‘Dr. Strangelove’ and the Single Woman
When asked if she has fond memories of working on Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” Tracy Reed emphatically responds, “Oh yes, lots!”
But Reed, who played “Miss Foreign Affairs,” Gen. Buck Turgidson’s comely secretary, concedes, in a phone call from London, that there were times on the set that were “very alarming.”
“I was the only woman in it and I was wearing a bikini the whole time,” Reed remembers, and when Kubrick decided to open the set to the press, “there were all these reporters staring at me. It was dreadful.”
Reed landed the part after she met Kubrick with some friends at dinner. “We chatted,” she says, “and he asked me to do it.”
Despite overexposing her to the media, Reed says Kubrick was “wonderful.” George C. Scott, who played Gen. Turgidson, was “a darling, absolutely sweet,” and the film’s star, Peter Sellers, was “a sad man who never quite knew who he really was.”
Although just 22 when “Dr. Strangelove” was produced, Reed disputes original press material claiming the film is “introducing Tracy Reed as ‘Miss Foreign Affairs.’ ”
“That’s ridiculous,” she says. “I’ve been in the movies all of my life!”
The stepdaughter of British director Sir Carol Reed and the daughter of actress Penelope Dudley Ward, Reed actually made her film debut at the age of 6 months, co-starring with her mother and Laurence Olivier in “The Demi-Paradise.”
And after “Dr. Strangelove,” Reed continued to appear in British comedies--"there were so many I can’t remember"--working again with Sellers in “A Shot in the Dark,” until she began turning down parts to raise a family.
Now 52, Reed has three daughters, ages 34, 21 and 20. She works as a broker for a British gourmet foods company, for whom she “travels the whole of Ireland,” trying to encourage grocery stores to carry the company’s products.
Reed got the job, she explains, by “pure chance,” after deciding she wanted to remain in West Cork, Ireland, where she had recently bought a house. “I just rang them and asked if they needed someone to help them export to Ireland,” she says. “They agreed and I had a job.”
She says she’s sometimes recognized as “Miss Foreign Affairs” when “Dr. Strangelove” has “just been on television,” and is delighted to hear that the film is being re-released in the United States, where she hopes a lot of people see it.
But more important, she says with a laugh, “I hope we all get paid again."*