While a prolific screen presence from the late-'60s onward, Barbara Hershey did not truly attain star status until two decades later, finally blossoming to become one of the most acclaimed American actresses of her generation. Born Barbara Herzstein on February 5, 1948, in Hollywood, CA, she studied drama during high school and in 1965 made her professional debut in the teen television romp Gidget. From 1966 to 1967, she was a regular on the series The Monroes and subsequently guest starred in a number of other programs. Hershey made her film bow in 1968's With Six You Get Eggroll, followed by the Western Heaven With a Gun and Last Summer. After a number of other lesser projects, she starred as the title heroine in 1972's Boxcar Bertha, the first major theatrical release from a then-unknown Martin Scorsese. David Carradine, Hershey's onscreen partner in crime, became her offscreen companion as well. Carradine directed them both in Americana (filmed in 1973 but not shown until eight years later), and together they had a child, Free.
In another nod to the counterculture, Hershey rechristened herself "Barbara Seagull" and traveled to the Netherlands to film the 1973 drama Angela, winning Best Actress honors for her work at the Berlin Film Festival. Still, box-office success continued to elude her, and her resumé remained littered with undistinguished projects including the 1974 heist drama Diamonds, the 1976 comedy A Choice of Weapons, and the Western The Last Hard Men. By 1977, Hershey -- having dropped the "Seagull" surname -- turned to television, where she appeared in the Irwin Allen disaster production Flood! as well as the miniseries A Man Called Intrepid and the 1979-1980 weekly program From Here to Eternity. The 1980 comedy The Stunt Man, actually shot two years earlier, marked Hershey's return to feature films, and was followed by 1981's Take This Job and Shove It and the 1982 horror picture The Entity.