Down by the boardwalk at the Santa Monica Pier, the mysterious woman in black takes off her very dark sunglasses. Behind her the Pacific Ocean turns gray. Dayle Haddon's eyes—twin pools of jade, turquoise and aquamarine—helped put her on the cover of SI's 1973 swimsuit issue, under the billing DON'T JUST SIT THERE.
These are the eyes that Nick Nolte looked into in North Dallas Forty, a film in which Nolte's best line to Haddon's character is, "You've got fantastic eyes." It was a B movie.
Sixteen years have passed since the SI cover, and 10 since North Dallas Forty, but Haddon still has the bearing of a young woman. Balancing on a rotting beam by the pier, she doesn't waver as she walks. Her footing is sure, her carriage perfect. She also hasn't let fame throw her.
"I was too young to know what was happening to me," she says of the swimsuit cover. "I was in my teens. I know I'm not as pretty as some other girls. But people would write me and tell me their problems. They said I'd understand. People think I can see their secrets, who they are. And I do."
Haddon got off to a poor start in her native Montreal. She was a fragile, sickly child, but her green-eyed father, Edward, an engineer, and her blue-eyed mother, Terry, willed their little girl to get better. Dayle put up a pretty good fight herself.
"I've been given many things," says Haddon. "But I've had to pay for some of them." Dance, for instance, was painful but worth it. "I did the modeling to pay for the dancing," she says.
She attended a ballet school, L'�cole Sup�rieure de Danse de Quebec in Montreal, for a number of years and once danced with the famed Bolshoi company of Moscow during its tour of Canada. "Dance gave me discipline," she says. "It taught me to deal with pain. Dancers cry all the time. Tears have streamed down my face, too. You never know when it can get away from you. Seems like I've been up and down so many times. People want to pin you down. People can hurt you."
Haddon's career as model-actress has been a frustrating one. After that disappointing turn in North Dallas Forty, her first major role in an American movie, she had few illusions about being an actress. "I hated doing that film," she says. "The movie started without anyone being prepared. There was a lot of explosive energy on the set. We went through some 30 script revisions because they couldn't decide a direction for my character. But no matter what was in the script, she was either reading or doing needlepoint. I played a rich girl who had no life, did nothing."
The critics were not kind to her when the film was released in 1979. "Dayle Haddon's inexperienced playing adds nothing even faintly convincing to the badly written love interest," said TIME. "Haddon is stuck with an underwritten part, and makes the least of it," wrote Newsweek. "Amazingly uninteresting," said The New York Times.
With her career in Hollywood going nowhere after North Dallas Forty, she moved to France, where in six years she modeled, made films in both Italy and France, did photo shoots with Guy Bourdin, who is the top fashion photographer in Paris and whom Haddon compares to Lord Snowden. In 1981, Harper's Bazaar named her one of the world's 10 most beautiful women, a list that included some heavy hitters: Susan Sarandon, Victoria Principal, Jacqueline Bisset and Brooke Shields.