September 21, 2022

Over the Transom: Sian Barbara Allen

by Stephen Taylor

Watched two episodes of Ironside tonight. The second one "Nightmare Trip," involved Ed Brown being thrown into the Los Angeles County jail because he wouldn’t identify himself to the two cops checking him out. What a mess. Too many unanswered questions, and a great deal of bizarre behavior on the part of Sgt. Brown and Chief Ironside. Raymond Burr directed this one, so you’d expect better, but no. A soggy, leaden mess, with the less said the better.
The first episode was just routine. The plot was opaque and the writing only so-so. But if you watched a lot of television in the Seventies, you’re going to see a familiar face. The episode is called "Riddle Me This," A man has been run over, and his daughter is convinced he’s been murdered. Ironside is skeptical at first; there’s no real evidence. But Fran shames the Chief into beginning an investigation, and the clues start piling up. All very routine. It’s Sian Barbara Allen, playing the daughter, who makes the episode worthwhile.

Allen was at her best playing characters who were fragile, vulnerable or damaged in some way.  She wasn’t flashy or glamorous; she looked a lot like you might think her characters looked.  She was all over television, but most active in the Seventies.  She also did some writing, including an episode of Baretta.  But her best role, in my opinion, was as a junkie in an episode of Adam-12 called "Something Worth Dying For." Officer Reed is detached to Narcotics. He’s directed to befriend her, cultivate her and then turn her into a snitch. He does this, hating himself the entire time. But it gets worse; he’s instructed to bust her for an unrelated theft. She’s really good in this one. While she’s street-tough, she’s also damaged, fragile and vulnerable. She trusts Reed, only to find out what happens when you trust someone too much. It’s excellent television, and perhaps the best episode of the entire series, and it couldn’t have happened without Sian Barbara Allen. She was one of those actors who was never going to have a series; her career was one long succession of guest starring roles, but she also added instant credibility to any role she played and stayed busy.

Her last acting credit was an episode of L.A. Law in 1990; she retired from acting at that point. She’s still with us. TV  

1 comment:

  1. I thought I saw her on some Room 222 episodes, but that was Jane Actman. Very similar looks.


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