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Donna Rice--a Media Star Is Born

May 07, 1987|DEBORAH CAULFIELD and MICHAEL CIEPLY | Times Staff Writers

As seasoned pols question Gary Hart's political future, Hollywood is buzzing about Donna Rice, who may become one of the best known actresses who never got that big break.

Hollywood may know who Donna Rice is now, but last week the aspiring actress' profile in town was decidely low. And she gave few details about her career at a press conference Monday. Efforts by The Times to contact her since then have been unsuccessful.

Rice has been an active member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1982, working primarily in Miami, according to guild records. Aside from commercials and industrial films, her acting career to date consists of bit parts in television shows and a role that was eventually dropped from an independent feature film that never had a theatrical release.

The actress, who is 29, had a small part in an episode of "Miami Vice" entitled "Forgive Us Our Debts" that aired Nov. 28, 1986. She appeared briefly in scenes with singer Phil Collins, who played a sleazy con man.

Rice also listed on her resume an appearance as a bridesmaid on "Dallas." However, a CBS spokesman said "Dallas" producers searched their records and couldn't find any record of Rice's employment.

"The only wedding we could remember was years ago, when Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton) married at Southfork, the spokesman said. "Maybe she used another name."

Rice's resume also lists parts under five lines in ABC's "One Life to Live" and NBC's short-lived daytime soap "Texas." Various Miami talent agencies have handled Rice over the years, but no agents contacted there would provide details on specific jobs, which she had categorized on her resume as work in "commercials and industrial films."

"We've had clients (for whom Rice did commercials) calling all morning telling us not to release their names," said an agent Tuesday at Act I, one of Miami's largest talent agencies. She added that Rice was a "pretty well known" talent in Miami.

Marie Beattie, owner of MarBea for 19 years--one of the top three talent agencies in Miami--said she used to represent Rice, but no longer. "We had a situation; well, we've dissolved the representation," Beattie said in an telephone interview. "We had creative differences," Beattie added, refusing to offer further details and saying she couldn't recall names on any of Rice's jobs.

At the Ada Gordon agency, an employee explained, "She's registered with us, but it's been quite a while since we worked with her" and declined further comment.

Rice's one feature film credit is "Last Plane Out," a low-budget movie about journalists escaping from Nicaragua in 1979. The movie--which appears occasionally on cable movie channels--never was released theatrically by New World Pictures, and Rice's brief appearance ended up on the cutting room floor.

Jack Cox, who produced the film in 1982, recalled that Rice was cast as a secretary in one scene with Jan-Michael Vincent and worked on location in Vero Beach, Fla.

"She seemed to be very attractive and personable, but we got a sub-par performance from Vincent and from Donna, so we cut the scene," Cox said in a telephone interview from his Abilene, Tex., office. "She was nervous--I think this was her first real break."

Cox also recalled that Rice--who was asked to provide her own wardrobe for the scene--wore a dress he described as "extremely revealing--not exactly what a secretary in Abilene (where the scene was taking place) would wear."

Abilene Reporter-News City Editor Bill Whitaker, a friend of Cox's who was visiting Vero Beach at the time and watched the scene, said Rice was dressed in "a brightly hued dress and no bra. Her hair was trailing and she was bouncing across the stage like she'd just walked off of a beauty pageant."

Whitaker and a colleague, staff writer Jim Conley, later took Rice to the beach. "She spent most of her time primping as I recall," Whittaker said, chuckling. "She worried about how she would look, she wouldn't go in the water--it was kind of comical--but I guess that's the way it is (with actresses)."

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