klinger [the producer] brought her to the set a few times. She was physically impaired I seem to remember, and said she could only drink distilled water, so Michael said, “We’d better go to a garage and I’ll get you some!” She was rather an odd lady, I don’t think she did do anything else after that. That story was her claim to fame.
Baby Love is one of those projects that could so easily have gone wrong. It could have been a bit sleazy. Alastair made the film more grounded, so it wasn’t just done for sensationalism. It was a Lolita-type character, which was what the draw was. I was perfectly capable of doing the scenes. I was helped an awful lot by Alastair Reid as there was so much going on in my life at that time anyway, and I was on set all the time, in virtually every shot. I was eased into it and talked through it but I knew what was going on. Alastair was very good. I was rather cosseted in a way. Desmond Dickinson, the lighting cameraman, was lovely and I had a soft spot for him. He was an amazing man. John Glen [who would go on to direct some James Bond films] was the editor, so they had some very good people there. I was the baby of the film because I was made a fuss of. I was treated with kid gloves during the filming, and when it was finished I didn’t know what to do with myself. It had taken over my life.
Network: The film has a terrific cast too.
LH: Ann Lynn was a wonderful actress and Keith Barron was a lovely man. They were looking near Twickenham Studios for luxurious houses they could use that could be the house of a doctor, and they knocked on this particular door and the person who answered it was Keith Barron! They told him about it, and that was how he got the part. They didn’t use his house in the end, they used one on Hampton Court. It was a lovely house owned by a wealthy young couple. She was very glamorous and loved being on a film set every day. It was absolutely the right house. Some of the interiors were in the house as well. That bathroom was there, larger than life, with its two baths and Greek-style columns. It was down to the lady of the house I think. I don’t know what they did, but she is in the film somewhere. She has long blonde hair, and was a rather friendly young lady.
Michael Klinger cast Diana Dors as the mother. Oh my goodness! She hadn’t had a resurgence then; she was still yesterday’s news. And then suddenly, as the film came out, she had a resurgence. She was terrific. They did use her name quite a lot to hang the film on and it certainly paid off. She was quite a coup, and a smashing lady. I loved her. Her character casts a long shadow over the film. It needed somebody like that to do it. And they got Dick Emery in it, which was sheer coincidence! They originally wanted Tony Hancock for that, but sadly by the time we got to make the film he had died in Australia. It was wonderful that they decided to book Dick Emery. He was there for two or three days filming. He thought it was all hysterical. He said, “Good God, look at you!” The character he played was a sleazy friend who was eyeing me up and down in the swimming pool, so all the facial reactions were quite funny. It was all fun.
Network: Starring in a film like this at such a young age must have made a big impact.
LH: It changed my life! Michael Klinger was a terrific salesman. He was larger than life. When the film was finished Michael sold it to Joseph E. Levine, who had just had a big hit with The Graduate. We headed off to America for three weeks. We went first to New York where I was staying in the Hampshire House and it was fantastic. I fell in love with New York and have been ever since.
Network: What did you think of the publicity in America?
LH: They put my face 80 feet high in Times Square, which was incredible, but they chose the wrong picture really. They chose the picture where I was making myself up. They took that still with the great big eyes and made it look like a horror film! It was in Times Square for quite some time, but it didn’t sell the film as it was meant to be sold, I don’t think. When it opened in New York the Americans didn’t particularly like it, so by the time I got to Los Angeles I’m afraid the venues had changed somewhat from first class to some hotel on the strip. It all came tumbling down around our ears! But Joseph E. Levine also had it in England, and by the time I got back quite an amazing publicity man by the name of George Skinner had totally changed the image. It was based on the split personality of this girl, which is what the film was about. It did well in England and around Europe. We pitched up and down the country and went abroad. It was fantastic, and I was involved in all the promoting of it.
Network: What do you remember of the premiere?
LH: It would have been the Metropole Victoria Cinema [now demolished]. The premiere was fantastic! They had this catchphrase that I was old enough to make the film, but wasn’t old enough to see it, so they made a wonderful invitation with my birth certificate on the back, which said, “Come to the first night of my film.” It was a great affair and Michael gave my dad lots of tickets for his friends. It was really lavish and I came out of a birthday cake in a white silk mini-dress and hood! They really milked it for all they could. They went to town on it. It was wonderful for me, and my father was there for all the glory of it.
Network: What do you think about the film now, all these years later?
LH: It was one of those iconic films of its time. It was quite famous because I was so young and it was a little bit risqué, so it was talked about at the time, and has survived the years. It was just on the fringes of the British film industry before it took a bit of a dive. We just got in there before it all came crashing down!