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The Home of Sixties Cinema

Welcome to SixtiesCinema.com the home of award winning author and film historian Tom Lisanti's groovy books on 60's starlets and drive-in movies from Elvis and beach party musicals to biker films to teenage exploitation. Check out his Blog below for updates or tribute pieces on all your favorite '60s starlets and B-movie actors. Purchase his highly entertaining, well-illustrated books directly from Amazon.com

About Tom



Tom Lisanti is an award-winning author and historian on Sixties B-movies. He has written a series of books on the subject and has interviewed some of the most famous starlets of the time. His latest book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 is now available and look for his next book Sixties Pop Cinema in 2016.

 
Blog

NOVA SPEAKS! LINDA HARRISON REMEMBERS PLANET OF THE APES

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the original Planet of the Apes, I am re-sharing a revised interview with the original Nova Linda Harrison that ran in Filmfax magazine.

Linda Harrison will always be remembered as the beauty among the beasts. She left an indelible impression on 1960s moviegoers as the mute Nova, opposite Charlton Heston’s lost astronaut, Taylor, in the classic sci-fi films, Planet of the Apes (1968) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). With her long, dark hair and big, brown eyes, Linda had the perfect qualities to bring Nova to life on the big screen. “Nova means new,” reminded Linda Harrison. “I felt very comfortable playing her. I didn’t even have to audition. Dick told me I had the look they wanted.” Dick was Richard Zanuck, then head of 20th Century-Fox. It was on the studio lot that Linda met Zanuck, whom she married in 1969.

Beauty pageants led to an introduction to a young agent named Mike Medavoy who helped Linda get signed by 20th Century-Fox. The studio was restarting its acting school program for its contract players. At the time, the acting roster included Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Selleck, Christina Ferrare, Lara Lindsay, and Corinna Tsopei. After playing small roles in the unfunny Jerry Lewis comedy Way…Way Out (1966) and the better received comedy The Guide for the Married Man (1967) with Walter Matthau and Robert Morse, Zanuck then handed the brunette beauty the role she would become world famous for that of Nova in Planet of the Apes.

Before she was given Nova, Linda was part of the make-up creations by John Chambers who would go on to win a special Academy Award for his ingenious work. “I was used as a model for the make-up. That is what contract players did back then. You were being paid a weekly salary so sometimes you had to do things like this. The studio heads wanted to see if the makeup was doable. At that point they hadn’t green lighted Planet of the Apes yet. I had to lay back and be perfectly still as they put this plaster mold on my face. You had to know how to control your body. The whole process took about three hours.”

Lucky for Linda and Charlton Heston, they didn’t have to go through this process daily unlike co-stars Hunter and McDowall. Recalling the cast, Harrison remembered, “He [Heston] had a quiet quality about him. Charlton was gentle and was always looking after me. He taught me how to favor the camera. As an actor, I was someone he kind of took under his wing, which was good for the film. Sometimes, simple things like that transfer to the screen, and are very dramatic.”

“Roddy and Kim were great people and fabulous troopers. I’m not just saying that; they were pros. They had a difficult time with all that makeup. And they had to report to the set at 3:00 am!”

Director Franklin J. Schaffner (who would go on to win a Best Director Academy Award for Patton) was chosen to direct and per Linda had his own vision for the movie. “He was a very interesting man—very quiet. I remember Dick and I would have dinner with the assistant director on the movie. He and Dick were best friends. He would tell us nobody knows what the next shot will be, because Schaffner keeps it in his back pocket. He would only tell his cameraman, Leon Shamroy. But that lent itself to this kind of picture. It gave the actors a very interesting edge, not knowing what to expect next. I think his directly style worked very effectively.”

One of the film’s many standout scenes and one that remained vivid in Linda’s mind was when the audience first sees the marauding gorillas on horseback hunting the humans in the forest backed by Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting Oscar-nominated score. It was a very complicated action piece per Linda. “We had the humans running one way, some apes beating the bushes, and some others on horseback. I’m sure this scene was dangerous, but I wasn’t aware of it. I had total trust in the people in charge. This was shot in Malibu on the 20th Century-Fox ranch. They also built Ape City there. I remember it was always extremely hot. Even though I was scantily clad, my costume was made from real bark, with a rubber backing. I still felt the heat.”

After hurling through space for over 2,000 years, four astronauts land on a planet where humans are mute primitives, and apes are their masters. Of the space travelers, only Taylor (Charlton Heston) survives their first encounter with the apes, but he is shot in the throat by the marauding human hunting gorillas on horseback. He is taken to Ape City (along with other humans including an intense beauty he dubs “Nova”) where he tries to convince a sympathetic psychologist Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) and her archeologist finance Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) of his intelligence. When he regains his speech, he proves his superiority, but is thwarted by Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) who has always been aware of man’s intellect as well as being the harbinger of death. The film climaxes in the Forbidden Zone with Taylor proving that apes evolved from humans only to have Zaius cover up the proof. Zaius allows Taylor to go off with Nova deeper into the Forbidden Zone only to discover the horrible truth: the planet of the apes is actually Earth, whose civilization was destroyed by mankind. Taylor is on his knees in the sand yelling, “You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you to hell! The camera peers up to reveal a wrecked Statute of Liberty in the film’s final shot.

For more on Linda Harrison’s career in Beneath the Planet of the Apes and off the Planet of the Apes, pick up a copy of my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema.

 

 

If a Man Answers Comes on TV, Change the Channel!

Though I liked Sandra Dee, some of her comedies just don’t hold up. Case in point, the comedy If a Man Answers (1962). Though producer Ross Hunter seriously considered Nancy Kwan for the role, Sandra Dee is perfectly cast as a husband trapping coed in this irritating comedy. Basic premise of the movie is how inexperienced college girl Dee traps herself a man and then learns how to hold and change him with advice from her know-it-all Parisian mother Micheline Presle, an ex-dancer in the Folies Bergere. She professes to be an expert on ensnaring a man based on how she landed Dee’s American papa John Lund.

After the family moves from Boston to New York, Dee’s college aspiration are long forgotten and she now majors in putting the full court press on playboy fashion photographer Bobby Darin. Once she entraps him and they are wed, Dee becomes jealous of all the beautiful models her husband works with including miscast Stefanie Powers shrill as her snooty friend from Boston.

Dee then tries to change randy Darin into the perfect husband following her mama’s arrogant advice via a book on training him like you would a dog! When that backfires thanks to big mouthed drunken Powers, mama advises her daughter to create a fake lover named Robert Swan like she did years ago when feeling neglected. Darin gets his revenge when his father comes to town pretending he is the fictional lover unnerving Dee. All works out for the obligatory happy ending. Dee is perky and charming and looks fabulous in her chic wardrobe, but the movie is unfunny and hopelessly dated with cringe-inducing scenes of Presle giving marital advice none of which is just speaking truthfully to your spouse. Typical romantic comedy from the period aimed at teenage girls preaching to them that they should only strive to trap themselves a husband and then play tricks and games to keep your man in line. For their sakes, hopefully teenage boys from the period hated this piece of dreck and stayed away. Teenage girls obviously didn’t and the movie was a major box office hit.

 

Mini-Review: The Reward (1965)

Trying to shake off her earlier ingénue roles, which she described as “frightened fawns,” Yvette Mimieux co-starred in The Reward (1965) from 20th Century-Fox and directed by Serge Bourguignon who also co-wrote the script. The Frenchman was still riding high from his hit movie Sundays and Cybèle that brought him an Academy Award nomination for writing. The actress was so determined to do this picture that she had to negotiate her way out of her contract with MGM. Obviously enamored of her director, she exclaimed, “He finished the screenplay six months before shooting and never changed a word. It’s his concept from beginning` to end and there’s nobody else to take credit or blamed. That’s the way to come up with a good film.” It will come as no surprise to learn that Mimieux and Bourguignon became romantically involved. Alas that was the best thing that emerged from this ambitious failure notable for one of the few westerns of the time to have its Mexican characters speak Spanish with English subtitles.

In this slow-moving modern western, which the critics just did not take to, Yvette is the companion of businessman Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. on the run for the kidnapping and murder of his partner’s young son whom he claims he did not kill. He is spotted by dust cropper pilot Max Von Sydow whose plane crashes in the small Mexican town where the fugitive stops. He convinces malaria-ridden police captain Gilbert Roland to pursue Zimbalist for the $50,000 reward. They do and are accompanied by Roland’s wild-eyed sergeant and two young deputies (Henry Silva and Nino Castelnuovo) none of whom speak English. Cars are traded for horses to traverse the rocky terrain and once the couple is apprehended things go from bad to worse when the sergeant learns of the bounty and the death toll begins to mount.

Yvette seems bewildered throughout always by Zimbalist’s side. At one point, she slips off her horse and viewers cannot tell if the actress fell asleep from the boredom or the character passed out due to the sun. Unfortunately for Mimieux, her role was nothing more than window dressing though she has a few intense moments vouching for Zimbalist’s innocence and pleading for their freedom. Even so, she is always a fave of mine and I like her here.

The ending fails to provide a satisfying wrap up leaving the survivors still lost in the desert. Needless to say, the film was reviled by the critics and bombed at the box office. Despite Mimieux’s high hopes for the picture, it did nothing for her career. In fact, the critic from the New Yorker called her “the poor man’s Carol Lynley.” Ouch! Even so, Yvette said back then that The Reward was one of her two favorites, the other being the lush soap The Light in the Piazza.

 

Holiday Book Sale

Now through December 10, 2017, 30% off all book from BearManor Media including mine, Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies. Use discount code “twentymore”.

Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies is a collection of profiles, interviews, and tributes about actors and films popular with the drive-in movie crowd during the sixties. Interviewees include Arlene Charles, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, and Irene Tsu talking Elvis Presley musicals; Bobbi Shaw and Steven Rogers talking beach party movies; Jan Watson and Diane Bond talking spy spoofs; Nicoletta Machiavelli talking spaghetti westerns; Mimsy Farmer, Maggie Thrett, Lara Lindsay, and Lada Edmund, Jr. talking alienated youth movies; and Valerie Starrett talking biker films. Some of the chapters center on one movie or a genre while others are career profiles with a main focus on one or two drive-in movies.

 

 

A SALUTE TO CHRIS NOEL & OTHER 60s STARLETS WHO WENT TO VIETNAM

Watched the entire 18 hour PBS documentary series The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick. It was a time investment but overall really worth it. Great job showing a balanced look at the war from U.S., South Vietnam and North Vietnam perspectives as well as personal stories from military men and civilians from all three countries. Powerful, moving, and informative. However, I was surprised that the celebrities who went to Vietnam to entertain the troops were given such short shrift including Bob Hope. Only Hanoi Jane was really talked about and that was because of her blunder to go to North Vietnam.

So I would like to salute my 60s starlets that gave up their time to go to Vietnam. Most were not part of Bob Hope’s big USO tours that played the major military bases in safe zones and instead went solo as Chris Noel did or with Johnny Grant (the unofficial mayor of Hollywood) to smaller fire bases in-country with enemy fire all around.

Chris Noel (of Girl Happy; Beach Ball, Wild Wild Winter fame) must lead this list. She was a DJ on Armed Forces Radio with her show “My Date with Chris” and journeyed to Vietnam many times.

Excerpt from my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema:

After she began doing the show, Chris received a letter from the Department of Defense that asked her if she would volunteer to go to Vietnam to help build the morale of the troops. She jumped at the chance without even considering the danger. But unlike Joey Heatherton, Raquel Welch, Jill St. John, and others who were part of Bob Hope’s entourage, Chris traveled on her own to hospitals, fire bases, and remote outposts. Clad in the shortest of mini-skirts (“my fatigues”), Noel would sing, dance, comfort, and bring joy to many servicemen. It is no wonder she became the favorite pin-up of GIs in Vietnam. “It was the most courageous thing I ever did,” remarks Chris. “All I had with me was a tape recorder and a portable record player. I would play all the latest music for the guys and I would dance with them. I also would tape messages from them to their families. I eventually traveled the entire scope of South Vietnam many times and was shot at on more than one occasion. I probably had one of the most unusual experiences of the Vietnam War.” The Vietcong however did not take too kindly to Chris. “They put a bounty on my head,” says Chris laughing. “Bob Hope’s head was worth $25,000. Mine was only worth $10,000.”

While Noel’s personal life was being fulfilled aiding the servicemen in Vietnam, her acting career was suffering. Hollywood in the late sixties was anti-Vietnam and Noel received a backlash from the acting community for doing her radio show and for visiting Vietnam. “My family and friends thought what I was doing was neat,” says Chris. “People I knew casually just started to hate me for going to Vietnam. I never expected the backlash I received. And I’ll tell you it’s bothered me ever since. But at the time I was so absorbed in it that I just threw my hands in the air and said, ‘What will be, will be.’ I believed in supporting my country. Since I was asked to visit Vietnam, I felt it was my duty to go. Reporters would always question me if I were a hawk or a dove. And I would refuse to answer. I wouldn’t discuss the war. I would only speak about my work and the needs of the GIs. I would not take sides. Now however I believe we were all told a lot of lies in the beginning and most of us bought it.”

Today Chris Noel manages Vetsville Cease Fire House, Inc. which she founded in 1993. Her organization consists of halfway houses in three Florida cities that provide shelter, food, clothing, and counseling for homeless Vietnam vets. “I had a desire of doing this about five years before I did it. As a leader in the national Veteran’s community, I’ve always been on top of the needs of the vets. As I traveled around, people would tell me of vets that killed themselves. I had a real feeling for that because my husband [a Vietnam vet] had killed himself. And I started to see that many vets were suffering from PTSD or the effects of Agent Orange. Many were living on the streets because they couldn’t afford to even rent an apartment. So one day I just decided to go out and rent a house for homeless vets. I began this using my own money until we started fundraising.”  Though the Vietnam War is long over, Chris Noel’s commitment to the men who served there is unwavering.

Other starlets that I interviewed that went to Vietnam to boost morale and deserve to be saluted:

Diane McBain

Salli Sachse

Melody Patterson

Sharyn Hillyer

Arlene Charles

 

Harassment in Hollywood Is Not New! Sixties Starlets Share Their Stories

With all these stories spewing forth from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie in light of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment accusations, you would think that this was a new phenomenon in Hollywood. Hell it has been going on for decades. I started interviewing 60s starlets in the mid-1990s. A lot of the actresses I spoke with had long been retired but even then some who shared incidents about being sexually harassed by actors or directors or producers were still hesitant to name names. Even if the guy was deceased some didn’t want to shame his living relatives. even though their loved one behaved badly.

Fortunately their were a few brave ladies who recounted with names some of their worst experiences in Hollywood though thankfully none are as bad as what Weinstein is alleged to have done. Here are their anecdotes from their own lips from some of my books.

Julie Parrish in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Hollywood:

“I couldn’t understand why an old guy with white hair would be after me. I was revolted by it. From the beginning, my agent taught me to make excuses to get out of these situations. The main thing was to not hurt their feelings because they might fix it so you didn’t work again. I would look at my watch and say, ‘I would love to stay and talk but I have another audition I’ve got to go to.’ I really had nobody in Hollywood to guide me. Anne Helm and I talk about this a lot. We got ourselves into situations that were pretty insulting—just because we believed everybody. In those days a lot of us were very naive—much more than the young actresses of today.”

“I really wanted to work with Elvis. I was in every Elvis fan club around when I was a teenager. I would even do Elvis imitations with the long sideburns and guitar when I was in high school. So I convinced Hal Wallis to give me another shot and did the test over. Then I got the part. Mr. Wallis, who was married, was an old letch. I think he felt there was an unspoken promise that I would sleep with him since he allowed me to re-test for the part. On the day before filming began, he called me into his office, led me over to the sofa, and briefly kissed me on the mouth. He said, ‘Little girl, we’re going to have a long talk about your future.’ I made up any excuse to get out of there. While on location he was constantly calling me and asking me out. It was quite annoying and insulting. He called me one last time in Hawaii and said, ‘Little girl, you’d better think again.’ I knew I would probably never work for him again, but that was fine with me. This whole incident highly offended me.”

“I really didn’t get along with William Shatner [on Star Trek]. I’m not blaming him because he was of that generation of actors and really didn’t think that women had feelings—we were just something to use. Even though it was early on, he really played up being the star of the series. There was one particular day when I was broke and decided not to go out to lunch. So I went to my dressing room to lay down and rest. Shatner knocked on my trailer and said, ‘The electricity is out in my trailer to you mind if I use yours.’ I said, ‘Sure, come in.’ But I didn’t bother to get up. He entered and suddenly he was on me! I remember saying to him something like I would like to have a choice about this. He stopped but then he treated me badly for the rest of the week. It was so unprofessional. Majel Barrett [Nurse Chappel] told me that he that he used that excuse about the electricity with everybody.”

Chris Noel in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Hollywood:

“I did not like Edd Byrnes [her leading man in Beach Ball]. He was so egotistical! We had a kissing scene and he would slip his tongue practically down my throat. I felt that was uncalled for. I didn’t like it. It was invading my privacy. I told him he was a jerk. He still wouldn’t stop! So I went to Lennie Weinrib [the director] and said to him, ‘Get Byrnes to stop or I’m walking off the set.’”

Marlyn Mason in Film Fatales:

“We [she and Robert Vaughn on The Man from UNCLE] had to do a kissing scene. In those days when people kissed on television and in movies it was all very tame stuff. There was no slurping and nobody was eating anybody’s face like you see nowadays. So we do this scene and Vaughn just jams his tongue down my throat. Of course the actress in me just kept on acting but I was not responsive. I was trying to keep my mouth shut. I was so stunned and I decided that I was just not going to say anything. We did this in one take but I thought, ‘There is no way that they are going to see this in the dailies and pass it. We’re going to have to do this again.’ Sure enough, the next day the director came and told us we had to do the scene over again. I was watching out of the corner of my eye as the director took Robert Vaughn aside and told him, ‘You can’t kiss her like that.’ We did it a second time and he made a half-ass attempt to do it again! But my mouth was tightly shut.”

Sharyn Hillyer in Drive-In Dream Girls:

“I was a nervous wreck [doing her first topless scene in A Guide for the Married Man]. I had never done anything like that before. I took the first tranquilizer that I ever took in my life in order to do this. They put pasties on me because I was nude from the waste up. Joey Bishop knew my husband at the time and he still came on to me. I was so angry at that asshole. I just felt he was an absolute creep especially since he was friendly with my husband. That made it very uncomfortable doing this scene over and over with him all day.”

Linda Rogers in Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood:

 

“My agent got me an interview for this [Winter a-Go-Go] with the director Richard Benedict. He got fresh and I ended up dumping an ashtray in his lap. I wasn’t used to that at all. As you can tell I just fell into these roles. My agents would tell me where and when to show up. I hardly ever interviewed so when I came across him [Benedict] I was stunned. I never in a million years thought I’d get the part because I rudely told him off. He left me alone after that. But I know he would make remarks to the other girls.”

 

On the Radio!

I am a guest tonight on the radio program TV Confidential airing tonight 7pm ET 4pm PT on KSAV.org Internet Radio.

I will be promoting my newest book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies and will be talking Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Elvis Presley, Bobbi Shaw, Pamela Tiffin, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, Diane Bond, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Irene Tsu, Celeste Yarnall, Steven Rogers, Aron Kincaid, Arlene Charles, Edy Williams, and all our fave 1960s teenage silver screen stars.

 

 

Having a Ski Party

Climate change is rearing its head in NYC this week since it is almost mid-October and having hot humid days forcing me to turn on the air conditioning all week. The strange hot weather made me want to have a Ski Party (1965) personified by the “Lots, Lots More” song performed by Frankie Avalon. For me, this is the best musical number in the movie and perhaps the entire Beach Party series as the bathing suit clad college boys and girls are shimmying away poolside in the open cold air with snow-covered mountains in the background.

The first scene features beach party regulars Salli Sachse and Patti Chandler leading the girls to fight to regain the boys’ attention away from Swedish blonde bombshell Nita (Bobbi Shaw). The song begins with Frankie flanked by beach party regular Luree Holmes (daughter of AIP studio head James Nicholson) and Salli Sachse. As he gets up and moves to the side of the pool, two dudes (one being big time surfer and another beach party regular Mickey Dora) hop up. Frankie makes his way over to Patti Chandler and Playboy Playmate Jo Collins as their dancing partners blonde hunk Aron Kincaid and another dive into the pool. Frankie then dances his way over to AIP beach party movie first timer Mikki Jamison (though she had a rival beach movie Beach Ball already under her belt) and then his leading lady Deborah Walley.

The song ends with hunky but not to bright beach boys Steven Rogers (another AIP first timer) and beach party regular Mike Nader trying to score with Bobbi Shaw’s winsome Nita. Also in the movie are Dwayne Hickman, Yvonne Craig, Robert Q. Lewis, Mary Hughes, Christopher Riordan, with musical numbers by James Brown and the Flames, Leslie Gore, and The Hondells.

Being able to sneak in a pool scene with bikini-clad cuties and shirtless surfer boys in the middle of snow covered Sun Valley was genius and just what the teenage audience wanted. “Lots Lots More” would just have been a catchy song warbled by Frankie Avalon with twistin’ beach babes dancing beside him if it were not for Rafkin’s unusual camera angles capturing the curvy features of Walley, Chandler, Jamison, and Collins in particular and sometimes of just their torsos. HE also positioned the camera on a low angle looking up at the gals a few times, making them look almost Amazonian-like. This style would be used even more ingeniously by Russ Meyer when shooting his wildcats in the following year’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Read more about the making of Ski Party from Aron Kincaid in my book Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969.

Bobbi Shaw, Christopher Riordan, and Steven Rogers talk Ski Party in Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies.

Luree Holmes talks Ski Party in Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties.

Salli Sachse talks Ski Party in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Hollywood.

 

 

BOOK SALE!

2 days left! Sale ends Monday Sept. 11 at 12pm.

30% off all books at BearManor Media including my Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies. Use discount code”3daysale”

 

Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies

Available now in soft cover  from BearManor Media! My newest book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies!

A collection of profiles, interviews, and tributes about actors and films popular with the drive-in movie crowd during the sixties. Interviewees include Arlene Charles, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, and Irene Tsu talking Elvis Presley musicals; Bobbi Shaw and Steven Rogers talking beach party movies; Jan Watson and Diane Bond talking spy spoofs; Nicoletta Machiavelli talking spaghetti westerns; Mimsy Farmer, Maggie Thrett, Lara Lindsay, and Lada Edmund, Jr. talking alienated youth movies; and Valerie Starrett talking biker films. Some of the chapters center on one movie or a genre while others are career profiles with a main focus on one or two drive-in movies.