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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.


Hollywood Back Story of Norwood: How the Fight for a G-Rating Left Carol Lynley on the Cutting Room Floor

CL2Ethereal blonde beauty Carol Lynley was an extremely popular actress in the fifties and sixties. Once described as having “the face of a fallen angel,” she bucked typecasting and played varied roles though most remember her today as the eternal lady in peril due to The Poseidon Adventure and her many TV-movies. However, her career trajectory took many twists and turns. Lynley went from teen queen ala Sandra Dee in the late fifties/early sixties (Blue Denim; Return to Peyton Place); to sex kitten with a Brigitte Bardot hairstyle (Under the Yum Yum Tree; The Pleasure Seekers; then culminating playing Jean Harlow in Harlow); to damsel in distress (Bunny Lake Is Missing; The Shuttered Room).

Carol Lynley had been living in London from 1965 and returned to Hollywood in late 1967. Perhaps a new town required a new look, since Carol had her long mane of blonde hair sheered off following in the footsteps of Mia Farrow. With her new pixie haircut that looked fabulous on her, she craved varied roles other than the damsel in distress. She succeeded getting cast against type as a psychotic heiress with murder on her mind in Once You Kiss a Stranger (1969) and a foul-mouthed hooker named Yvonne in the road comedy Norwood (1970) directed by Jack Haley, Jr. In both, Carol really sunk her teeth into the roles, but the latter would turn to bitter disappointment as her role was diminished due to pious leading man Glen Campbell and producer Hal Wallis hell bent on getting a “G” rating despite the adult material. This would turn out to be one contentious production and it is a perfect example how a producer can ruin a movie when trying to change an adult motion picture into a family feature during the editing process. Even chopping her scenes to shreds, what remained of Lynley’s performance after the final cut still was arguably the movie’s highlight.

Norwood halIn 1969, independent producer Hal Wallis was coming to the end of his tenure at Paramount Pictures. During the sixties he was mostly known for producing Elvis Presley movies from G.I. Blues to Girls! Girls! Girls! to Roustabout to Paradise, Hawaiian Style to Easy Come, Easy Go. Elvis had tired of his movie career by 1968 and began mounting his live concert comeback. In 1969, Wallis scored a big hit with the western True Grit that won John Wayne an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn an ornery Marshall recruited by a teenage girl to avenge her father’s murder. They are joined by a young Texas ranger looking for the same man. The young people were played by newcomers Kim Darby and country vocalist Glen Campbell.

True Grit was based on a novel by Charles Portis and Wallis also bought the rights to his first novel Norwood. This was an amiable tale of an easy going country boy named Norwood Pratt just released from the marines whose goal is to sing on the Louisiana Hayride and his adventures as he travels to get on the show. Though set in the mid-fifties and geared for a mature audience, Wallis thought this would be the perfect follow-up for Glen Campbell who was now on television starring in his own variety series The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS. The plot was reminiscent of the typical Elvis Presley movie with a handsome singing star, pretty scenery, and even prettier girls.
Norwood JackWallis hired Jack Haley, Jr. (son of actor Jack Haley of The Wizard of Oz fame) who just won an Emmy for the TV musical special Movin’ with Nancy to direct. This would be his first movie after working as producer and director on a number of highly acclaimed documentaries for David L. Wolper Productions since 1959. True Grit screenwriter Marguerite Roberts was chosen to script Norwood and kept her screenplay quite adult following the tone of the novel. Norwood was still a handsome Southern country boy, but now a Vietnam vet who was not shy in trying to lay every gal he liked. The girls, all beautiful, were not your typical Elvis girl movie characters: Yvonne Philips was a foul-mouthed hooker; Marie an uptight New York City hippie coed; Kay a fast-driving sexpot; and Rita Lee a knocked up, unwed chatterbox. Add a midget, a dancing chicken, Joe William Reese as Norwood’s horny army buddy who wants to score a touchdown with Kay, and an Elvis movie this ain’t.

During the course of pre=production and filming, Executive Producer Hal Wallis’ long time associate producer Paul Nathan exchanged numerous memos with his boss who was only in Hollywood through the casting process and script revision stages that lasted from January through June 1969.

One of the revised scripts beefed up the role of Rita Lee, so the producers decided (after an uninterested Ali MacGraw passed on it) to cast Kim Darby reuniting her with Campbell. Football great Joe Namath who was battling the NFL due to a nightclub he owned that was suspected of illegal gambling on the premises, was offered $60,000 for one week’s work to play Joe Reese. When hearing the star quarterback was cast, Campbell quipped to journalist Cecil Smith, “With a singer and a football player…who the hell’s going to do the acting?” Others cast were Pat Hingle as crooked Grady Fring; Tisha Sterling as Marie; Meredith MacRae as Kay; and Leigh French and Dom DeLuise as Norwood’s sister and shiftless brother-in-law.

One of the last roles cast was that of Yvonne Phillips who was described in the press releases as “a hillbilly hooker with a bit of Bonnie, as in Clyde.” Paul Nathan wrote to Wallis on March 6, 1969 that he thought Nita Talbot was right for Yvonne and commented, “She is not young, but she has a very hard, marvelous quality.” Carol Lynley got the role instead (most likely through Jack Haley, Jr. who was engaged to Nancy Sinatra while Carol was dating her father ole Blue Eyes) with Wallis giving his seal of approval in a memo dated June 14, 1969. He wrote, “I did see Carol Lynley in a picture and she was excellent. I have no reservations about her at all and I am sure she could do it.” Carol was very excited to play Yvonne because it was going to be an acting challenge and it was a type of character she rarely played. A short time before filming began, Paul Nathan exclaimed in a note to Wallis on June 25, 1969, “We had lunch with Carol Lynley Monday, and I was completely smitten. She is a lovely looking girl.”

GC2Before filming began on Norwood in July, Wallis had jetted off to England to oversee his prestigious movie Anne of the Thousand Days starring Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold. He left Norwood in the capable hands of Nathan who continually updated Wallis outlining progress and problems. During filming, Wallis was on the phone every day to Hollywood and was sent dailies every week to review.

With casting complete, attention then turned to the film’s star Glen Campbell. He was not happy with some of the song selections (neither was Paul Nathan and Jack Haley, Jr.) and had reservations regarding his acting ability not sure he could carry an entire movie. Campbell was worried that if he flopped, he would sabotage both his singing and TV careers. He approached his director with his concerns and Haley quoted Campbell as saying, “I tried to be an actor and I’m not one, just don’t make me try to act. Let me be myself and I’ll be Norwood.” When filming began, Haley did as Glen asked and, performance-wise, the singer did a satisfying job.

GCHowever, there was another problem with Campbell. Paul Nathan was also distressed because his manager had the vocalist scheduled for some weekend singing gigs and they wanted Campbell to focus entirely on the movie. Campbell agreed with Nathan and promised to put a moratorium on outside bookings until the movie was completed. He then became worried about the adult nature of the story. Nathan was able to make Campbell realize that it was not late sixties cool to gear his image to be the next Pat Boone and that it was quite acceptable for actors to have sex scenes on film. Nathan was so confident that he got through to his star that he wrote Hal Wallis on July 23, 1969 and stated, “Glen is now perfectly willing to do scenes in the picture with his shirt off, and we will do this in Marie’s apartment or wherever we can. He has trimmed down and really looks great. He has also agreed to go into the love scenes with a great deal of vigor with Marie and with Yvonne. He has also agreed that he will use occasional dirty language…but Glen now agrees the only word he will not use is ‘son-of-a-bitch.’” Nathan’s optimism in his leading man  was soon to be proved misplaced.

Just before filming began, Carol Lynley told columnist Dick Kleiner she would stop smoking for Norwood because “When I don’t smoke, I’m always very nervous, and that helps when I’m playing somebody nasty.” She would soon need those cigarettes again to help calm her nerves when dealing with the pious Glen Campbell. The trouble on the set began when the actor actually started to film his scenes with Lynley or shall we say refused to film his scenes when he had already given assurances to Paul Nathan that he was OK with the curse words as long as he didn’t have to say them.

Columnist Dorothy Manners reported from the set that a ruffled Glen Campbell stated, “‘I’m allergic to being called any of those names, It goes against my grain and I think the feeling of the scene can be obtained without those words.’ Carol was almost in tears over being denied the opportunity to be a non-lady. ‘I begged Glen to leave my dialog alone.’”

It was director Jack Haley, Jr. who stepped in with a compromise to end the feuding between his actors. Carol would say the words in the script as is but would mumble them a bit making them less audible. Campbell agreed and that is why for instance in their first scene you barely can make out the word “bitch” when she says it a second time.

A number of other problems vexed the production per Paul Nathan’s memos to Hal Wallis. At one point to save money, they were thinking of shooting all the interior car scenes with Carol and Glen in the studio. Wallis agreed to the extra funds for exterior filming if they could get the dialog live and not have to loop. All were unhappy with Dom DeLuise who would ad lib and not stick to lines written in the script. A cameraman was fired due to excessive drinking and Wallis was disappointed with Haley’s slow shooting pace. One memo stated the cast and crew arrived on location at 6:00 pm but the first shot was not until 9:55 pm. After the movie was completed, Paul Nathan admitted to Hal Wallis in a memo dated Sept. 24, 1969 that though he liked Haley, he would never work with him again because he felt him to be “undependable” and like a child who does “irresponsible” things without realizing it.

In the final cut of Norwood, Carol Lynley is on screen for only about ten minutes but she makes the most of it and is the film’s comedic high point as she berates, insults, then tries to sweet talk Norwood all with a convincing Southern accent during their trek to New York City. It is truly one of her liveliest performances and she looks gorgeous throughout. In the book and novel, aspiring country music singer Norwood, desperate to leave his home now occupied by his sister and her opinionated freeloading husband, agrees to drive a car owned by shady Grady Fring from his hometown to New York City. When Norwood arrives the following morning, he is surprised to find another car hooked to the back of it via a tow bar and that he would have a pretty traveling companion. Carol Lynley amusingly brings to life the feisty, foul-mouthed, peach-eating Yvonne Phillips (“she is a dandy,” exclaims Grady), who was spotted by one of Grady’s talent scouts and is being sent to New York. In both the novel and film it is never made clear though just what “talent” Yvonne possesses. Roberts continued from the book the character’s salty language and her continuous mentioning of Sammy Ortega a bartender who “can get me lined up real easy” and “we had a very good business association going.” What type of business is unclear though savvy viewers conclude the tough-talking Yvonne probably is no saint.

Yvonne is first seen exiting the car clad in a very low-cut backless orange mini-dress and heads over to where Norwood is standing with Grady. She doesn’t even say hello and yells at Grady, “I hope you don’t think that I am going to go to New York with this country son-of-a-bitch?” Trying to alleviate Norwood’s trepidation, Grady says she is miffed because she “thought she was going up in a Delta jet.” Furious, she tells Grady, “I wish Sammy Ortega was here. He’d break your arm.” When Norwood interjects, she says, “I wasn’t talking to you peckerwood. But Sammy would get to you too if he felt like it you big mouthed country son of a bitch!” This second “bitch” was muffled by the sound dept. no doubt to get that “G” rating.

Norwood1As they drive along, amiable Norwood tries to befriend Yvonne but blows it by calling her Laverne to her utter annoyance, “My name is not Laverne, it’s Yvonne! But I don’t want you calling me nuthin’!” Making matters worse, later on he slams on his breaks when he spots a possum out in the fields. Yvonne spills her canned peaches all over her dress and yells, “Oh, son of a bitch! What the hell is wrong with you!?! You think I want to see some possum crawling through some fence!” After trying to clean off her dress, Yvonne slams the car door shut and calls Norwood, “the biggest peckerwood bastard in the whole world!” Crying, she wishes she was in Calumet City, Illinois with Sammy Ortega.

Norwood3At one point as they are driving along, Yvonne hints that the cars are stolen when they enter Tennessee. Yvonne says smugly, “Well, you just crossed another state line. You know under these conditions they could put you in the federal penitentiary.” Norwood replies, “I ain’t afraid of the Mann Act.” To which Yvonne retorts, “You are the peckerwood of all peckerwoods.” After insulting each other back and forth, Norwood says, “I don’t see how in the hell anyone from Belzoni, Mississippi can call anybody else a peckerwood anyway.” To which Yvonne replies with a bit of haughtiness, “Look for your information I happened to have spent a lot of time in New Orleans and I count that as my home.” Norwood quips, “You could live in Hong Kong, Kalamazoo, or Podunk, Iowa for seventy-five years—Belzoni, Mississippi is still your home.” Demanding that Norwood stop the car, Yvonne storms out and sits in the passenger seat of the car being towed while the name calling continues. “Butt-headed peckerwood!” “Damn squirrel-headed dingbat!” As they drive along separately, Norwood is singing “Rock of Ages” while Yvonne is grooving to some funky jazz music. This is followed by a wonderfully shot and scored scene as the camera pans from right all the way to the left following horses run across a field and then the camera stops on Norwood’s oncoming car and follows it panning back right.

Norwood5Yvonne is back in the car with Norwood. In the book there is a long conversation the pair have about religion, which Roberts rightfully excised from her script. When Yvonne finally reveals that the cars that he has been hired to deliver are stolen (“They are about to burst into flames!”) to try to get Norwood to give her one, he plows through a stop sign with the town’s sheriff and deputy in hot pursuit. He decides to out run them with Yvonne yelling in his ear, “Well Mr. Highpockets you just about got us nearly killed that time. What do you plan to do next!?!” A car chase ensues, and Norwood gets away when the car being towed breaks off and the cop car crashes into it.

Norwood6At this point, day fades into night as Norwood drives to a secluded section of a park in Illinois. Yvonne being a hooker is hinted at again as she is about to drive off with the stolen car and Norwood begins wiping off his fingerprints. Taking a line from the book’s narration, he says, “It’s a proud day when the Marine Corps took them  Now they are up there in a drawer somewhere in Washington waiting to do me in.” When he suggests that Yvonne do the same once she gets to Calumet City, she replies, “Why? I was never in the Marines—a couple of camps, maybe…You know I never did get to hear you on that guitar. Adios.”

Norwood7In the novel and the final cut of the movie, this is the last Norwood sees of Yvonne. However, Marguerite Roberts added two more scenes that were shot but excised from the film. After escaping from the sheriff, Yvonne seduces Norwood in the back seat of the car to try to get him to give one of the cars to her. A shot of her lounging seductively back there turns up as her single card billing during the end credit roll. With these scenes excised, the audience is robbed of seeing either good ole boy Norwood taming wildcat Yvonne or Yvonne using her power of seduction to get Norwood into the sack and getting a car in the process.

Norwood8After Kay and Joe Reese drive Rita Lee and Norwood (singing ”Settlin’ Down”) to meet his sister, there was a scene where Norwood and Rita Lee meet up with Yvonne and Grady. Yvonne runs up to Norwood planting a big kiss on him to the consternation of Rita Lee. This seems to suggest that Yvonne fell for the Southern boy’s charms rather than just giving him a quick screw for an automobile. Official Paramount Studio production stills from both these scenes exist suggesting perhaps that since Carol Lynley had such prominent billing they would not cut two of her major scenes completely from the film.

Norwood cutHal Wallis and Jack Haley, Jr. contradicted each other and themselves with the reasons why these scenes, particularly the lovemaking one, were cut. Paul Nathan submitted the final revised script to the MPAA who wrote back on July 24, 1969 that if filmed, as is, the movie would receive a “M” rating for mature audiences. The ratings board had problems with Yvonne’s double use of “son of a bitch;” unnecessary cursing: and using the phrases “peeing” and “your ass.” If any nudity (if there was any, most likely not, it would have been from the Yvonne/Norwood love scene) made it into the final cut the “M” rating was also in jeopardy. By this time, all these scenes were filmed and looked as if the movie was not going to get a “G” rating, which at this time seemed not to bother Paul Nathan or Jack Haley, Jr. Not so Hal Wallis who started  writing on July 29, 1969 that he wanted that “G” rating to increase the film’s box office chances. Agreeing with some of what the MPAA suggested, he instructed Nathan to eliminate the curse words “by dubbing another word, or making a wild track to go over someone else…”

Jack Haley, Jr. had right of first cut and Hal Wallis ordered Paul Nathan not to interfere. Once he submitted, Wallis would then screen the movie and make any cuts he deemed fit. He also refused to watch the movie with Haley frustrating the first time movie director who had to send his editing notes via memo to the producer. In a letter dated Oct. 9, 1969, it was Jack Haley, Jr. who suggested cutting Lynley’s final scene because “the deletion would certainly save a great deal of time without hurting the story in any way.” Wallis seemed to agree since there was no protest from him and the scene never made it into the final print.

Haley won some battles on minor points regarding Lynley’s scenes. Wallis wanted to cut the Mann Act lines but agreed with Haley who wrote on Nov. 3 , 1969, “It’s a strong joke and without it Yvonne suddenly turns on Norwood for no reason.” He also was able to make Wallis realize that Norwood should be seen first singing “Rock of Ages” before Yvonne dancing to rock music because the opposite way would wipe out the joke.

Though Wallis appeased his director with these and some other minor points, the lovemaking scene was another issue. Both Haley and Nathan fought to keep in the picture. Wallis was adamant that it had to go to assure his “G” rating.  Nathan was the first to capitulate and wrote to Wallis on Oct. 24, 1969, “I was wrong about trying to keep the cut of Yvonne and Glen in the morning in the back seat of the car. I now feel it should come out as you suggested.”

A determined Haley sent one last memo on January 20, 1970 after the movie was previewed. He began his letter with “I am terribly pleased with Norwood. The final editing and Al DeLory’s scoring job are really superb efforts.” He then listed thirty-one changes he wanted made including many from the Oct. 24th memo. Interestingly, the lovemaking scene was not mentioned. Either it was a done deal to cut it or the producers did it after this screening.

Campbell was schizophrenic in the interviews he gave regarding Norwood. On one hand in feigned disappointment to hear about all the cuts being made in the editing room. He remarked to columnist Joyce Haber that Norwood “turned out good, but it irks me because they wanted to get a ‘G’ rating, so they kept cutting a lot of the dialog from the picture after it was finished. You can’t have more than one s.o.b. to get a ‘G’ rating.” He felt proud that he didn’t curse in the movie, but added “Carol Lynley kept calling me ‘you country s.o.b.’ though.” Soon after, he boasted to write Richard G. Shull, “There was a scene where Carol Lynley was supposed to call me an SOB. I said I don’t want that garbage in the show. I told them I wanted a movie my preacher could see.”  The upshot from all this was that Glen Campbell vowed to study more closely future scripts offered him. Moot point because he never starred in a feature film again. His opinion of the movie changed too over time and he wrote in his 1994 memoir that Norwood was “a corny movie. It was a ridiculous story that set back the cause of country music and perpetuated every stereotype of country musicians as hicks.”

He wasn’t the only one bitching about the movie. Joe Namath was pissed that he was being used prominently in the ad copy leading fans to think he was the co-lead when in fact he had a supporting role. And Kim Darby confessed to journalist Wayne Warga that she never wanted to do Norwood and only agreed as a thank you to Hal Wallis who hired her prior for True Grit. She felt she owed him despite her agent’s advice to turn the part down.

Norood posterJust before the film was released, an over confident Hal Wallis boasted to Philip K. Sheuer of the Los Angeles Times, “Norwood should go over $20 million at the box office.” Despite his forcing cuts to get a G-rating, he then suggested Norwood was almost to being “far out” like the comedy Goodbye, Columbus with Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw. “Norwood comes as close as anything. However, it isn’t objectionable, isn’t offensive…” And the film cut to the “G” rating wasn’t cool or interesting enough to the young moviegoers who flocked to Goodbye, Columbus. The only thing they had in common was that their leading players were relative newcomers.

Norwood opened throughout the South and in most major cities in late May and June 1970. In some cities, such as New York, it didn’t open until November after the release of Joe Namath’s second movie C.C. and Company co-starring Ann-Margret. Reviews were mixed. Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it “an amiable, easygoing often quite funny piece of entertainment.” His major complaint about the movie was that “the pace is very slow without being leisurely. The jokes, always mild, tend to be hammered home and then lingered over.” As for Carol Lynley, he felt she, Tisha Sterling, and Meredith MacRae “give excellent accounts of themselves.” Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune  found “the film’s Southern humor hokey, but harmless.” Robert Taylor of the Oakland Tribune amusingly called Carol’s character “a prostitute with a heart of tin” but found the movie to be “all corn.” Nadine Subetaik of The Cedar Rapids Gazette found the movie to be “a relaxed little piece that seems made to order for the easy-going style of Glen Campbell.”

By watering down the script and cutting scenes and dialog at the last minute to get his “G” rating, Hal Wallis lost the young adult crowd. Some of the critics picked that up in their reviews such as Edgar Driscoll, Jr. in the Boston Globe who noted that “the kids will probably enjoy it. (We don’t mean the college set.)” Howard Thompson of the New York Times wrote “the picture looks edited though a meat grinder.” Commenting on Carol Lynley, he said that she “looks and sounds as hard as nails. And such language—in a G-rated picture!” One critic delivered a nasty backhanded compliment to the actress by remarking, “you know a comedy is in trouble when the comedic high point is provided by Carol Lynley.” At least he admitted how funny she was in it.

Norwood is an easy laid-back pleasant diversion with hummable songs nicely sung by the star. It was a nice change of pace to see two Vietnam vets treated respectfully, which was not the case in many movies from this time period. Carol Lynley looks terrific in her mini-dress and short hair. By far, and even with the cuts, she gives the liveliest performance and steals the movie with her comedic turn as the self-absorbed hooker who has to reluctantly drive cross country with “this country son-of-a-bitch.” She and Campbell play quite well opposite each other. Her feisty nastiness meshes well with his affable country boy who tries to stay the Southern gentleman but is pushed too far by Yvonne before he explodes. Though it would have been wonderful if the boneheaded decision to cut the lovemaking segment was not made extending Lynley’s screen time.

At the box office, Norwood grossed just under $2 million far short of Hal Wallis’ projection of $20 million. The movie did well in the South and at drive-ins, but more sophisticated moviegoers in the big cities ignored it. With its “G” rating and Glen Campbell in the lead singing a number of songs, they probably presumed it was going to be yet another Elvis Presley-type movie, and ignored it. In the days of Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider, the Elvis film was dead and younger people wanted something more substantial. They may have gotten that in Norwood if Wallis would have delivered the mature film Marguerite Roberts delivered with her script.

In October 1970 (after the movie was released in most parts of the country) Jack Haley, Jr. began a war of words with Hal Wallis over his disappointment with Norwood when he contributed a piece to Action the magazine of the Directors Guild of America. Though he lavished praise on producer Hal Wallis  (“the most decisive, best organized producer I ever worked with” and “an inherent genius for casting”) and conceded that he learned a lot about producing from him, Haley then went on to label him in a negative way an “auteur producer.” His complaint was that Wallis had to have control over the movie from beginning to end, which frustrated the new director. Haley remarked, “I had hopes of elevating Glen Campbell and Norwood above the usual Presley-type format. Hal was inclined to agree there was a chance to do just this.”  However, once Wallis was determined to get that “G” rating, Haley’s input was no longer needed.

Haley goes on to report that after principal photography was completed, he began two weeks directing the second unit shooting something the director usually does not do (“I had willingly volunteered to do this because I felt this special photography was important to the picture”) and that left him only thirteen days to deliver his cut to Wallis. He thought he would have a say with the editing working in conjunction with Wallis, but the producer wouldn’t even screen the movie with his director telling him “It makes me nervous.” This is when those series of memos began circulating back and forth between them. Haley exclaimed, “How the hell you can discuss pace and performance or analyze the balance of individual scenes by way of memo-to-memo completely eludes me.” Describing how he felt, he stated, “I’ve experienced the buzzing of gnats in one’s ear, but I’ve never really felt like a gnat before.”

Haley also complimented and apologized to Carol Lynley in the article and wrote, “In Norwood, she faced a challenge in playing a bitchy, foul-mouthed hooker…but she pulled it off with great style. I’m sorry so many of her best scenes hit the cutting room floor. She was truly the worst victim in the last minute reach for a “G” rating.” To be fair, it was Haley, not Wallis, who suggested Lynley’s later scenes be cut due to running time not for content so the producer was not fully responsible for her lack of screen time.

Of course, Hal Wallis did not take this sitting down and rebutted him later to the press. Commenting to Joyce Haber, the producer said, “It would seem to me that Haley’s own statements point out where the fault lay. He was unable to get the performances he needed out of Glen Campbell, Joe Namath, or Carol Lynley. If he wasn’t capable of doing a better job, why is he blaming everybody else…” This is quite frankly hogwash. Campbell and Namath both were quite charming in their roles and Lynley was able to rise above the ingenues and damsels in distress she was known for playing and truly deliver a lively amusing performance. Haley must get the credit in getting these commendable performances from them.

Wallis continued, “Considering the fact that this was his first film and I had made 250 before, I think I know a little more about editing and direction than he does. I’ve been in this business many years, you run into this, but not from neophytes. He has a lot to learn…” Wallis totally ignores the fact that he was still in the Elvis-movie mind set of delivering a family picture despite the mature script in 1970. While shooting the movie, this was not relayed to Haley (or associate producer Paul Nathan) and he shot the screenplay as is thinking all were in agreement to rise above the typical teenage musical films of the sixties. Haley even battled Glen Campbell to keep the salty language in while shooting. It wasn’t until after the fact that the producer had dollars in his eyes and felt the “G” rating would attract a larger audience. As part of the old guard in Hollywood, Wallis was slow to grasp that younger audiences were craving more mature material not family-style hokum, which he delivered by cutting the movie to shreds. He doesn’t own up to any of this and instead blamed his director.

Alas, Norwood goes down in Hollywood history as another one of those late sixties features that were too square to be hip. Movies like For Singles Only; C’mon. Let’s Live a Little; Skidoo; and How to Commit Marriage where studio heads thought they were capturing the hip attitudes of the time but failed miserably. In the case of Norwood, it is a real shame since their was promise there in the novel and Marguerite Roberts’ script, which was nicely directed by Jack Haley, Jr. and beautifully photographed by Robert B. Hauser. All the performers do well (even Kim Darby).

Though Carol Lynley would go on to play murderesses and nutcases on TV and in film, she would never got the opportunity to play such an over-the-top character like Norwood’s Yvonne Phillips in a comedy ever again. If you only are aware of Carol Lynley as passive Nonnie in The Poseidon Adventure, Norwood is well worth seeking out just to see her chew the scenery playing a naughty lady ala her Poseidon co-star Stella Stevens’ foul-mouthed Linda Rogo.



Just finished reading Alexis Hunter’s memoir Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For. Platinum blonde knockout Joi has always been a favorite of mine and always preferred her and Mamie Van Doren over Marilyn Monroe. Alexis offers a window into the last years of Joi’s life. Very touching love story between the two women coupled with what it was like to be a Hollywood glamour girl closing in on 40 and aging out of film and TV roles back then. I highly recommend. Would make a wonderful double bill with my book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974.



Cover Tiffin


John Philbin Remembers the Original Point Break

In conjunction with the just released remake of Point Break, below is my interview with actor John Philbin who was one of the surfing, sky diving bank robbers in the original.


Though his resume includes over thirty movies including Children of the Corn (1984); The Return of the Living Dead (1985) playing the dorky Chuck complete with the Miami Vice wannabe wardrobe: and Tombstone (1993), the talented John Philbin is best known to audiences worldwide for his appearances in the Hollywood surf movies North Shore (1987) and Point Break (1991).  North Shore in particular has become part of the lexicon of surfing movies so most fans have it in their film library and have watched it over and over.  Almost twenty years later, John Philbin still gets recognized as the blonde, bushy-haired, surf-slang speaking Turtle. He says, “Sometimes I think, ‘Wow, how could that guy have recognized me when I don’t look anything like that?’  Then I realize—it’s because they just saw the movie the night before!”

An avid surfer since he was a child, the California native gave the sport up for a period of time during the eighties when his love of acting took hold of him. While living in Los Angeles and traveling to locations around the country for film projects there was just no time for the aspiring newcomer to surf. Then in 1987, a script for North Shore passed the desk of his agent who asked John if he knew how to surf. The answer was a resounding yes, but Philbin had to audition seven times to convince director Randal Kleiser that he could morph into the part.

North Shore starred Matt Adler as Rick, the winner of a wave pool surfing contest in his home state of Arizona who uses his prize money to come to Hawaii to surf the big waves of the North Shore. After being ripped off by some of the local surfers, the naive Rick is befriended by surfer and board sander Turtle who feels sorry for the “Barney.” Their friendship turns to jealousy when Rick insinuates himself with Turtle’s employer Chandler, “a soul surfer,” played by Gregory Harrison who takes Rick under his wing and teaches him the fundamentals of surfing. Turtle is the film’s odd man out as Rick is forever leaving him to cozy up with his lovely island girl Kiani or to go surfing with Chandler. Philbin gives an excellent performance and never has surfer-speak sounded so alien and so believable. Turtle is no stereotypical Hollywood dumb wave rider, but more of a sympathetic lost soul who has secretly shaped his own surfboard but lacks the confidence to show anyone.

The movie was a chance of a lifetime for Philbin to act and surf on film and to work with legends Gerry Lopez and Laird Hamilton. John would get the chance to surf on film once again in the hit movie Point Break (1991) starring Keanu Reeves as a rookie FBI agent who is assigned to penetrate the Southern California surfing community to uncover a gang of surfers who have been robbing banks across LA county. Philbin played the intense, distrusting Nathaniel one of the surfing, skydiving, and bank-robbing followers of Patrick Swayze’s mystical Bodhi.

Though Point Break, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, was one of the year’s top moneymakers, it did not do much for Philbin’s career. He took a respite from acting when he began teaching surfing in the late nineties receiving endorsements from some of the top surfers including Laird Hamilton who remarked, “John knows the ocean, and that’s what it is all about.” His clientele really picked up after he was hired by director John Stockwell to evaluate the surfing abilities of the prospective actresses up for the female lead in Blue Crush. Kate Bosworth got the part and trained with John before going to Hawaii for filming.

Sixties Cinema: When did you begin surfing?

John Philbin: My family moved to Palos Verdes when I was a kid and that’s where I started surfing. I first saw surfing in Carmel Valley when I was a little kid. I watched guys riding waves diagonally on long boards. Even though I was just a child, I thought, ‘Wow, they’re riding diagonally and getting a better ride.’ But I didn’t surf for another five years after we had moved.


SC: What attracted you to the part of Nathaniel in Point Break?

JP: I auditioned for the movie when it was at a different studio with Ridley Scott directing. I wanted to play Bodhi. I tested for it but didn’t get it. I certainly wasn’t a big enough star.  I think they went with Jeff Bridges, but then the film went into turnaround. That happens all the time with movies.

SC: Was the role of Nathaniel yours still after it changed studios?

JP: At first I wasn’t sure. My agent called and told me they wanted to meet with me. I was almost nervous because I wanted this so badly and I had it but it disappeared. Now I was making a TV-movie called Dillinger in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was covered with tattoos and my skin was pale. My character was part of the gang robbing banks. I decided that I was going to fly into LA and tell Kathryn Bigelow the honest truth. I took with me pictures of myself skydiving and surfing Pipeline. I walked into her office and said, ‘Congratulations, this is a great movie and you’re a wonderful director. I think I was born to play Nathaniel. Here’s a picture of me surfing. Here’s a picture of me jumping out of an airplane. I’m robbing banks right now in a movie I’m making. I would love to be in this film.’ She said, ‘Oh, you’re in it. You don’t even have to read. Thanks for coming in.’ I was so excited because Nathaniel was a really serious gnarly character who’s a heavy and very different from Turtle.

SC: That’s funny you said that because you were quoted a few years ago as saying that you felt like a “glorified extra” in this film.  Why?

JP: I know—I really shouldn’t have said that. Point Break was a great opportunity and a really fantastic job. At the time that I got that part I was a spoiled actor. I was doing more principal roles elsewhere, but still happy to get the role of Nathaniel and stoked to work with those people. It was another dream-come-true job, but if you notice I’m wearing a mask most of the time. We’re standing in the background and we’re literally supportive players. I just wanted it to be more. I think I had an ego problem at the time and didn’t understand my true role and how lucky I was to be there.

SC: So overall you were not disappointed with playing Nathaniel?

JP: No! If I look at the work, it was some of my best and I worked hard—six days a week on an insanely rigid diet. We worked out and we surfed constantly. We did a lot of tow in surfing with Brian Keaulana and Terry Ahui. I surfed Pipeline even though it didn’t end up in the movie. I really played the part. My character was dark and angry.

SC: What was the motivation behind the role of Nathaniel?

JP: No, he wasn’t. In the original script he was resentful that Johnny Dallas was accepted into our group. He was against it from the beginning. He was very suspicious, bitter and angry and I think that bled into my personality at the time. I just became really hard and just a tough asshole—just like my character. That happens with acting. It’s just the nature of the beast. If someone interviewed me about this as I was doing it I would have been arrogant and cocky and probably would have given some kind of answer other than ‘this is just so much fun.’

SC: Your character’s distrust of Johnny Utah does not come off as forcefully as you described above. Were scenes cut from the final print?

JP: They cut the scenes from the original screenplay! There were scenes with Nathaniel having conversations with Bodhi telling him not to trust Utah. In one scene Nathaniel actually commits suicide while skydiving as protest for the inclusion of this guy who I believe is going to destroy everything we’ve worked for. I think I just retained all this for the script that was actually shot.

The director came up to us and said, ‘Hey, there are too many actors in this movie. We have to focus on three people.’ They cut lines for Bill Paxton, Sam Elliot, and Stephen Lang into nothing. They were supporting players and they weren’t used to that. You only get a tip of the iceberg of what they prepared for. As actors they are attached to that material and it does serve the piece. I think I’ve learned that in time. But a lot of actors—and I was myself—are egotistical and self-important. You think your role and your lines are the most important thing in the film. You take offense when someone orders you to ‘Don’t say anything and go sit down and we’ll call you when we want you to run by.’  The truth be told that you are lucky to get the chance to run by.

SC: Was the cast fun to work with?

JP: I love Keanu Reeves—he’s great. I’d work out everyday at the gym with him. James LeGros was my buddy and we got to hang out and surf.  I got to skydive.  It was awesome!

It was fantastic to work with Patrick Swayze who was a workhorse. It was interesting what happened to him on this movie. Careers go in cycles and he had been a movie star with Dirty Dancing, but his films after that did not do so well. Point Break was sort of a comeback for him. Six months after principal photography wrapped on Point Break, Ghost was released with him and Demi Moore. That made Patrick a hot movie star again. Suddenly, they have Point Break in the can with Patrick Swayze who was in a down cycle playing a weird character and now he is a big movie star again. They had to re-shoot scenes and I think his salary went up about ten times. He was getting around $60,000 to $80,000 a day.

SC: Did they add new scenes for Patrick Swayze because his celebrity factor had risen due to Ghost?

JP: No, there were no new scenes added. They didn’t have time to completely shoot some of the fight scenes because Patrick was committed to do a film in India [City of Joy] and Keanu was doing that film with River Phoenix [My Own Private Idaho]. When we came back, Keanu and I had different hair. Re-shoots happen often on films.

SC: What was wild man Gary Busey like to work with?

JP: Gary Busey was around all of the time. He was not as wild as his reputation leads one to believe. He was actually very professional and always on time. He had been in a bad motorcycle accident and he was healing from that. A guru accompanied him and he was focused on being spiritual and meditating to get healthy again. Gary was just grateful to be alive and that is a good time to get an actor. Grateful—that’s when you want’em!

SC: Did you do you own surfing stunts in this?

JP: Yes.  I didn’t need a surfing double—and haven’t needed a surfing double yet.  But you never know.

SC: Did Kathryn Bigelow have much surfing knowledge?

JP: By the end of if she did. She knew what she liked. Kathryn is a real visual director and great with action. She did a lot of research and we all did a lot of rehearsing. She did such a good job with the action in this movie and the same with the chases.

SC: Yes, those skydiving scenes were intense. Did you actually learn to skydive?

JP: We really did go skydiving a couple of times. Keanu, James Le Gros, and I would go up to Patrick’s place on the weekends and go skydiving. Patrick had hundreds of jumps under his belt, but then the producer found out what we were doing. They told us to cease and desist. It was illegal for us to go up in a private plane and jump because they are not insured. Actors are not allowed to take these kind of risks during filming because if we got hurt it could delay or close down production.

But Patrick being a movie star and a fearless guy just kept jumping. He got so good by the end of the film they took a second unit camera SCew up there and filmed him actually doing those stunts and jumping out of the plane—whereas the rest of us all had doubles.  Even so I think those skydiving scenes look fantastic and are so great!

SC: In your opinion which movie captured the surfers’ world best, North Shore or Point Break?

JP: North Shore, without a doubt! Point Break is a buddy-cop movie with a villain who is the leader of this drug dealing, bank robbing gang who happen to surf. But you don’t really get into the real surfing lifestyle. We were adrenaline junkies and criminals. We’re bank robbers, man! They just put this cops and robbers story in a surfing milieu and got some beautiful visuals out of it. North Shore is about surfing. It’s a hero’s journey through a sports field and that sport is surfing. You really learn a lot about it.





Cover TiffinThanks so much to all reviewers so far that posted such complimentary, kind words about Pamela Tiffin and my book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974

Kimberley Lindbergs at Turner Classic Movies

Blogger Anthony Balducci

Blogger David C. Tucker

James L. Neibaur at Examiner.com

And finally an interview with me about the book in the Oklahoma Gazette:



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Who wouldn’t want to unwrap a gift this holiday season to find lovely 1960s actress Pamela Tiffin inside?

The cult pop icon awed moviegoers with her beauty in her film debut in Summer and Smoke (1961) and then wowed them with her hilarious performance as a Southern fried belle in Billy Wilder’s frenetic satire One, Two, Three (1961). She then became “the favorite airhead of the sixties” and the darling of teenage drive-in movies with State Fair (1962), Come Fly with Me (1963), For Those Who Think Young (1964), The Lively Set (1964), and The Pleasure Seekers (1965). She finally shook off the ingenue image to vamp Paul Newman in the gritty detective mystery Harper (1966) and then took it one step further dying her hair blonde to play a not-so-dumb blonde sexpot opposite Marcello Mastroianni in the Italian 3-part comedy Oggi, domani, dopodomani (19966). She remained blonde and ran off to Italy to escape an unhappy marriage cementing her cult status in America since most of her films did not reach these shores. She did return for one film the very funny comedy Viva Max (1969) with Peter Ustinov and her two movies with Franco Nero the giallo The Fifth Cord (1971) and the spaghetti western Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears (1973) are highlights from her time in Rome.


Below is a review of my book from David Tucker on his Blog:


Below is a wonderful article by Rod Lott on my book and me in the Oklahoma Gazette. It begins on page 43.



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For fans unfamiliar with 60s/70s actress Pamela Tiffin the subject of my new book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1916-1974, below is my personal choices of her best movies or her most memorable performances. Three are from Hollywood and three from Italy.


One, Two, Three (1961) d. Billy Wilder

Pamela Tiffin’s second motion picture contains her most memorable performance (she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress) and catapulted her to the top of the sixties starlet heap destined for stardom. A fast-paced, hilarious satire set in Berlin and poking fun at Communism and Capitalism, it was directed by Billy Wilder and written by him and I.A.L. Diamond fresh off their Academy Award wins for The Apartment. Tiffin plays impetuous Southern belle Scarlett Hazeltine who, while under the care of Coca-Cola’s man in West Berlin C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney delivering a brilliant rapid-fire performance), sneaks across the border into East Berlin and marries Communist Otto Ludwig Piffl (Horst Buchholz) causing all sorts of comedic trouble for MacNamara. He first undoes the marriage only to have to turn Otto into a capitalist son-in-law in good standing once the boss’ daughter’s pregnancy (“Scarlett is going to have puppies,” his daughter announces) is discovered. Pamela truly excelled in the movie. The scenes where Scarlett nonchalantly reveals her marriage plans and introduces Otto to MacNamara are some of Pamela’s best ever on film. She plays dumb so sincerely that you cannot help but laugh. Her lilting Southern drawl coupled with her slow delivery compared to Cagney’s fast sharp-tongued comebacks make her performance even more humorous, as dim-witted Scarlett seems to be in a world of her own oblivious to everything around her. She makes a wonderful foil to Cagney’s frustrated businessman who bemoans, “I’d rather be in hell with my back broken.” For Pamela Tiffin fans, this hell is heaven.

The Pleasure Seekers (1964) d. Jean Negulesco

Though One, Two, Three proved Pamela was a talented comedienne, the studios typecast her as the innocent virgin in a string of popular drive-in movies including Come Fly with Me, For Those Who Think Young, and The Lively Set. The Pleasure Seekers is her second three girls looking for romance travelogue and is a standout due to the glossy production values, beautiful on-location cinematography by Daniel L. Fapp in Spain, and a standout performance by Pamela Tiffin who looks stunning and steals the movie. This was a remake of 1954’s Three Coins in the Fountain, from that film’s director Jean Negulesco, about three girls looking for love and romance this time in Madrid. Here Tiffin is naïve Susie Higgins newly arrived in Spain who falls for caddish playboy Emile Lacayo (Tony Franciosa). College friend Maggie Williams (Carol Lynley), working for a news wire service, pines for her married boss (Brian Keith) while ignoring her true feelings for loyal playboy reporter Pete (Gardner MacKay) while aspiring singer/dancer Fran Hobson (Ann-Margret) falls for a poor Spanish doctor (Andre Lawrence). Ann-Margret sings/dances well and cries atrociously, while Lynley pouts prettily throughout leaving the real acting to Tiffin. She has the most rounded part and juggles the dramatic, comedic, and romantic scenes quite well. She also gets the best exterior scenes in Spain and the viewer does not mind looking at a vision as lovely as she in front of some gorgeous Madrid and Barcelona scenery. One of Tiffin’s most amusing scenes is when Susie attends her first Spanish party and Maggie schools her friend on the caddish ways of Emilio. The beautiful Tiffin elicits laughs with just the quizzical look on her face or a quick quip as the conflicted Susie knows she should not care about Emilio, but cannot help herself from being attracted to the no good playboy. Her romance culminates with a meeting with his mother (the elegant Isabel Elsom) where a touching Tiffin’s mortified Susie realizes she was duped by Emilio’s fake marriage proposal and faces him while his mother apologizes profusely for the behavior of her cad of a son. The Pleasure Seekers is a movie well worth seeking out especially for fans of these sixties starlets at their loveliest.

Harper (1966) d. Jack Smight

Released during the mid-sixties spy boom when secret agents James Bond, Matt Helm, and Derek Flint were ruling the box office, Harper was a throwback to the forties tough private eye yarns. This was Pamela Tiffin’s biggest hit and one of her best movies—not surprising since her leading man was Paul Newman. Based on Ross MacDonald’s novel Moving Target, this intriguing twisty mystery yarn has Newman’s gumshoe Lew Harper being hired by icy paralyzed equestrian Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall) to find her hated missing industrialist husband, which leads him to mix it up with a colorful cast of suspects including Robert Wagner, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, and Robert Webber. Pamela Tiffin finally gets to act the vamp as the missing man’s spoiled hot-to-trot daughter who first appears on screen when Elaine instructs Harper to speak with Sampson’s young pilot Alan Taggert (Wagner) the last to see him before he vanished after disembarking from his private jet in Los Angeles. Alan is poolside with Miranda wearing a white polka-dot bikini. She is dancing on the diving board and gives a nonchalant wave over her head when Alan introduces her as she keeps shimmying to the music. Pamela is quite a vision of loveliness and elegance and her diving board shimmy has become one of sixties cinema’s most iconic images. The actress plays off Paul Newman quite well during the entire movie with her rude insights delivered in a droll manner as she accompanies him first to LA and then a mountaintop retreat to find clues to her father’s whereabouts. Though Miranda was spoiled, privileged, and insensitive, compared to the other vile characters Harper meets in his investigation, the brazen Miranda comes off the most likable due to Pamela’s ability to get the audience to feel some empathy towards her due to the disappearance of her father and how shabbily she is treated by Elaine and Alan. Pamela proved she had the acting chops to go toe-to-toe with acting legend Paul Newman and more than held her own with him on screen.

Kiss the Other Sheik (1968) d. Luciano Salce

Not Pamela Tiffin’s best movie by far, but it is notable for changing her life when asked to go blonde to act the sexpot in this Italian sex comedy starring Marcello Mastroianni. She would remain a blonde working in Italy for the rest of her career severely curtailing her chance for super stardom. A re-edited version of 1966’s three-part Oggi, domani, dopodomani (never released in the U.S.) with newly filmed scenes, Tiffin  plays sexy,  ditzy housewife Pepita whose husband Mario plots to sell her to a Sheik for his harem, but discovers his wife is shrewder than he thought. You may ask why Mario would want to dump a wife as beautiful as Pepita until you see scenes of the wife lazing in bed while the maid cleans up around her or dumping the dinner dishes over the balcony because she is too lazy to wash them. The film is recommended just for the visage of newly blonde Pamela Tiffin. The sweet dark-haired Hollywood ingénue of State Fair only a scant three years prior is long gone. Watching her pose with nothing but a straw hat or seductively trying to entice her husband into the boudoir or dancing in a tight gown for a sheik, Pamela is a stunner. And although she is badly dubbed, her knack for comedy comes through with her facial expressions be it surprise running from sword-wielding guards or satisfaction in her revenge on her louse of a husband. After seeing her in this movie, her decision to remain blonde makes perfect sense.

Giornata nera per l’Ariete/ The Fifth Cord (1971) d. Luigi Bazzoni

In my opinion, Pamela Tiffin’s best Italian movie is this stylish entertaining giallo from director Luigi Bazzoni. As with Harper, Pamela is once again part of an ensemble cast and once again is a highlight. And once again she has an excellent leading man this time Franco Nero who plays Andrea Bildi a reporter investigating a series of murders that begins after a New Year’s Eve party. He soon becomes the assigned police detective’s number one suspect since he is acquainted with all the victims. Pamela played Bildi’s no-strings attached paramour Lu. Though this role is by no means an acting stretch for Pamela, it is wonderful to see her play a sexy contemporary vibrant role with a bit of mystery. Pamela also has wonderful chemistry with Nero. Her character brings out the playful side of Andrea (despite his mistreating of her) rather than his gloominess seen throughout the rest of the movie. In fact, she is perhaps the only character who is happy and perky, as the other characters must deal with the death of friends. Considering her forte for comedy, it is no surprise she would be cast in the most lighthearted role. This violent suspenseful thriller (featuring impressive cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and a memorable score by Ennio Morricone) will keep suspense game players guessing to the end and is highly recommended.

Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears (1973) d. Paolo Cavarra

Pamela Tiffin’s swan song for American audiences was this late-in-the-cycle violent spaghetti western from director Paolo Cavara that reteamed her with Franco Nero. Pamela Tiffin delivers a feisty performance as Susie a whore with a heart and mine of gold who falls for gunslinger Johnny Ears (Nero), the companion to the hearing-impaired Erastus “Deaf” Smith (an effective Anthony Quinn) working for the state of Texas to stop a rebellion. Johnny becomes caught between the demands of his new love who wants to run away with him and his commitment to the deaf Erastus that needs him—or does Johnny need Erastus? Arguably this is Pamela’s best performance after One, Two, Three. She is well-matched with Franco Nero and play off each other expertly. She is wonderfully funny in their early scene at the whorehouse as she tries to fight him off as they climb and tumble up the stairs. Deaf Smith really gives her a chance to show her range as an actress. Amusing in one scene complete with pratfalls, and tough and hardened in the next, as she pushes and flings Nero’s Johnny away from her only to wind up in his bed where the two realize they are in love. Her character has many nuances and reminds one of Tiffin’s excellent turn in Harper where her Miranda was a woman of many emotions. On its own, the western is quite entertaining. Its premise, with one of the leads being deaf and mute, is a novel and intriguing idea. There are some nice touches as seeing the action through Deaf Smith’s eyes with no sound. Though quite stirring for the most part, the plot is a bit implausible expecting moviegoers to believe that the fate of Texas is left in the hands of only two men. It is also full of plot holes and a longer than necessary shoot’em up finale. Despite these minor shortcomings, Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears is buoyed by the three lead actors and a special treat for Pamela Tiffin fans.



In planning stages of branching out from 1960s cinema and working on a book about the daytime serial Ryan’s Hope. I interviewed actor Roscoe Born (ex-Joe Novak, 1981-1983; 1988). He sent me this photo of him and Linda Vail in the Washington Theatre Club production of Senior Prom and asked me to share. I told him looks like a still from Grease. More to come on the book in the near future, but for now take a look on my just released book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974.

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“Easy Rider” from Trippin’ with Terry Southern

In honor of it being the late Gail Gerber’s birthday month, thought I would share an excerpt on how the classic Easy Rider was created from her 2010 memoir Trippin’ with Terry Southern. It was the most talked about section as she refutes most of the bullshit Peter Fonda and the late Dennis Hopper have been shoveling for decades.

Excerpt from “Uneasy Rider” from Trippin with Terry Southern: What I Think I Remember by Gail Gerber with Tom Lisanti

Peter Fonda showed up at the carriage house on East 36th Street one rainy night in November of 1967.  The son of Henry Fonda and sister of Jane, Peter gave an impressive Golden Globe-nominated performance as a solider in The Victors (1963) but the studios tabbed him a new romantic lead pairing him with Sandra Dee in the corny Tammy and the Doctor (1963) and with Sharon Hugueny in The Young Lovers (1964).  Fonda was saved from becoming another Troy Donahue when American International Pictures asked him to step in at the last minute as a replacement for actor George Chakiris who balked at doing his own motorcycle riding in Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels (1966).  Peter played Heavenly Blues the leader of a local Hell’s Angels motorcycle club chapter.  The film was an immediate hit and suddenly a long-haired Peter Fonda was cool in the eyes of the youth culture.  Signed to do two more films for AIP, Fonda next starred as a TV commercial director who decides to experiment with LSD in The Trip (1967).  He had one more film owed on his contract and that’s when he knocked on our door.

Terry had known Peter Fonda from the time he arrived in Hollywood in 1964 when it was a sleepy town in the doldrums between cinematic highs, and the children of the great stars of another era were trying to develop careers … or not.  Terry and I would spend time at the Malibu home of Bobby Walker where we met and became friendly with Peter.

Terry was expecting Peter when he turned up at our doorstep on that chilly autumn night.  While Terry was in Rome a few weeks prior he had lunch with Peter who was making a movie for Roger Vadim and where he shared with Terry an idea for a film that came to him in a hotel room in Toronto.  Per Terry it was first about two daredevil racecar drivers being exploited by greedy promoters but then morphed into a tale about two bikers who score some dope, go on a road trip, and have a series of “interesting incidences” when Peter realized that he owed American International Pictures one more biker film.

Terry was very enthusiastic about the project but Peter felt he wouldn’t have enough in the budget to pay Terry’s fee to write the script.  After I let Peter into our home he reiterated the plot once again to Terry and said he had a title for the movie, something like The Loners.  Terry, sitting on our golden couch, raised his hand to indicate a marquee, and said, “Why not call it Easy Rider.”  Terry once again expressed great interest in writing the screenplay.  As I remember, which differs from Peter’s recollection, the rest of the conversation went something as follows:

Peter: “We can’t afford you Terry.  Can you do it on deferment?”

Terry: “I can’t, but I’ll do it for scale and a percentage.  Who is going to direct?”

Peter: “Dennis Hopper.”

Terry: “Are you sure!?!”

Dennis had never directed before and had such a bad reputation at this time.  Despite his trepidation about Hopper, Terry agreed with the understanding of receiving a percentage of the profits and was to come up with the “interesting incidences.”  Fonda was pleased, and rushed out into the night.  This was the era of oral agreements and handshake deals, and Terry had no reason to doubt Peter.

Despite the fact that he had co-authored such classic movies as Dr. Strangelove, The Loved One, The Cincinnati Kid, and Barbarella, Terry wasn’t getting any offers in the U.S. at this time.  I thought it was a little strange, (soon we would learn that the FBI had a hand in Terry not working) but was not involved in his business.  I assumed he had smart New York and Los Angeles people looking after his “best interests,” but it seems that they were looking out for their own welfare, where Terry only thought of the next project.  Terry said to me once, “An agent never got me a job, but was always there to take their percentage.”

Peter returned after the holidays and moved into the monk-like half furnished room on the third floor.  He and Terry finally got down to business, hired a typist from a typing pool in Washington D.C who came to the house, and started on the series of “interesting incidences.”  They worked nonstop all day for about a month, Terry with his yellow pad and pencil, and Peter pacing around the living room—the better to think.  The typist would come by about five o’clock in the afternoon and type up the pages, triple spaced, and then Terry would work on the script some more into the wee hours of the night.

One night, very late, Peter had gone out on the town.  Terry continued to work with the typist.  They finished up and were just talking while I made drinks.  The typist mentioned that she had done a lot of typing for the government, and that these classified documents she was working on had to do with how there are alien people from outer space walking around amongst us, and working for the government.  They looked just like us, and had infiltrated the highest offices, and had blended right in.

After she left, Terry got right to work on it and incorporated this into a scene he wrote with his good friend Rip Torn in mind.  The part was that of the “Faulkner-like” country lawyer eventually played by Jack Nicholson in the movie.  As Wyatt and Billy sit around a campfire with the lawyer getting stoned, he regales the bikers with this conspiracy theory about the government covering up the existence of aliens.  Terry showed the scene to Rip and asked if he would do it.  Rip was busy with rehearsals for his new play called The Cuban Thing, which coincidentally was the same play I had auditioned for but didn’t get.  Rip said he would try to do the movie if his schedule worked out.

Eventually Dennis Hopper, who was to direct Easy Rider, arrived.  Early in his career Hopper was being compared to James Dean.  A confrontation with legendary director Henry Hathaway on the set of From Hell to Texas in 1958 pretty much blackballed him from the film industry though he remained active on television.  Terry had met Dennis in 1965 when he was hired by Vogue to do a magazine piece on Hopper’s then-wife Brooke Hayward, daughter of the Broadway producer Leland Hayward.  Dennis was not working as an actor at the time, but as a photographer.  They had a house in the Hollywood Hills, and Dennis had quite a collection of contemporary art.  Terry entitled his article, “The Loved House of the Dennis Hopper’s.”

We stayed friendly with Brooke and Dennis (Terry, always with the nicknames, called him “Den”), and we’d go to the house for dinner.  Brooke would serve something wonderful and wisely go to bed.  Dennis and Terry would retire, with drinks in hand, to the living room, which had a disconcerting dentist’s chair.  I would find a cozy sofa and watch Dennis and Terry talk.  Dennis would expound on his idea of how Shakespeare should be spoken, and rant on about a film he wanted to direct called The Last Movie, which he eventually managed to make.  Terry loved madness and people behaving badly (and you couldn’t get any madder or badder than Hopper).  Terry would draw this behavior out, and then go home and write “fiction.”

When Dennis showed up at our house in New York we let him stay in Nile’s room, which he complained about and rudely called “a closet.”  I tried to stay out of the way as best I could.  Dennis was there for about two weeks, and at night he and Peter would be pacing around my living room, gesturing, and throwing out ideas between passing joints between the three of them.  Though Terry was a martini man he would just hold the joint and pass it along most times.  Somebody had to stay straight to do the writing so Terry sat with his pencil and a long yellow pad on our golden couch, scribbling away.  He would hand the pages to the typist and she would type them up immediately.  Dennis would rant and rave, using a lot of four-letter words, and the typist would break into tears, and run sobbing out into the night.  Terry would have to call the typing pool the next day, and get another typist.  Terry suggested that they change the “drug of choice” from marijuana to cocaine, which was not in fashion yet, because pot was too bulky to be carrying on the motorcycles.  Dennis thought that running the credits upside down might be interesting, and he also whined about why the two characters had to die.

Terry loved collaborating with other people. He always felt that two heads were better than one when creating a story or screenplay. Terry was really in his element sharing concepts with Peter and Dennis.  He just loved to work in this free-for-all fashion with people yelling out story ideas while nestled on the sofa he jotted down the better ones in pencil on his yellow legal pad.  Peter once remarked that Terry agreed to work on Easy Rider on a handshake “just for the sake of having the freedom to play with an idea that appealed to his individual nature.”  This statement is oh-so-true.

Terry had the scripts neatly bound and held on to the original.  He handed copies to Peter and Dennis, and off they went back to Hollywood.  Terry also gave a script to Rip Torn who retained his copy after all these years.

Peter, who owed American International Pictures one more movie, took the script to studio heads James Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff.  Peter and Dennis were trying to use this biker movie to make a more interesting statement about the current state of affairs in the U.S. but also as a springboard to launch Dennis’ directing career.  But due to the proposed budget and the rampant drug use, AIP turned it down to Sam Arkoff’s forever regrets.  Fonda then made an agreement with Bert Schneider who, along with director Bob Rafelson, brought The Monkees to television and produced their movie Head in 1968.  Bert had a production deal with Columbia Pictures, which wound up distributing the movie.  However, there was a stipulation as the studio gave Dennis and Peter about $40,000 to go to New Orleans Mardi Gras to shoot some test footage, which was eventually used in the film, to see if they could really pull off making a movie.

This shoot was scheduled to commence in March.  At the last minute someone was bright enough to check and discovered Mardi Gras that year was in February so the rush was on to get to New Orleans for the parade, where one of the last scenes was to be shot in a graveyard.  It was Peter’s soliloquy, and a photo exists of Terry and Peter discussing it, with Fonda clutching the script.

Terry and I flew down to New Orleans and found the cast and crew settled in a crummy motel at the airport.  We caught the end of the parade and then went to the graveyard for Peter’s scene.  When night came there was no crew to light the set.  In the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind, a crew member said that there was so much chaos someone’s girlfriend had to hold the Sun Gun. I was that person.  I had no idea what a Sun Gun was when I volunteered to help while standing late at night in a boggy, soggy New Orleans cemetery.  Some guy’s voice came out of the dark, and said, “We have no one to hold the Sun Gun.” Trying to be helpful, I chirped, “I’ll do it!”  Before I knew what was happening, a couple of burly guys strapped this giant, heavy battery pack around my waist, which caused me to sink further into the bog.  I was to hold this pole the size of a broomstick with a bright light on the end and keep it steady on Peter’s face while he did his monologue. This was a lengthy speech and it took all night to shoot.  I tried so hard to keep the pole steady, while I continued to sink further and further into the misty marsh.  Peter was emoting like mad, and the crew was concentrating, knowing this was going to be a one-take shot that they only had one chance to get. Luckily, we got it. If not, I’m afraid that I might have disappeared completely into the bog never to be heard from again.

Everyone slept all the next day, which is odd for people who are supposed to be shooting a movie.  In the morning I went wandering, and found a classic New Orleans funeral.  I saw the Dirge and later the joyful exit, and the Second Line with umbrellas in the light drizzle of rain.  Later that afternoon, we gathered in someone’s room in the motel.  It had been raining all day, and Dennis insisted he needed the camera to film the neon lights reflected in the puddles.  No one was about to give Dennis a camera.  I went back to our room and didn’t see the camera go through the motel’s plate glass window.

The next day I told Terry that I was going back to New York.  I returned home to East 36th Street, and a few days later Terry showed up.  He looked perturbed but was tight-lipped about it.  When I asked him what went on down there after I left, all he would manage to bark out was a “Hrrrmph.”  Actress Karen Black, who played a New Orleans prostitute in the film, said Dennis’ behavior became so unruly that Terry turned to him and said, “The cacophony of your verbiage is driving me insane.”  There was nothing more to shoot in New Orleans that I know of, and I guess they all de-camped.  The filming was finished for the moment.  Peter and Dennis returned to Hollywood with the screenplay to raise the rest of the money.  Everyone in the film business knows you can’t get financing without a script.

Later, in the early summer after Columbia agreed to release Easy Rider, there was a meeting in a restaurant on the Upper East Side to discuss shooting the rest of the movie with Peter, Dennis, Terry, Rip Torn, myself, and a director whose name I can’t remember.  Dennis was late so we went ahead and ordered drinks and appetizers.  Terry was sitting on my left and Dennis’ place was on my right.  I was the only woman at the table.  Rip was on the other side of the round table, and so was Peter, who was talking to a couple of pretty girls sitting nearby.  Dennis soon showed up in full Easy Rider regalia—long hair, bushy mustache, and fringed buckskin jacket. He didn’t sit down but continued to stand on my right at his place at the table.  Agitated, he exclaimed, “Man, I’ve been lookin’ for shootin’ locations in Texas and man, I’m lucky I’m still alive—those mother-fuckin’, redneck bastards!”  He then spotted Rip across the table and said, “Hey Rip, you’re from fuckin’ Texas, aren’t you?”  Rip replied, “Yes, but don’t judge all bastards by me.”  Dennis continued his ranting and, still standing, picked up the knife at his place setting and leaned across the table, brandishing the knife at Rip.  Rip, who had been in the army and was a tough Texan, didn’t even get up, but leaned over the table, grabbed Dennis’ wrist, and twisted.  The knife clanked to the table.  Peter, who had been leaning back in his chair and balancing on two legs so he could flirt with the girls, fell over backwards.  Rip, controlling his temper, offered to meet Dennis outside to finish the fight, and left the restaurant.  Dennis sat down, acting as if nothing had happened, and continued to dominate the conversation all through dinner.

Needless to say, Rip refused to work with Dennis Hopper and backed out of the movie.  He not only lost out on a memorable movie role but unfortunately for Rip the controversial play he was starring in The Cuban Thing about a Cuban family during Fidel Castro’s revolution closed after opening night.  During previews a Cuban resistance group bombed the theatre in protest of the play.

Scrambling to find a replacement for Rip, Peter purportedly talked with William Wellman, Jr. about a role but when Wellman learned that Dennis was co-starring and directing he opted to work in a Bob Hope comedy instead.  Finally, they found someone who would work with Dennis—Jack Nicholson who was recommended by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider.  It was a star-making role for Jack, which was not surprising as Terry wrote wonderful dialogue for the character and Jack brilliantly brought to life this straight laconic Southern lawyer who smokes marijuana for the first time.  At this point Terry had moved onto his next endeavor while Peter and Dennis traveled the country filming Easy Rider from Terry’s script…





Cover Tiffin






Just got word from my publisher McFarland and Company that my new book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 has shipped. What a strange journey it has taken. I started off doing a book about American actresses who went to Italy to work during the sixties. I first wrote about Mimsy Farmer and then tackled Pamela. I just kept writing and writing and realized I had enough for a book just on her. My plans to turn into a biography with hopefully a new interview with Pamela was sadly squashed when I was informed by her husband that she could not participate. I was going to abandon the project, but knowing I was a big fan he suggested I continue.

Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 pays tribute to the stunning beauty that is Pamela Tiffin. Prettier than Raquel Welch. Funnier than Jane Fonda. More appealing than Ann-Margret. Yet they became superstars, but Pamela did not despite adulation from the critics and even James Cagney who hailed her “remarkable flair for comedy.” Contractual obligations and self-imposed exiles in New York and then Rome hampered her, though she remains a cult sixties pop icon to this day.

Dark-haired Pamela Tiffin debuted in the movie version of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke (1961) as the stunning innocent who steals handsome doctor Laurence Harvey from sexually frustrated spinster Geraldine Page and then she was a scene-stealing comedienne giving a Golden Globe nominated performance as an addle-brained Southern teenager who sneaks into East Berlin and marries Communist Horst Buchholz in Billy Wilder’s hilarious political satire One, Two, Three (1961) starring James Cagney.

Next came a succession of popular teenage drive-in movies where Pamela once again delivers highly amusing performances. She’s a bored farm gal itching for more than hanging out with the hogs in the musical State Fair (1962) with Pat Boone and Bobby Darin; a bungling flight attendant in the romantic travelogue Come Fly with Me (1963) with Hugh O’Brian and Dolores Hart; a surfing college student in the beach movie For Those Who Think Young (1964) with James Darren; a race car driver loving coed in The Lively Set (1964) again with Darren; and a naive tourist in the Madrid-set comedy The Pleasure Seekers (1964), a remake of Three Coins in the Fountain, with Ann-Margret and Carol Lynley. With her beauty and seductive soft-voice, Pamela Tiffin instilled in her romance seeking characters not only a wide-eyed naïveté and endearing flightiness, but a sexiness that her contemporaries at the time could not match. It was these qualities that made these movies better than expected due to the actress’ comedic abilities and made her rise above the competition of the time. So successful was she that Turner Classic Movies has dubbed her “Hollywood’s favorite air-headed ingénue in the sixties.”


Sophisticated and intelligent in real life (she lived in New York to continue working as a model and taking college courses between films), Pamela was not a fan of her teenage movies and strove to get more mature roles. However, she was beholden to the contracts she signed with producer Hal Wallis (who discovered her), 20th Century-Fox; and the Mirisch Brothers. To her delight, Pamela was finally able to shed her ingenue image after landing a sexy adult role as a sharp-tongued, man-hungry heiress in the detective film Harper starring Paul Newman. Her sexy bikini-clad dance on top of a diving board has become one of the sixties iconic film moments.

Instead of taking Hollywood by storm at this point with her new sex kitten persona, she went blonde and headed overseas to become Marcello Mastroianni’s first American leading lady in the Italian three-part comedy Oggi, domani, dopodomani (1966) and then opted for a Broadway play, Dinner at Eight in the role essayed by Jean Harlow in the 1930s movie version. An unhappy marriage caused her to run away to Italy in 1967 putting a halt to her career trajectory in the U.S. leaving her many fans wanting more and wondering where she disappeared to.

Hollywood’s loss though was Italy’s gain. She was paired with some of the country’s most famous leading men including Franco Nero (twice), Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, Nino Manfredi, and Lando Buzzanca. Though enjoying being a sexy blonde, Pamela wanted to act and went after more character parts during her time there hence her long blonde locks were hidden under dark or red wigs. Quite popular, especially when her notorious pictorial in Playboy was released, her films ranged from comedies such as Straziami ma di baci Saziami/Kill Me with Kisses (1968, one of Italy’s highest grossing movies of the sixties), L’arcangelo/The Archangel (1969), and Il vichingo venuto dal Sud/The Blonde in the Blue Movie (1971); to the underrated giallo Giornata nera per l’Ariete/The Fifth Cord (1971); to the spaghetti western Los Amigos/Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears (1973) featuring one of her best performances as a whore. In between, Pamela returned to the U.S. for one memorable role as a political activist taken hostage by Mexican General Peter Ustinov and his army when they retake the Alamo in the very funny satire Viva Max (1969).

Not a biography, Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 is a career retrospective of Pamela Tiffin’s movies plus TV and stage appearances. Interviewees (including Franco Nero, Hugh O’Brian, Lada Edmund, Jr., Carole Wells, Tim Zinnemann, Martin West, Niki Flacks, Jed Curtis, Peter Gonzales Falcon, Eldon Quick, John Wilder, and Larry Hankin) provide a behind-the-scenes look at her work. Plus noted film historians Dean Brierly, Roberto Curti, Howard Hughes, and Paolo Mereghetti weigh in on Pamela Tiffin’s place in cinematic history.









To most television fans actress Judy Carne is only remembered as the original Sock It To Me girl on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.  But the bouncy auburn-haired British lass (born Joyce Audrey Botterill on April 27, 1939 in Northampton, England) had a prolific career on television before she literally made a splash on that groovy hit variety series.  The daughter of a London fruit merchant, she danced with the Bush-Davies ballet and made her stage debut in the 1956 revue For Amusement Only in the West End.  Before Carne headed for the U.S. she was a panelist on Juke Box Jury and a regular on the sitcom The Rag Trade.

Judy Carne was first introduced to American audiences as Heather Finch, a British exchange student who comes to stay with an American family in the first hour long comedy series Fair Exchange in 1962.  She next played the rich Barbara Wyntoon daughter of the snobbish Cecil Wyntoon (John Dehner) and in love with the poor Jim Bailey (Les Brown Jr.) on the long forgotten sitcom The Baileys of Balboa during the 1964-65 season.  And on the big screen she had a small role as one of the three “nameless broads” (the others being Janine Gray and Kathy Kersh) who are found in bed with James Coburn in the comedy The Americanization of Emily (1964).

With the advent of the Beatles in 1964, all things British were in during the mid-sixties so Carne with her cute looks and mod dress was perfect for the spy genre making two memorable appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1965 and 1967.

judy carne

In between, Judy Carne landed her third TV series called Love on a Rooftop during the 1966-67 TV season.  She played newlywed Julie Hammond Willis, the pampered daughter of a rich used car dealer, who is married to struggling architect David (Peter Duel) and living in a tiny windowless apartment, which sits on the roof of a building with a wonderful view of the San Francisco Bay area.   Though warm and original, critical kudos could not save it from cancellation after only 1 season. I remember this show and Carne in it quite fondly. It made me want to live in an apartment with incredible city views. Something I still have not achieved to this day. The sitcom was rerun at night during the summer of 1971, which was a few years after my first memories of watching prime time TV. Land of the Giants, Here Come the Brides, Here’s Lucy, Mayberry R.F.D., Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Mothers-in-Law, and the western Lancer still standout for me.

Shortly after her last appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Judy Carne found “overnight” fame on the innovative new variety series Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In beginning in January 1968.  Though Carne had comedic talent she is best remembered as the Sock It to Me girl, in which she would invariably get doused with a bucket of water or fall through a trap door on the floor.  Also memorable were scenes of Carne gyrating in a bikini as the camera zoomed in on phrases and slogans painted in Day-Glo colors on her body.  She became one of the most popular actresses on the show (she was my favorite) rivaling even that of Goldie Hawn (who was funny but her incessant giggling annoyed this 8 year old). Capitalizing on her popular catchphrase, Carne even released a novelty single. Judy stayed with the series for two years and left part way through season three.  She told TV Guide in 1969, “Frankly, it has become a big bloody bore.”

Post Laugh-In, whole Goldie Hawn went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Cactus Flower and became a bona fide movie star, Judy Carne did not fare as well but remained popular nevertheless. She landed a one-year gig on The Kraft Music Hall, starred on Broadway in The Boy Friend, did a number of TV guest shots (including 6 appearances on Love, American Style always to my delight) and movies-of-the-week (most notably QB VII in 1974) and was a regular performer on the talk and game show circuits.

The late seventies, however, really did sock it to Judy Carne.  She made headlines in the road company of Absurd Person Singular for an altercation with co-star Betsy Von Furstenburg who reportedly purposely spilled a glass of water on Carne during a performance.  A nightclub act she put together failed and was a big disappointment.  Her sixties experimentation with drugs developed into full-blown heroin addiction. In 1978 she was busted for illegal prescription drugs (she was acquitted) and suffered a broken neck in a car accident.

In 1985 Carne co-authored (with former boyfriend Bob Merrill) her heartbreaking autobiography Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside: The Bittersweet Saga of the Sock-It-To-Me Girl.  She candidly revealed details of her tumultuous three-year marriage to Burt Reynolds, her admitted bi-sexuality, her love affair with singer Lana Cantrell, life on Laugh-In and her drug addiction.  The book put her back in the spotlight for a short period and to capitalize on her newfound notoriety she put together a cabaret act entitled Only I….  Her show ran for a few months at the Duplex in Greenwich Village during the early nineties and she caught the attention of radio shock jock Howard Stern appearing on his radio and TV shows. Shortly after, she returned to England and lived the rest of her life out of the spotlight.

Rear more about Judy Carne’s spy genre appearances in my and Louis Paul’s book Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973.