‘Bonanza’: This Actress’ Short But Prolific Career Ended With a Role on the Classic Western

by Craig Garrett

Claire Griswold had an acting career that lasted less than a decade, but she still managed to leave a legacy in classic tv. She appeared in just over 20 roles, according to her IMDB page. Most of those parts were in the first five years of her acting career.

Griswold was born in Hawaii in 1936. She was part of a military family, as her father was a Lt. General in the United States Air Force. Like many families involved with the military, Claire moved a lot. “Dad was with the Air Force and we moved about once every 18 months,” she told The Detroit News.

The family resided in numerous locations across the globe, including Hawaii. They also lived in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. For Claire, London was her most fondly remembered locale.“London was best because I was able to study ballet at the Sadler’s Wells school for two and a half years.”

Griswold moves to New York and gets the acting bug

When Claire was a teenager, the Griswolds relocated to New York City after traveling throughout the world. After a few years as a model, she was featured on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal and other publications. Claire then decided to get into acting.

She studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, which was founded by Sanford Meisner. Around the same time, Robert Duvall, a future TV co-star, and other Hollywood luminaries attended the Playhouse. At the prestigious drama school, Claire met her soul mate in the form of a fellow student. She began seeing an aspiring actor and director named Sydney Pollack. Pollack became well known to movie lovers as the award-winning brains behind movies like Three Days of the CondorTootsie, Out of Africa, and The Firm. However, he was simply another twenty-something seeking to break into the entertainment business in the 1950s.

Claire Griswold makes her way to Los Angeles

Sydney and Claire were married in 1958, and they moved to Southern California. From there, they had no problem finding work in film and tv. She had a number of guest roles on TV, including Wanted Dead or Alive (1961), among many others. Claire Griswold was one of the most popular TV actresses by 1961. She graced the screens of nine different shows in 1961, including Hawaiian Eye, Surfside 6, and Perry Mason.

Claire Griswold was cast in the Alfred Hitchcock Hour‘s “I Saw the Whole Thing,” an episode in 1962. It was the first hour-long episode of his renowned series that he directed after directing 17 half-hour episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Griswold impressed Hitchock, and he personally signed her to a contract. Her next appearance on Hitchcock Hour was the episode “Home Away from Home.”

Griswold’s final acting role was in Bonanza. It was during the season 8 episode titled “The Prince”. Claire Griswold played a Russian countess tracking down her fugitive husband. After this performance, Griswold retired to focus on raising a family. She had three children with Pollack, to who she remained married until his death in 2008. Griswold passed away in 2011 at age 74.