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Take a beautiful actress, keep slapping gobs of unflattering makeup on her, give her nothing but witchy lines to read and presto: an unhappy actress.

Just ask Morgan Brittany, a genuine beauty with light blue eyes and rich, cascading dark hair who would make a natural Snow White. But for years, Hollywood has limited her to portraying tough, hard women, including a murderess or two.It was a calculated process by makeup artists who applied gaudy eyeliner, harsh eye shadow, an overdose of mascara, a slash of dark red lipstick and highlighted cheekbones. The look was severe.

The psychology of it all made Brittany a more sinister heavy than a Plain Jane would have been. It's the shock value of seeing a stunning woman behaving viciously that provokes the impact.

Brittany played the scheming Katherine Wentworth in the "Dallas" TV series off and on for six years, killing off Bobby Ewing in the show's wacky season-long dream sequence.

Thereafter she was typecast as a bad girl in a series of feature films and made-for-TV movies.

Disenchanted with that, Brittany took off a couple of years to work on her role as a wife to movie stunt coordinator Jack Gill and mother to daughter Katie and son Cody.

Next month she will be seen in a reprise of the old TV series "The Saint," a two-hour TV movie.

"Hooray, hooray, I play a nice guy for a change," Brittany said. "I'm so happy I was able to do a little bit of comedy and feel good about my character. They don't kill me or take me off to jail at the end.

"I don't think any other actress around today has played as many mean and bitter women.

"I fixed horse races and was hauled off to jail. In a `Perry Mason' episode I was a murder suspect. In `L.B.J.' with Randy Quaid I was the president's mistress trying to break up President Johnson and Ladybird.

"I've tried to convince producers I could play something other than a glamourpuss, the other woman or unsympathetic parts. They couldn't see me as a wife, a mother or a businesswoman or whatever.

"If a woman has a look like I do, producers automatically think she can't be funny. They forget about Carole Lomard and Irene Dunne."

Last year Brittany landed a starring role in the movie "Sundown" with Maxwell Caulfield, David Carradine and John Ireland. It was produced by Vestron and was identified as a comedy-western-vampire movie.

"Against my better judgment, I agreed to do it," she said. "It was so bad, I hate to think of it. But my prayers were answered. Vestron had troubles and the pictures won't be released to theaters.

"When it hits video stores it will either be a cult film or a bomb. I may change my name. But at least I got to play a wife for the first time in my career.

"My agents tried for a solid year to get me a comedy role. Even at auditions before I could read, they'd automatically say, `No. She's not right. She's too hard.'

"No one would give me five minutes to show them I didn't look like the severe characters I'd been playing. Finally, I read for a comedy part in an episode of `L.A. Law' and got it. Next I was called in for a segment of `Dear John' with Judd Hirsch. Then I did an episode of `Married With Children,' playing a totally off-the-wall character with a Southern accent.

"Now the doors are open. I can show producers comedy footage proving I don't have to look as if I'm going to wave a gun around.

"I should have known how difficult it is to break an image. I was a child actress and had to fight against preconceived ideas when I tried to find adult roles.

"When I turned 14 and couldn't play kids anymore, I became a model. Then I had to fight the prejudice against models when I began acting again. Hollywood believes models can't act, that they have no personalities."

Brittany has been around show business long enough to know rejection is a way of life for an actress.

"No matter what you do in this business, you are always on the line, always having to prove yourself," she said.

"What I want to do is play women like myself - wives and mothers."