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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: A Career from Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 will be released in 2015.

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The Girls on the Beach for the Beach Party Blogathon

The gals from the web sites Speakeasy and Silver Screenings are co-hosting this week a Beach Party Blogathon. Below is my contribution about 1965’s The Girls on the Beach with excerpts taken from my books Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies; Trippin with Terry Southern; and Drive-in Dream Girls.

GB4After the success American International Pictures had with Beach Party (1963) followed by Muscle Beach Party (1964) and Bikini Beach (1964), every studio and independent producer wanted in on the beach movie action. Paramount Pictures picked up the distribution rights to The Girls on the Beach. A gaggle of coeds (including Noreen Corcoran from TV’s Bachelor Father; Natalie Wood’s sexier sister Lana Wood; Linda Saunders soon to morph into Lori Saunders on TV’s Petticoat Junction; and fresh faces Mary Mitchel, Gail Gerber, Linda Marshall, and Anna Capri) are trying to raise funds to save their sorority house using various schemes including try to win a crossword challenge, a bakeoff, and a beauty pageant. Then three surfer dudes (Martin West, Aron Kincaid, and Steve Rogers) who want to score with them trick the gals into thinking that they are tight with The Beatles. Things go awry when the girls announce a fundraiser with the Fab Four as headliners much to the detriment of the guys. When they learn that they have been duped, four of the coeds don longhaired wigs and impersonate The Beatles to an appreciative audience and save the day. Interspersed amongst the action are musical performances from The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore, and The Crickets.

The Girls on the Beach was the first of two movies backed by producer Roger Corman though his name does not appear on the credits. He enlisted his brother Gene Corman to act as Executive Producer to watch over his investment during production. Roger Corman had just signed an exclusive contract with Columbia Pictures, which forbade him from directing movies for any other studio. Corman put the movie in the hands of veteran director William N. Whitney. He had experience directing numerous TV shows and a few low-budget exploitation movies of the fifties such as Young and Wild (1958), Juvenile Jungle (1958,) and The Cool and the Crazy (1958). The Girls on the Beach had a three-week shooting schedule with interiors shot at Occidental Studios on Pico Boulevard and only two days filming on the beach in Santa Monica rather than Malibu the usual locale for the beach movies, which would have been too costly for this low-budget production.

The screenplay for The Girls on the Beach was by David Malcolm, which was a pseudonym for TV comedy scribe Sam Locke, who went on to author the screenplay for Corman’s next movie Beach Ball. The one common thread that can be found in both of these movies is that in each the actors have to dress in drag. Aron Kincaid said, “It was only years afterwards that I realized that the same man wrote them. I don’t know but he must have liked to see all of us in dresses or something!”

Actor Bart Patton was working for Roger Corman at the time and invited a number of his friends to come down to Corman’s office to interview for roles in the movie. Aron Kincaid recalls, “I knew Bart from UCLA. He had done a lot of other things and was one of the stars of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13. His wife was Mary Mitchel, who I also knew from UCLA. We all seemed to be connected one way or another—it was like one degree of separation. He called me to come down and audition. I had only been out of the Coast Guard for about a week or two so I was in the best physical shape I had been in, which is not to say that it was anything great! In those days people didn’t have the bodies like they do today. Just not having a tire around your middle was considered a great physique. I went on the interview and got one of the starring roles in The Girls on the Beach.”

To assure that teenagers would flood the theatres, the film was peppered with musical guest stars Lesley Gore, the Crickets, and the Beach Boys (who perform three tunes). Brian Wilson wrote the songs “The Girls on the Beach” and “Little Honda” especially for the movie and the recordings appeared on the Beach Boys’ LP All Summer Long.

With three weeks to shoot, William Whitney did not waste any time and worked his cast hard and fast. Describing Whitney’s directing style, Aron Kincaid remarked, “He encouraged everybody to improvise I think because he thought of us just a bunch of dumb young kids. But we were all professional and dead serious about our work. It’s funny regarding these beach movies. You’d think it was just a bunch of kids slapping around and having a good time. But everybody analyzed every scene that they did.

“For instance, in the opening scene Martin West is telling Steve Rogers and I what we got to do to pick up these girls at the next table,” continued Kincaid. “While he is talking he is playing with a straw. Whitney yelled cut because they had to set up a light differently so I stepped over to the side. Steve Rogers said, ‘Do you notice what Martin is doing with the straw.’ I said, ‘Yeah, he’s playing with it. He didn’t do that in rehearsal.’ Steve then said, ‘He’s doing this to draw all the attention and eyes to him on the screen.’ I said, ‘We’ve got to fight back!’”

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Corman knew what he was doing by hiring Whitney. Working on a short production schedule, the veteran director tried to keep on time and within budget. Aron Kincaid remembers that at one point they just finished a scene that took a number of takes and Whitney only gave them a five-minute break before the next set up. As the young actors and actresses plopped down in their chairs, there was a lot of grumbling from the cast. “Gail Gerber was this little tough blonde,” says Aron. “I remember she was puffing on a cigarette and she shouted in frustration, ‘Who do you have to fuck to get off this picture?’ A crew guy yelled back, ‘The same guy you fucked to get on it!’  Gail laughed as hard as the rest of us.” Gail Gerber recalled this incident in her memoir Trippin’ with Terry Southern: What I Think I Remember. It is all true and she remarked, “I think I stole that line from Bette Davis.”

Though the girls play well on screen behind the scenes was another matter. With a number of aspiring actresses in the film, you’d expect the fur was sure to fly and it did according to Aron Kincaid once the buxom Lana Wood hit the sound stage. “None of us had seen Lana other than in The Searchers when she was eight or nine years old,” recalled Aron Kincaid. “She came on the set the first day and it was like Jayne Mansfield’s entrance in The Girl Can’t Help It. There was everything but a drum going bump, bump, a-bump, bump, a-bump. She was in this gold lame bathing suit and I guess she was only eighteen at the time. She was built far beyond the other girls. Most of the others huddled with towels around them to hide false and imagined flaws. Linda Marshall carried a big white towel with red flowers on it and always had it draped around her because she was terrified that her thighs were going to look too big on the screen.  But Lana—the brave soul that she was—just came on with this well here I am, take it or leave it attitude. Well, everybody wanted to take it. She was a knockout. I think the other girls in their little two-piece cotton polka-dot numbers felt sort of shone up but nobody could compete with a gold bikini.

“The other gal in it who was a pretty hot number was Anna Capri [pictured below with Peter Brooks],” continued Aron.  “To say that the other girls on the picture ostracized Anna and Lana is an understatement.  You think guys are competitive and scheming—you should see the women!  They realized that they had some rough competition in Lana and Anna.  Happily, it didn’t show on the screen.  Though Anna’s character was sort of ostracized in the movie too.”

GB2Though this was Gail Gerber’s first movie, she came from a impressive background of ballet, theater, and live TV in her native Canada. Commenting on what was going on around her, she said in her memoir, “Noreen Corcoran [pictured below] was the female lead in the movie and she refused to wear a bikini or a two-piece swimsuit. The costumer had to outfit her in these hideous floral one-piece bathing suits with matching cover-ups. However they also made her dye her beautiful chestnut brown hair blonde for the movie against her wishes so I did feel a bit sorry for her. Linda Marshall thought her thighs would look fat on the big screen so she draped herself in a beach towel in most of our scenes. I couldn’t believe the producers would let them get away with this. If you are ashamed or prudish about your body why agree to star in a beach movie!?! I thought all these girls were a bit ridiculous with their attitudes even more so when their claws came out, especially Linda’s, when Lana Wood pranced onto the soundstage in her gold lame bikini. She had no inhibitions whatsoever, which I think intimidated them. Being a bit older than these gals, I pretty much kept to myself. But seeing how they ostracized poor Lana, I sort of befriended her. I think they were jealous because her sister Natalie was a big movie star.”

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Pictured above (clockwise from center: Gail Gerber; Lana Wood; Steve Rogers and Linda Marshall; and Lori Saunders. Click on image to get full-size.

Though both Aron and Gail felt Lana Wood was not treated very well by her co-stars, she did not convey that in my interview with her for Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema, “The Girls on the Beach was a lot of fun to do. What I especially remember is having to wear the Beatles wigs and that dreadful gold lame bikini. It was a really ugly bathing suit. We shot the sorority house and club scenes on this little bitsy stage but most of the film was shot at the beach. For a low budget independent film it went very smoothly.”

In The Girls on the Beach, West, Rogers, and Kincaid get trapped in the girls’ sorority house so the only way they can sneak out is by donning the girls’ clothes and wigs. Of course, they could have hung out the window and dropped to the ground but that would not have been as much fun. Though he didn’t mind dressing up, Kincaid didn’t think the scene was very realistic. “If three guys did have to do such a thing they would hardly be putting on false eyelashes and lip gloss with a lipstick brush, which is what the make-up man did to us. Everybody said that I looked like Lana Wood. I swore that Steve Rogers looked like Lizabeth Scott and Martin West resembled Rose Marie of The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

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Despite the hard working cast giving it their all, The Girls on the Beach is best remembered today for The Beach Boys rare big screen appearance. “I knew some of the Beach Boys before we even did the film,” said Aron Kincaid. “Dennis Wilson lived up the street. I’d be out in front of my house watering the lawn and he’d always wander by with the girl-of-the-moment that he was dating. I didn’t know Mike Love or Al Jardine but I did know Brian and Carl Wilson. When we did the musical number “Little Honda” with them in a nightclub scene I didn’t think, ‘Oh God, the Beach Boys!’ I just thought of Dennis as being the guy from around the corner and that we were all being paid to do some crazy work. On the set they were very friendly and did their job.”

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Gail Gerber, coming from the world of classical ballet and jazz, had a different experience working with them. She revealed in her memoir, “The one thing that stands out for me while shooting The Girls on the Beach is that Mr. Witney asked me to dance in front of the dreaded Beach Boys while they sang “Little Honda.” I was never a fan of rock ‘n’ roll but after meeting Terry [Southern] I did learn to appreciate some of it—but to this day not the Beach Boys! I’m shaking and shimmying and I am thinking, “If they don’t yell cut pretty soon there is nothing more in my repertoire that I can do. This music is so boring—I can’t stand it. If they play that riff one more time I’m going to kill somebody!” They just kept banging away. Thirty years later I am reading about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys describing this scene in his early youth, which he said was his lowest moment because there was this girl gyrating out in front during his very important song in his first movie. I am sorry I caused him so much grief. If only we were able to read each other’s minds. Then again considering my dislike for his song and his group it is better that we couldn’t.”

The Beach Boys third number called “The Lonely Sea” was shot on the beach.  According to Aron Kincaid, “It was supposed to be at night scene but it was filmed during the afternoon as a day for night shot.  It was about ninety-seven degrees and we are all bundled up with sweat pouring down our backs.”

The Girls on the Beach is one of the better Beach Party clones enhanced by witty dialog, a pleasant, wholesome cast, and outstanding musical performances by the Beach Boys in their sole beach movie appearance. As expected from the title, there are lots of girls on the beach. Wisecracking Gail Gerber stands out as the ditzy, man-hungry Georgia. Her car scene near the end of the movie is one of the film’s funniest bits. Gail is a knockout in her skimpy swimsuit too but has stiff competition from Lana Wood as the girl in the gold lame bikini and Anna Capri as the curvaceous, busty Arlene. Noreen Corcoran is cute with dyed blonde hair, but she comes across stilted and uncomfortable clad in some of the ugliest swimsuits to ever appear on the California coast. Linda Marshall as Cynthia spends most of the movie ridiculously draped in a towel that she carries around with her. She’s the female Linus Van Pelt of the beach set. As the trio of lothario surfers, hunky Martin West is fine as the leader, handsome blonde Aron Kincaid shows comedic talent, and pretty boy Steve Rogers with his striking dark features and penetrating crystal blue eyes has a disarming charm about him.

As with the latter crop of low-budget Hollywood surf movies, surfing scenes are minimal though the guys are actually filmed out in the ocean sitting on their surfboards rather than in a tank in front of a blue screen on the studio lot. There are lots of scenes filmed at the seashore and the movie is strongly enhanced by the presence of the Beach Boys who elevate the movie due to their appearance (despite what Gail Gerber felt). Their performance of “Little Honda” is classic and that clip has been broadcast on music video outlets and used in practically every Beach Boys documentary. The Crickets and Ledley Gore do well, but unfortunately the viewing audience has to sit through two numbers of the girls masquerading badly as The Beatles while the crowd on screen goes wild in appreciation at the film’s climax.  Disregarding this ending, The Girls on the Beach, though short on surfing scenes, is still one of the better copycat Beach Party movies as it is fast moving fun populated by fine looking young people some of whom can really act. It surely deserves a DVD release paired with its sister movie Beach Ball. This also came from the team of Roger Corman/Gene Corman/Bart Patton and featured Aron Kincaid and Gail Gerber.

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Blogathon

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AQUARIUS, AQUARIUS

In honor of the upcoming new NBC-TV series Aquarius starring David Duchovny as an LA detective investigating a hippie cult led by Charles Manson in 1967 Los Angeles, I thought I’d pay tribute to some of my favorite Sixties Starlets in their memorable hippie roles:

1. Salli Sachse in The Trip (1967)

SSDirected by Roger Corman, The Trip follows a TV commercial director (Peter Fonda ) who takes an LSD trip to grasp something from his inner nature as a way to deal with his problematic personal life. Sachse plays a sexy blonde named Glenn who meets Fonda a few hours before his trip. While under the influence of LSD, Fonda imagines Salli with a painted face and dressed in a wild bikini as she accompanies him on his psychedelic journey. She becomes the ultimate LSD freakout girl.

2. Mimsy Farmer in Riot on Sunset Strip (1967)

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Mimsy Farmer plays a staid high school girl named Andy who hails from a broken home and takes up with the drug-taking crowd. She was described in the press book as “a real swinger, who took her first ‘trip’…all the way to Hell and back!” All the ingredients were present—hippies, LSD, protestors, free love, mod fashions, police brutality— to make Riot on Sunset Strip a camp classic of the alienated youth movie genre. Farmer’s LSD induced dance is a real trip!

3. Hilarie Thompson in Model Shop (1969)

Though Hilarie Thompson played many a hippie role on film and TV, her cameo as a hitchhiking hippie in Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969)was a standout. In Demy’s tribute to Los Angeles and its youth culture, Gary Lockwood played an alienated twenty-six year old architect waiting to be drafted and facing an overdue car payment. During the course of a twenty-four hour period, he rebuffs his grasping starlet girlfriend (Alexandra Hay) who wants to get married; photographs a beautiful French woman (Anouk Aimée) who works as a model, posing semi-nude for amateur photographers; and gives a lift to a hippie (Thompson) hitching a ride. OF all her hippie roles, Thompson’s most realistic,

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4. Tisha Sterling in Coogan’s Bluff

Tisha Sterling gives a star making performance as a duplicitous hippie in the stylish detective film Coogan’s Bluff starring Clint Eastwood as a remote Arizona deputy who heads to New York City to extradite her fugitive boyfriend Don Stroud. While waiting for Stroud to recover from a bad LSD trip, Eastwood butts heads with feisty Sterling who helps Stroud escape. Not caring that she is a chick, Clint roughs her up to find where he is hiding.  In retaliation, she leads him to a pool hall where Stroud’s cronies beat him up.  The film climaxes high on the bluffs of the Cloisters (my current stomping grounds) where Stoud and Sterling get their comeuppance.

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5. Carol Lynley in The Poseidon Adventure

Over the years The Poseidon Adventure has built up a devoted cult following with legions of fans. One of their film favorites is the hot pants, go-go booted-clad hippie singer Nonnie Parry. This is surprising since the character isn’t over-the-top like combative Det. Mike Rogo; his foul-mouthed ex-prostitute wife Linda; overweight Jewish grandma Belle Rosen; or bombastic hero/preacher Reverend Scott. Credit goes to actress Carol Lynley for giving a very effective, understated performance as the terrified Nonnie, who almost goes into a state of shock after the capsizing of the SS Poseidon making the audience feel empathy for her plight. It was by far not Lynley’s most demanding role, but remains her most beloved and remembered.

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Read more about these Sixties Starlets in my books:

 

 

ROBERTO CURTI DOES IT AGAIN

Click here for great review from Flick Attack for Roberto Curti’s newest book Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969 from McFarland and Company. As with his previous book on Italian crime films, Roberto provides wonderful well-written history of the genre and great detail on each film profiled with just the right mix of plot synopsis and back story. Must for fans of Barbara Steele and Mario Bava. Kudos to McFarland for doing a wonderful job production-wise. All movie stills and poster art photos are very crisp and love the new heavier paper stock cover that will prevent major curling as most paper back covers do.

 

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In honor of author/screenwriter Terry Southern’s birthday this month of May, read about his life with 1960s beach/Elvis movie starlet Gail Gerber in her award-winning memoir Trippin’ with Terry Southern: What I Think I Remember. Gail recalls the making of her movies (Girl Happy, Beach Ball, Girls on the Beach, Harum Scarum, Village of the Giants, etc.) and those of Terry’s including The Loved One; The Cincinatti Kid; Casino Royale; The Magic Christian; and most notably Easy Rider as well as hanging out with the Rolling Stones, Lenny Bruce, Rip Torn, Jane Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Ringo Starr, Peter Sellers, Geraldine Page, William S. Burroughs, and many more.

Click here to read a new Amazon review from actress Linda Thorson who played Tara King on the last season of The Avengers during the sixties plus many more roles thereafter.

Gail and I receiving our IPPY Award.

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Links to buy Gail’s book and others on Terry Southern:

 

 

 

If It’s Not Tuesday…It Must Be Sandra, Connie, Diane, Carol, Sue, or Yvette Part 2

The times they were a-changin’ in 1966. The Sunset Strip in Hollywood was populated by hippies and motorcycle gangs. The counterculture was in full swing. Teenagers were turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. They fought the establishment in every way—from protesting the U.S. presence in Vietnam to dropping acid to practicing free love. Society was in upheaval as the innocence of the early sixties was being replaced by the cynicism of the late sixties.

Hollywood too was in turmoil as the old studio system was dismantling and independent films were on the rise. New young directors were beginning to cast their films with people who looked real and not Hollywood glamour girls or matinee idols. These changes (coupled with the fact that during the Age of Aquarius, young people outright rejected performers too closely identified with the earlier part of the decade such as Troy Donahue, Shelley Fabares, and Annette Funicello who they felt represented the ideals of the Eisenhower years) adversely affected the big screen careers of these Baby Doll blondes who were now in the early to mid-twenties. They also had more competition as the actresses from The Group (1966) particularly Candice Bergen, Jessica Walter, and Joanna Pettet; Fox discovery Raquel Welch, and a number of European beauties like Ursula Andress and Elke Sommer surpassed them as Hollywood’s newest It Girls.

Sandra Dee sensed her screen demise and voiced her unhappiness with the roles being offered her. She bemoaned, “They can’t keep me in Peter Pan collars for the rest of my life. I’ve got to move on—I’ve got to grow up. I want to do drama, sex—pictures with real substance.” Unfortunately, it was just too late to try to overcome her icky-sweet Tammy image. She and Connie Stevens were so identified with that era and their attempts to play more mature roles to reflect the changing mores of the times did not pan out. This persona lost Dee the female lead opposite Warren Beatty in the mod heist comedy Kaleidoscope (1966) as she was replaced by Susannah York. Even a stab at playing a knocked up singer who has three suitors claiming to be the baby’s father in the supposed “with-it” comedy Doctor, You’ve Got to Be Kidding! (1968) didn’t help. So desperate was she to change her image that Russ Meyer told the Los Angeles Times that Dee’s agent contacted him for a role in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. How surreal would that have been—the King of Cleavage meets flat-chested Tammy.

A_SDAfter going freelance in 1969, Dee gave a good account of herself as a virginal librarian who falls under the spell of a demented stranger in the gothic H.P. Lovecraft thriller The Dunwich Horror (1970). It was just too little, too late as Sandra Dee the movie star went out with a whimper. The seventies found her popping up in the occasional TV-movie (Daughters of Joshua Cabe; Fantasy Island) and guest roles (Love, American Style; Night Gallery (pictured below); Police Woman) looking so frail and gaunt later in the decade probably due to the drinking problem she suffered from. Happily, she got clean and sober and returned to the public eye in the nineties, but sadly she passed away in 2005.

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Post 1965, Connie Stevens appeared as astronaut Jerry Lewis’ intended bride to get a married couple on the moon in the failed idiotic comedy Way…Way Out (1966). She campaigned heavily to play the role of Honey, the ditzy wife of a young college professor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) but director Mike Nichols deemed her unsuitable for the part. Producers quickly caught on that her acting talent was as thin as her singing voice. Most likely seeing the writing on the wall in terms of her fading movie career, she wisely retreated to the small screen guest starring on practically all the major variety programs singing and dancing. She even had a success on Broadway in the comedy Star Spangled Girl in 1966 in which she received a Theater World Award but when it was turned into a movie in 1971 her role was recast with Sandy Duncan.

A_CS2Stevens returned to the big screen playing hood Tony Musante’s moll and speakeasy singer in director Robert Aldrich’s violent Depression era kidnap tale The Grissom Gang (1971). Surprisingly, Stevens received good notices and then belatedly went the sexpot route with laughable results in the made-for television movie The Sex Symbol (1973) playing a disguised version of Marilyn Monroe and the low-budget R-rated Scorchy (1976) as a tough detective. Not having the acting skills to continue with dramatic type roles, Stevens returned to light comedy and variety and became the go-to actress for fifties and sixties nostalgia-themed movies (i.e. Grease 2, Back to the Beach, Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis, etc.).

Der Besuch Der Reichen Witwe  Bring Me Head Dobie Gillis  Connie Stevens, Dwayne Hickman Multimillionaerin Thalia Menninger

The more talented Diane McBain on the other hand was typecast the opposite way as she couldn’t shake the bad girl roles and sunk into B-movies even before the sixties ended. She was a better actress than she was given credit for but her name never came up in casting considerations for some of the top young leading lady roles by the decade’s end. McBain wound up with the second female lead in the Elvis Presley musical Spinout (1966) as a sophisticated author searching for the Perfect Male whom she decides is race car driver and singer Elvis Presley and vies for his attentions with rich girl Shelley Fabares and tomboyish drummer Deborah Walley.

SPINOUT  1966 MGM film with Elvis Presley and Diane McBainMcBain then was paired twice with teen idol Fabian trying to toughen his big screen persona. In Thunder Alley (1967) she was racecar driver Fabian’s vengeful ex-girlfriend who hooks up with his rival to bring him down and in Maryjane (1968) they were high school teachers trying to help their pot-smoking students but the pusher turned out to be Diane! She reached the apex of exploitation films giving an intense over-the-top performance as a murderous tough-talking motorcycle mama (though her looks suited her more for riding on a float in the Rose Bowl Parade)  in the camp classic of biker movies The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968). McBain learned to ride a big motorcycle, but was disappointed that in the movie they were given bikes just a bit bigger than a scooter to ride making this Mini-Skirt Mob never very tough looking. Diane then posed semi-nude for Playboy thinking if Carol Lynley could do it so could she, but had second thoughts and withdrew the photos.

A_DM2By the end of the decade, McBain found herself in even cheaper films such as The Sidehackers (1969) where this time she is the victim of a vicious biker gang who rapes and then leaves her for dead; and the inanely titled comedy I Sailed to Tahiti with an All-Girl Crew (1969) opposite cigar store Indian Gardner McKay. She then played a supporting role in the spy adventure The Delta Factor (1970) starring Chris George and Yvette Mimieux. Though it hurt Diane’s ego to play second fiddle to Mimeux, a minor consolation was that director Tay Garnett told her that he should have cast her in the lead because she was much more professional then Mimieux who gave him trouble on the set.

It is mind boggling why Diane McBain was not offered the sophisticated glamour roles played by a Dina Merrill or a Barbara Rush. She certainly had the looks and air about her for it. Never able to arise from low-budget exploitation movies, the seventies found Diane talent wasted in Wicked, Wicked (1973), one of the seventies’ first slasher movies filmed in Duo-Vision, as a hotel murder victim, and in Grade-Z foreign productions like the Mexican adventure Savage Season (1971) and the Filipino horror movie The Deathhead Virgin (1974). The rest of the decade found her in the occasional TV-movie and lots of television guest roles. She had early eighties success as the outrageous Foxy Humdinger on Days of Our Lives but she was brutally raped in her carport and the trauma caused her to stop working for awhile. In 2014, she wrote a brutally honest autobiography entitled Famous Enough: A Hollywood Memoir.

A_DM3Unlike Sandra Dee, Connie Stevens, and Diane McBain who were not considered for major roles, Yvette Mimiuex, Carol Lynley, Sue Lyon and especially Tuesday Weld were all on the cusp of becoming important actresses in 1966. They successfully fought typecasting and their names were bandied around for some super star making roles in critically acclaimed movies but either they just missed being cast or unwisely passed on them.

Post-1965, Natalie Wood and Jane Fonda were at the top of the echelon when casting for some of the latter half of the decade’s top female roles. Both turned down Bonnie and Clyde and then the role was accepted and rejected by Tuesday Weld who just had a child. Carol Lynley was reportedly considered after producer/actor Warren Beatty saw her as Jean Harlow in Harlow and liked her Thirties look but felt she looked too young. (Reportedly, she lost out on Burt Lancaster’s kids’ former babysitter in The Swimmer because she looked too old.) Bonnie was almost offered to Sue Lyon when Arthur Penn observed Faye Dunaway in a play in New York and brought her to Warren Beatty’s attention. She won the role, an Academy Award nomination, and super stardom.

Lynley and Lyon in particular were up for a number of the same roles. Director John Ford wanted Carol to play the innocent missionary in his last movie Seven Women (1966) but MGM pushed contract player Sue Lyon on him. Both actresses were on producer Lawrence Turman’s wish list of actresses, which also included Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda, Tuesday Weld, Pamela Tiffin, and Yvette Mimieux, amongst others, to play Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine in The Graduate (1967). Katherine Ross got the part and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, which led to the female lead opposite Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Later in the decade as their careers waned, Lynley and Lyon were sought by producer Tony Tenser to play the female lead of a thrill-seeking coed opposite Frankie Avalon in The Haunted House of Horror (1969) but both wisely turned it down. British actress Jill Haworth, fresh off her successful run as Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway, accepted the part.

The female lead in Rosemary’s Baby was another sought after role. Jane Fonda turned it down. Natalie Wood was considered however director Roman Polanski thought Tuesday Weld would have been ideal (actually his wife Sharon Tate was his first choice) but Paramount didn’t think she “was established enough.” Producer Robert Evans then saw Mia Farrow fresh from leaving TV’s Peyton Place and thought she would be perfect. It is surprising though that Carol Lynley or Yvette Mimieux were not considered for this role. Lynley knew Polanski well (she claimed he not only offered her his movie Repulsion, but named the character Carol in tribute to her) and had given an excellent performance as the beleaguered heroine in Bunny Lake Is Missing a role that Jane Fonda desired while Mimieux had that same fragile elfin look to her similar to Farrow.  Another movie the Baby Doll blondes seemed to have been ignored was Valley of the Dolls. One could easily see Tuesday Weld as wacko Neely and Carol Lynley or Yvette Mimieux as icy model Anne.

A few years prior, both Mimieux and Lynley were contenders for the female lead in The Birds along with Sandra Dee and Pamela Tiffin. Reportedly, Alfred Hitchcock screened footage of them, but decided on the more mature and sophisticated Tippi Hedren who he spotted in a TV commercial. Yvette was also contemplated for the role of the kidnapped sculptress in The Collector (1965) as was Tuesday Weld who campaigned vigorously for it. Samantha Eggar won the part and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. And MGM pushed for Mimieux to play Lara in Doctor Zhivago (1965) but director David Lean chose Julie Christie after, you guessed it, Jane Fonda turned it down.

In the “what was she thinking!?!” category, Tuesday Weld wins the crown as she passed on three major movies in 1969 with none of her contemporaries getting the roles. Instead they were cast with relative newcomers. Kim Darby snagged the tomboy role in True Grit, Laugh-In cast member Goldie Hawn went on to win the Oscar for playing the kooky New York hippie mistress of dentist Walter Matthau in Cactus Flower, and Dyan Cannon went on to receive an Oscar nomination for playing staid housewife Alice in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Roman Polanski came a-callin’ again on Weld to play Lady MacBeth in MacBeth (1971) but she balked about doing a nude scene and lost the role. Explaining why she didn’t want to play these roles, Weld once remarked, “Do you think I want success?  I refused Bonnie and Clyde because I was nursing at the time but also because deep down I knew that it was going to be a huge success. The same was true of Bob and Carol and Fred and Sue or whatever it was called. It reeked of success.”

Carol Lynley on the other hand said, “If Bonnie and Clyde or Rosemary’s Baby were offered to me I would have done them in a minute.” However when one role did come her way in an acclaimed movie, she proved that Tuesday Weld wasn’t the only one to make head scratching bad choices. Lynley was offered the role of Jack Nicholson’s sophisticated sister-in-law in Five Easy Pieces (1970) but she wanted the waitress role already cast with Karen Black. Since the producers were only paying scale, she passed on it then turned around and made Beware! The Blob as a favor to her Malibu neighbor Larry Hagman making his directorial debut. Huh?!?

Though they were still competing for some of the same roles in the late sixties, Yvette Mimieux, Carol Lynley, Sue Lyon and Tuesday Weld each matured professionally and distinguished themselves with various degrees of success as some very promising movies that they did appear in were either critical or box office failures. Suffice it to say, none of them became super stars and eventually all would turn to TV before fading from the movie public’s minds though to this day they all have a cult following especially Tuesday Weld.

Yvette Mimieux settled on playing “the girl” in a series of adventure films such as The Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967) as a blonde airhead unaware that her current beau Stephen Boyd is a retired thief now being blackmailed by a former flame to help rob the Spanish National Bank of Pamplona  during the running of the bulls; the exciting Dark of the Sun (1968) excellent as a frazzled relief worker in Africa who joins with mercenaries Rod Taylor and Jim Brown to save some kidnapped citizens plus retrieve a huge cache of diamonds from rebels during the Congo uprising: and the low-budget spy flick The Delta Factor (1969) as a CIA agent who recruits imprisoned thief Christopher George to masquerade as a drug dealer to help rescue a kidnapped scientist being held captive on a remote island. In between was the unmemorable Disney comedy Monkeys, Go Home! (1967) with Mimieux as a French villager who helps American Dean Jones revitalize an inherited olive farm along with the help of four chimps and the hit exploitation film Three in the Attic (1968) where she played a vengeful coed, who along with two other college girls, ties up lothario Christopher Jones in their dormitory’s attic to drain him of his sexual potency.

A_YMThe Picasso Summer (1969) was an ambitious failure combining animation and a docu-drama feel to it as Mimieux and Albert Finney play a married couple on a quest to meet the famed artist. Never released theatrically in the U.S., the movie though beautifully photographed with an acclaimed musical score by Michel Legrand was deemed too off-beat for American audiences. With her once promising movie career floundering and the roles being offered containing nude scenes in which she refused to do, Mimiuex turned to television when she was asked to replace Inger Stevens who committed suicide as a sophisticated criminologist in the TV show The Most Deadly Game in 1970. This Aaron Spelling-produced murder mystery series co-starring Ralph Bellamy and George Maharis never caught on with the viewing audience and was cancelled after only twelve episodes. Despite the short run, Mimieux played her part well and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Drama Series.

A_YM2Back on the big screen, Mimieux played a heroic stewardess and girlfriend of pilot Charlton Heston in the popular Airport rip-off Skyjacked (1972) and then sank to the bottom of the ocean with the rest of the cast in The Neptune Factor (1973). Fed up with the roles that were being offered to her, Mimieux authored the teleplay and played the title role in the TV-movie Hit Lady (1974). She then starred in her most infamous film Jackson County Jail (1976), a huge hit with the drive-in crowd, as a rape victim who turns the tables on her assailants. Who knew this delicate flower could act so tough on the big screen? Her newfound notoriety and good reviews were helpful in her snaring the female lead in the big-budgeted Walt Disney science-fiction film The Black Hole (1979). Though the movie featured Oscar nominated special effects it was not well received by either critics or fans. The film’s spaceship was not the only thing that disappeared into the black hole, Mimieux’s big screen movie career unjustly went with it (though thankfully so did her unflattering curly hairdo that she sported) as the eighties found her relegated to television before she called it quits.

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Following her success in Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), Carol Lynley eventually settled into the damsel in distress roles. She at first abandoned Hollywood for London remaining there for two years at an important time in her career when she should have been capitalizing on her successful transition to more mature parts. She made more news for her on-and-off love affair with David Frost (that lasted eighteen years) than for any notable work. All she had to show for her time in Britain was the thriller The Shuttered Room (1967) based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft where she looked stunningly gorgeous and was convincingly scared throughout as a newlywed who inherits an old mill complete with a hideous thing in the attic and a lecherous cousin (Oliver Reed), and the spy adventure Danger Route (1968) as the double-crossing girlfriend of agent Richard Johnson.

A_CLReturning to Hollywood, Lynley worked in film and television with an equal amount of felicity. She made numerous TV guest appearances more so than any of the other actresses and she was the first to begin starring in made-for-TV films beginning with 1968’s The Smugglers as tourist Shirley Booth’s beautiful stepdaughter who become dupes of an international smuggling ring. Soon after she cut her hair ala Mia Farrow and was now sporting a very short attractive ‘do. After rolling her eyes as a psychopathic heiress in Once You Kiss a Stranger (1969), a camp remake of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a  Train with a sport/sex switch; Lynley became part of ensemble films such as the Dan Rowan and Dick Martin haunted house spoof The Maltese Bippy (1969) as a college coed who carries a human skull around with her and the road comedy Norwood (1970) giving a standout performance as a foul-mouthed hooker driving cross country with naïve Vietnam vet Glen Campbell. Unfortunately, goody-two-shoes Glen Campbell felt his fans wouldn’t cotton to him making love to a prostitute and convinced the producers to excise those scenes leaving Carol only ten minutes of screen time. Even so she still steals the movie.

1972 however was a banner year for Carol Lynley (now with a hippie look of long hair and minimal makeup) who began it as reporter Darren McGavin’s woeful girlfriend who is the first to suspect a vampire is terrorizing Las Vegas in The Night Stalker the highest rated TV-movie up to that point and ended it as part of an all-star cast in the box office smash The Poseidon Adventure (1972), the granddaddy of disaster movies, giving an effective performance as the terrified hot pants wearing pop singer Nonnie who goes into a state of shock when the ocean liner capsizes.

A_CL2Despite her success, the remainder of the decade found Lynley unjustly mired in low-budget exploitation films and TV-movies. Though she played some varied roles—gangster Jack Palance’s gun moll in The Four Deuces (1975): a NYC socialite who inherits a rundown Southern mansion complete with moonshine operation run by country hothead Gary Lockwood in Bad Georgia Road (1977); and the governor of the moon in the Star Wars rip-off, The Shape of Things to Come (1979), they were DOA at the box office. The entertaining remake of The Cat and the Canary (1978) should have garnered Lynley kudos for her charming performance as Annabelle West who must survive the gloomy night in a creepy mansion with jealous relatives and a mad man on the loose to collect her inheritance but a legal dispute between the producer and the American distributor kept the movie from being released theatrically in the States until it crept into a handful of theaters in 1982.

Carol, still in the game, was the first choice to play the guest role of Valene on Dallas but had to turn it down due to a prior commitment. As a consolation of sorts, in 1982 she starred opposite Tony Curtis in the cable prime time soap pilot Balboa but it was not picked up as a series. The rest of her career consisted of continuing guest starring on Fantasy Island (she holds the record for most appearances) and low budget direct-to-video movies though William Lustig’s violent Vigilante (1983) where she played an ineffectual DA prosecuting a gang member who killed Robert Forster’s son broke through and was a box office hit. Carol made the occasional low-budget movie and proved she could be a good actress if given decent material. Catch her as Gail O’Grady’s shotgun-wielding mother-from-hell in Blackout (1988) penned by Joseph Stefano who wrote Psycho and as an armed robber paired with Barbara McNair ala Thelma and Louise in the desert road movie Neon Signs (1996) starring William Smith.

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Trying to shake her Lolita persona, Sue Lyon traded in her bathing suits for a much more conservative wardrobe as a novice missionary in China held captive by a Mongolian war lord in Seven Women (1966), director John Ford’s last movie, and as a lovely small town gal who charms AWOL soldier boy Michael Sarrazin to give up his con man ways in the comedy The Flim-Flam Man (1967). She next played a drunken heiress in the detective yarn, Tony Rome (1967) starring Frank Sinatra as the gumshoe hired to find out who stole careless Lyon’s diamond pin. Even waking up in a seedy motel from a stupor, Lyon looked gorgeous. It was her last major studio production (talks of her co-starring in then controversial Lesbian drama The Killing of Sister George never came to be and Susannah York got the part) as her career crashed and burned due to her tumultuous personal life.

A_SLLyon relocated to Spain after marrying African American football player and photographer Roland Harrison where they conceived a daughter. While in Europe, Lyon surprisingly turned up in a low-budget spaghetti western entitled Four Rode Out (1971) playing a desperate woman who is willing to have sex with lawman Pernell Roberts of Bonanza fame in exchange for sparing the life of her Mexican lover framed for the murder of her father. Along with Leslie Nielsen as a duplicitous Pinkerton agent, they trek through the barren desert searching for the fugitive. With her marriage to Harrison over by 1971, Lyon returned to Hollywood and gave a sympathetic performance as the supportive wife of George Hamilton’s daredevil motorcycle rider in Evel Knievel (1971) before becoming a pariah to the studios because of the notoriety she received when she married then divorced convicted murderer Cotton Adamson.

A_SL2Returning to Europe, she starred in the Italian giallo Tarot (1973) as an adulterous gold digger who marries rich blind man Fernando Rey for his big bucks and gets drawn into a plot hatched by his servants to murder him and Spain’s Clockwork Terror a.k.a. Murder in a Blue World (1973) where she has one of her most outrageous roles as a caring nurse working at a hospital who at night seduces lonely men and kills them after having sex. She eventually gets involved with Chris Mitchum as the leader of a gang of red helmet wearing biker thugs.

Back in Hollywood, Lyon still looking fantastic and far more youthful than her thirty years was part of the “all-star” cast playing motorists involved in the Smash-Up on Interstate Five (TV-1976) and could be seen on the big screen in such stinkers as Crash! (1977) as the much younger wife of wheelchair bound Jose Ferrer (crippled in a car accident he holds Lyon responsible for) who with the help of a magical idol try to off one another; End of the World (1977) as the wife of scientist Kirk Scott who uncovers the plot of alien leader Christopher Lee masquerading as a priest to destroy the Earth; and Towing (1978) as a bar maid who tries to break up an illegal towing company’s stolen car operation. Lyon hit rock bottom with The Astral Factor, which was deemed so bad it sat on the shelf until 1984 and was released as Invisible Strangler. Playing a fashion model, Sue meets her end in a bubble bath strangled by the rapist she testified against in court. Watching Lyon thrashing about the tub pretending to be strangled by an invisible man is painful especially knowing a decade before she was working with such giants of cinema as Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, and John Ford. Sue Lyon finally threw in the towel after playing a small part of a news reporter in the tongue-in-cheek horror movie Alligator (1980) from a script by John Sayles. It was her last acting job. Just before Lyon stopped giving interviews and faded away, she made sure everyone knew how show business destroyed her life.

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Though she had the pick of more mature roles, Tuesday Weld continued choosing to portray teenagers despite the fact that she was in her mid-twenties. Both director George Axelrod’s comedy Lord Love a Duck (1966) and the thriller Pretty Poison (19968) were box office disappointments but Weld’s acclaimed performances solidified them as cult classics to this day. In Lord Love a Duck, a biting satire on teenage pop culture, Weld was terrific as self-absorbed high school senior Barbara Ann Greene adored by obsessed classmate Roddy McDowall, who tries to make her every whim come true. He gets her into an exclusive sorority where she needs to own a dozen cashmere sweaters by suggesting she take her lascivious father shopping with her; introduces her to a producer who casts her in his newest beach party movie; and when she falls for pretty rich boy Martin West, McDowall insinuates himself with his disapproving mother Ruth Gordon to make her change her mind about the grasping Barbara Ann. A favorite among Weld enthusiasts, the sweater orgy segment and the scene where she fondles her breasts trying to entice Principal Harvey Korman to hire her as his assistant are classic.

In Pretty Poison, Weld’s wholesome teenage Sue Ann Stepanek was much more a menace to society than selfish Barbara Ann. Weld’s cheerleader meets at a local diner just released arsonist Tony Perkins who beguiles her with his fantasies about being a CIA agent. She plays along since she is more disturbed than he is. When he is fired from his Chemical plant job, she joins him in an elaborate plot to sabotage it by releasing pollutants into the nearby river. When caught by the night watchman, Weld not only clubs him on the back of the neck with a wrench but writhes in pleasure as she drowns him. Later when her disapproving mother whom she hates tries to stop the duo from eloping, Weld grabs the gun from Perkins when he refuses to shoot her and does the dirty deed herself. Guilt ridden, Perkins decides to turn himself into the police only to find a sobbing Weld already there accusing him of the murder. Tuesday gave such a chilling performance as the All-American girl turned psycho that she came close to nabbing the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actress placing behind winner Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel but ahead of eventual Academy Award winners Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter and Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.

A_TWAs she stated emphatically, Weld didn’t want to appear in successful movies at the box office and held true to her word as the public yawned and passed her movies by. 1970 saw Tuesday once again playing the underage nymphet this time a moon shiner’s daughter who seduces married Sheriff Gregory Peck into an elicit affair in I Walk the Line. Next came the experimental drama A Safe Place (1971), directed by Henry Jaglom, where she played a starry-eyed flower child who retreats into childhood fantasies where magician Orson Welles would entertain her in Central Park to escape reality where she is being pursued by two men one being Jack Nicholson. Better received but still a box office dud was Play It As It Lays (1972) from director Frank Perry. Weld received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Drama for her mesmerizing performance as a former model and B-movie actress (shades of herself?) who has a nervous breakdown. Flashbacks reveal a combative marriage to controlling director Adam Roarke and her friendship with a motley crew of self-absorbed Hollywood-types. Her only true friend is unhappy homosexual movie producer Tony Perkins who tries to entice her to commit suicide with him.

The remainder of the decade found Weld turning to made-for television movies and ensemble movies including Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) where as teacher Diane Keaton’s unhappily married sister she garnered what none of her former Baby Doll counterparts ever could—an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. This boosted her career, In the eighties Weld copped leads opposite major stars in big movies—Thief (1981) with James Caan; Author! Author! (1982) with Al Pacino; and Once Upon a Time in America (1984) with Robert De Niro but keeping with the Tuesday Weld tradition none of them were box office hits.

A_TW2By the end of the decade into the nineties, Weld made sporadic movie appearances (Heartbreak Hotel, 1988; Falling Down, 1993, Feeling Minnesota, 1996) keeping her die-hard fans wanting more.

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Despite never reaching super stardom that Hollywood insiders predicted for them early in their careers, the Baby Doll blondes had a long run. They all worked past the age of thirty, the death knell for most sixties starlets, and even into their forties and fifties. What is surprising is none of them were able to progress (or wanted to ) into the grandmother-type roles they should be playing now. Probably fed up with Hollywood and having to audition for roles with twenty-something casting directors who never heard of them, all have retired from acting (though Connie Stevens pops up here and there) and hopefully are enjoying their golden years.

To read more about some of these Baby Doll blondes see links to below books and link to my upcoming tribute book to gorgeous sixties cult icon Pamela Tiffin.

 

 

If It’s Not Tuesday…It Must Be Sandra, Connie, Diane, Carol, Sue, or Yvette Part I.

In the late fifties and early sixties petite pretty baby doll blondes were all the rage with young movie fans. In their teens with shapely figures and All-American wholesomeness, these nymphets were so interchangeable that sometimes even their own families couldn’t tell them apart in photos. Sandra Dee and Connie Stevens, always playing the good or mixed up adolescent with big romantic problems, led the pack of nymphets early in the decade in terms of popularity. Critics, however, favored the most talented Tuesday Weld whose wild teens on screen aped her personal life. Her stature only grew as the decade progressed. Carol Lynley, Yvette Mimieux, and Sue Lyon fell somewhere in between them whereas Diane McBain was always typed as the bitch.

During the mid to late fifties buxom platinum blonde beauties led by Marilyn Monroe and her counterparts Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Barbara Nichols, Sheree North, Joi Lansing, and others were the flavor of the moment as they oozed sex on the screen. But that was soon to change though Marilyn would remain at the top until her death in 1962. The shift in popularity between these two distinct types of actresses began with Carroll Baker. In 1956 the sex-filled Baby Doll (1956) made the blonde actress a star. Based on an original screenplay by Tennessee Williams, Baker was simply scintillating as Baby Doll Meighan, the childish nineteen-year-old bride of much older Karl Malden, a cotton gin owner. Baby Doll sleeps scantily-clad in a crib-like bed and sucks her thumb driving her lecherous husband into a sexual frenzy. Though married, he can’t lay a hand on her until she is “marriage ready” as he vowed to her father. A newly arrived competitor, Eli Wallach forces Malden out of business and in a fit of desperation he burns down his rival’s cotton gin. Vowing revenge, the tempestuous Sicilian focuses his charms on Baby Doll hoping to seduce the nubile girl and get her to confess her husband’s crime.

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An overnight sensation due to Baby Doll, Carroll Baker won raves from the critics with her natural ease in the part culminating with a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Female and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. And she was greeted as a newfound sex symbol. In the days of the busty platinum blonde sexpots, Baker represented a new more attainable male fantasy come to life. But the role had its downside typecasting Baker who bemoaned, “That part caused so much hoopla that I couldn’t walk around without people treating me as if I were Baby Doll. I wanted to be thought of as an actress who created the part, not as a weird character who portrayed herself on the screen.”

With Baker holding steadfast to her convictions and abandoning her sex kittenish persona, she gave “cinematic birth to a litter” of Baby Dolls who all resembled her—Sandra Dee, Tuesday Weld, Yvette Mimieux, Carol Lynley, Connie Stevens, Diane McBain, and Sue Lyon. From 1959 to 1965 they were the “It” girls of the time, especially with younger audiences as they essayed the virginal teenager, the knocked up good girl, or the innocent looking nymphet who could be naughty or nice in such glossy overwrought melodramatic motion pictures such as Imitation of Life, Because They’re Young, A Summer Place, Where the Boys Are, Parrish, Claudelle Inglish, Return to Peyton Place, Susan Slade, Palm Springs Weekend, Diamond Head, The Pleasure Seekers, That Funny Feeling that have pop cinema appeal today. However, these teenage blondes eventually had to grow up and when they did surprisingly none of them became super stars as poor choices, typecasting, and just sheer bad luck hampered their careers. For most of them there was a sharp dichotomy between their careers in the first half of the sixties still riding the coat tails of the fifties’ Eisenhower years to the second half of the decade as the Age of Aquarius was dawning.



B_Sandra DeeArguably, the most popular actress from this group was Sandra Dee, a petite blonde with penetrating brown eyes. But it was this immense fame that hurt her most when she tried to branch out into more mature movie roles in the mid-sixties. A former pre-teen Canover Model, she was discovered by producer Ross Hunter and signed to a contract with Universal Pictures. Her film debut was in Until They Sail (1957) playing the wisecracking youngest of four New Zealand sisters who have romantic entanglements with American and local soldiers on the way to fight the Japanese in Southeast Asia during WWII. For her perky performance she shared the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer- Female with Carolyn Jones and Diane Varsi. Next came The Reluctant Debutante (1958) whose title sums up her role and The Restless Years (1958) as a small town high school girl with a horrible secret (egad, she’s illegitimate!).

Sandra Dee had a banner 1959 culminating with the Photoplay Gold Medal Award for Favorite Actress. After playing Broadway star Lana Turner’s neglected daughter who bonds with African-American housekeeper Juanita Moore whose own daughter Susan Kohner passes for white in the weepie Imitation of Life, she portrayed a good girl (with an icy, over-protective mother) drawn to the strikingly handsome Troy Donahue as they observe their parents’ marriages disintegrate due to infidelity (Dee’s daddy still craves his former love, Donahue’s mother) on an island off the Maine coast in A Summer Place featuring Max Steiner’s lush score. Her question to Donahue once they returned to the mainland (“Johnny, have you’ve been bad with girls?”) sums up her character’s utter naiveté so it is no surprise when this nitwit gets pregnant. Dee then rode the crest of the wave into Hollywood movie history as the precocious Gidget in the film that started the surfing craze on celluloid, Gidget (1959). Just wonderful in the role of the misfit who tries to fit in with the surfing crowd, she should have continued playing the role in the follow-ups, but Universal chose her to replace Debbie Reynolds as that li’l ole hayseed Tammy who only wants to bring good into people’s disparate lives in a pair of sappy sequels to the original, Tammy Tell Me True (1961) and Tammy and the Doctor (1963).

Branded a sort of junior Doris Day complete with virginity intact, Sandra Dee continued twinkling on the silver screen in a series of forgettable but profitable comedies. In the entertaining Come September (1961) she plays a coed trying to resist the charms of college boy Bobby Darin while vacationing at Rock Hudson’s Italian villa turned hotel by his major domo. Shortly after, Dee and Darin wed keeping her name in the movie rags for years due to their up and down relationship. Romanoff and Juliet (1961) directed and written by Peter Ustinov, who also starred as the president of a fictional European country pitting the U.S. against the Soviet Union, featured Dee as an American ambassador’s daughter who falls for John Gavin as the son of a Russian diplomat. In If a Man Answers (1962) Dee tries to act the sophisticated grownup as a socialite who marries and tries to change randy photographer Bobby Darin into the perfect husband following her Parisian mother’s advice.

Sandra Dee’s next movie role sent her back to campus as harried father James Stewart’s precocious daughter who gets into all kind of scrapes in Take Her, She’s Mine (1963). A teenage “dish,” she goes from boy-crazy teenybopper to college art student to a beatnik arrested during a sit-in protesting book banning to dropout just within the first half hour with dear old dad coming to her rescue. The film’s unintentional funniest moment has WASPy Dee croaking out the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” while strumming a guitar no less in an effort to make her white bread character cool before sending her off to gay Paree to study art. Despite such head scratching scenes, this generation gap comedy was a huge box office hit.

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Much less successful were I’d Rather Be Rich (1964) with Dee as an heiress torn between her fiancé Andy Williams and charming neighbor Robert Goulet who her dying grandfather prefers for her husband, and That Funny Feeling (1965) with Dee as a housekeeper who inadvertently falls for playboy photographer Bobby Darin (in a role intended for Warren Beatty but Dee’s ego would not give up top billing to him) unaware that she works for him. Despite the mediocrity of her movies, Dee was perkily charming in them all and loved by millions however none of these performances proved that she had the versatility to progress to more mature roles.

Connie SteB_CSvens also suffered from typecasting and never really impressed the critics with her performances. However, teenage audiences were not too demanding and her popularity with them rivaled that of Sandra Dee’s. After moving with her musician father from New York to Los Angeles, a sixteen year old Stevens, who was also a pleasant singer albeit with a limited range, began obtaining movie extra work, which led to minor roles in low-budget teenage exploitation movies beginning with Young and Dangerous (1957) and Eighteen and Anxious (1957). In Dragstrip Riot (1958) she had the second female lead as the girlfriend of a hot rodder whose pals tangle with a motorcycle gang leading to tragedy and then the female lead in The Party Crashers (1958) playing a spoiled bored rich girl, with a square boyfriend, attracted to rebellious gang leader Mark Damon who likes to crash parties, hence the title. Unlike other exploitation actresses such as Yvonne Lime and Jana Lund, Stevens got lucky and was able to graduate to major studio productions thanks to Jerry Lewis who cast her as movie siren Marilyn Maxwell’s younger sister who loves Lewis’ small town mailman though he is pretending to be the father of former sweetheart Maxwell’s triplets in Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958). Warner Bros. took notice of the cherubic blonde and needing their own young actress to counter Sandra Dee, signed her to a long term contract.

Stevens’s movie career though was sidelined when she was cast as ditzy Cricket Blake a photographer and vocalist at the Hawaiian Village Hotel who sometimes aides detectives Anthony Eisley and Robert Conrad with their cases in the popular, though studio-bound, TV series Hawaiian Eye from 1959 to 1962. She recorded for the Warner Bros.’ record label and had two Top Ten hits, “Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb” a duet with equally popular teen idol Edd “Kookie” Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip in 1958 and “Sixteen Reasons” in 1961. Also that year Stevens finally returned to the big screen in two romance movies that have become camp classics. In Parrish, she beat out Tuesday Weld to play a slutty farm girl who wears false eyelashes and makeup while toiling in the steaming tobacco fields of Connecticut in the dog days of August. While new boy in town Troy Donahue is attracted to her, she spends her nights with rich married Hampton Fancher. After she gets knocked up, her popularity plummets as Fancher deserts her and Troy only wants to be friends leaving poor Connie to raise her baby alone.

Even more over the top was Susan Slade with Stevens as the sheltered over-wrought titled heroine who gets seduced by wealthy mountain climber Grant Williams to the strains of the Theme from a Summer Place no less in his cabin during a ocean voyage from Chile to San Francisco. She worries “We’ve been sinful” but he promises to marry her after his next big climb in Alaska but perishes in an avalanche leaving the knocked up Susan without a husband-to-be. Horrified of the scandal of carrying an illegitimate child (every sixties parent’s worst nightmare if you believe Hollywood), poppa Lloyd Nolan moves the family to Guatemala with the idea of momma Dorothy McGuire passing the little bastard off as her own. Susan returns to the states after her father dies but is guilt-ridden denying her son while trying to decide between poor aspiring-writer Troy Donahue who lives in a stable and rich snooty family friend Bert Convy who could give her a life of luxury. Just when she chooses money over love, her kid goes up in flames while in his pajamas playing with a lighter but is rescued by Troy. This is the catalyst for Stevens to admit that she is his mother and not sister. Convy is disgusted, but Donahue stands by her side. Controversial back then, now Susan Slade is much ado about nothing.

Though she won the Photoplay Gold Medal Award for Favorite Actress of 1961 and 1963, Stevens was unhappy with the scripts offered to her and constantly fought with the studio. She was suspended for a time in 1962, and then came back to play a teenage gold digger on spring break in Palm Springs out to snag herself a rich husband in Palm Springs Weekend (1963), a sort of land locked Where the Boys Are. Though she pretends to come from a wealthy family (money attracts money), she cannot afford her hotel room so she agrees to baby sit the hotel owner’s bratty son but keeps pawning the kid off on her homely roommate so she can rendezvous with playboy Robert Conrad. They keep getting into scrapes with the law and it is laconic cowpoke Ty Hardin who keeps coming to her rescue. But since he is only a movie stuntman she keeps brushing him aside for the rich boy.

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Stevens was purportedly chagrined when she failed to be cast as the female lead role in My Fair Lady and Of Human Bondage as if she really had a chance. By 1965 her teenage fan base who grew up with her stayed fiercely loyal through her tabloid-style romantic complications but she seems to not have attracted new mature fans as her new sitcom Wendy and Me costarring George Burns was cancelled after only one season and her two movies were box office duds. In the comedy Never Too Late she’s the frustrated daughter who cannot get pregnant yet her menopausal mother does and in Two on a Guillotine she surprisingly is better than expected playing the damsel in distress as the long-lost daughter of a recently deceased (or is he?) mad magician who must spend a week in his creepy mansion in order to claim her inheritance.

B_CLWith the brightest of blue eyes and long blonde hair, Carol Lynley was once described as having “beauty that is awe inspiring.” She began playing the good girl in the late fifties before going the sex kitten route a few years later. Ballet training at an early age led to a modeling career when Lynley turned the ripe old age of ten. Using the name Carolyn Lee, she quickly became one of the highest paid pre-teen fashion models in New York. At age twelve she began acting on stage and on live TV. Her successful Broadway bow in Graham Greene’s The Potting Shed in 1957 in which she won a Theatre World Award led to a Golden Globe nominated film debut in Walt Disney’s The Light in the Forest (1958) playing an indentured servant girl who falls in love with James MacArthur who was raised by Indians. Though signed to a contract, Disney released her so she could return to Broadway to play an unwed teenager who gets pregnant and has an abortion in the controversial drama Blue Denim. Lynley received kudos for her sincere performance and become much sought after by all the major movie studios. She chose to sign a seven-picture non-exclusive deal with 20th Century-Fox.

Grooming her to be another Sandra Dee (her friendly rival back in her modeling days), Lynley’s early films were aimed squarely at the teenage market. In 1959, she played Clifton Webb’s hip-talking daughter (“What’s rocking? Roll?”) in Holiday for Lovers; reprised her role as the high school girl who goes all the way with Brandon DeWilde in his parents’ basement in a water-downed Blue Denim (due to censorship abortion was out so her mortified father buys the naughty Carol a one way ticket out of town to have the baby); and then was a small town girl who favors the charms of scalawag Stuart Whitman to that of popular teen idol Fabian (causing her adolescent fans to scratch their heads in bewilderment no doubt) in Hound-Dog Man.

Shortly after, Lynley shred her long locks and with her new short do became a dead ringer for Sandra Dee when, after being harangued for months by Fox, she begrudgingly took over for actress Diane Varsi (from the original Peyton Place) as young author Allison MacKenzie who writes a scandalous book about her hypocritical small town in Return to Peyton Place (1961). The residents’ reactions is outrage as her own mother Eleanor Parker finds it “cheap and dirty and vulgar” while disgusted matron Mary Astor calls it a “lurid piece of trash” and tries to ban it from the high school library. Discovering that her daughter is in love with her married editor Jeff Chandler to boot, Parker berates her and Lynley woodenly retorts, “what you’re afraid is like mother like daughter.” Infuriated, Parker slaps her and Lynley hisses, “I hate you for that” in one of the film’s many over-the-top moments that propelled it to become Fox’s highest grossing movie of the year. In the soapy western The Last Sunset (1961) directed by Robert Aldrich and written by Dalton Trumbo no less, she played Dorothy Malone’s daughter who falls for black-clad outlaw Kirk Douglas while on a cattle drive from Mexico to Texas unaware that he is her biological father! Rock Hudson is also along for the trek.

After taking a break from Hollywood to get married and have a daughter, Lynley returned and was forced by Fox to play a high school student in The Stripper (1963). Vowing no more teenager roles, she was able to graduate to the “sex kitten” beginning with the hit comedy Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963) as an enterprising college coed living platonically with her boyfriend Dean Jones to see if they are marriage compatible while staving off the lecherous advances of her playboy landlord Jack Lemmon. Even more high profile was the epic production The Cardinal (1963) from producer/director Otto Preminger with Lynley as priest Tom Tryon’s sister Mona who after her family rejects her Jewish fiancé John Saxon (her bigoted sister calls him “a schimey rag picker”) runs off to become a tango-dancing prostitute. She ultimately dies in childbirth when her priest brother makes the choice to save the baby and not the mother. Preminger was so impressed with Lynley’s acting that he also offered her the role of Mona’s daughter, Regina causing Lynley to joke years later, “I’m probably the only actress on film who has ever given birth to herself!”

The more mature Carol Lynley continued to distance herself from the Sandra Dee comparison. In Shock Treatment (1964) she was a manic depressive who falls for struggling actor Stuart Whitman hired to feign insanity to catch a thief in a nuthouse run by Dr. Lauren Bacall and in The Pleasure Seekers (1964), a remake of Three Coins in the Fountain by the same director Jean Negulesco, she along with Ann-Margret and Pamela Tiffin are single gals looking for romance while living in Madrid. Lynley’s character falls for her married boss Brain Keith (his wife catching them together at a private soiree slaps her in the ladies room calling her “a little tramp”) while ignoring protective playboy reporter Gardner McKay.

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Shaking her ingénue image once and for all, Lynley posed semi-nude in the pages of Playboy in a pictorial entitled, “Carol Lynley Grows Up” in March 1965. Though taken to task by powerful mavens Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, Lynley defended her decision and quipped, “It is only skin.” On the big screen, she solidified her assent to adult roles. After receiving critical barbs playing glamorous sex goddess Jean Harlow in the Electronovision production Harlow (1965), she received some of her best reviews as the harried unwed mother newly arrived in London searching for her misplaced daughter who may or may not exist in Otto Preminger’s cult mystery thriller Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965).

B_YMOnce described as “a cross between a little princess and Brigitte Bardot,” wispy blonde Yvette Mimieux, of Mexican and French dissent, excelled playing the blank-faced waif or the fragile beauty who seemed to be always on the verge of a breakdown. Along with Sandra Dee, Connie Stevens and Carol Lynley, Mimieux was a favorite of adolescent girls. However, unlike her counterparts, Mimiuex was equally popular amongst teenage boys due to the sexiness she brought to her ingénue roles.

Yvette Mimieux was signed to a picture deal with MGM after she was discovered working as a model and a contestant in local Los Angeles beauty pageants. Her film debut was in B-movie producer Albert Zugsmith’s exploitation film Platinum High School (1959) playing a sexy tease who is the only girl on campus at an all-boys military school for delinquents. Though she received a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer – Female, she was much better suited to play the beautiful Weena one of the gentle Eloi Rod Taylor’s time traveler encounters in the year 802,701 in George Pal’s classic sci-fi tale The Time Machine (1960). Mimieux then joined Dolores Hart, Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis on a trek to Fort Lauderdale during spring break in the hit comedy, Where the Boys Are (1960). While Hart’s character talked and talked about having sex before marriage, Mimieux’s Melanie was the one to act on it to land an Ivy Leaguer. This being the prudish early sixties of course her character had to pay for her sins. The wanton young woman gets gang raped at the end and almost mowed down by a speeding car as she aimlessly wanders the street in shock to send a message to the teenage girls in the audience on the dangers of premarital sex. Mimieux received fair notices for her dramatics and raves for her ethereal beauty.

MGM then rushed Mimieux into the role of a storybook princess in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) directed by George Pal and then she was a part of the all-star cast in the big budget flop The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962). Mimieux next stepped in for a pregnant Carol Lynley who had to pass on The Light in the Piazza (1962), according to Lynley’s then husband Michael Selsman writing in his autobiography. Yvette is simply enchanting as rich matron Olivia De Havilland’s mentally-challenged daughter who while an extended tour of Italy falls for likable Italian boy George Hamilton complete with heavy accent. Unaware of her mental state due to a fall from a horse when she was a child, Hamilton pursues the beautiful girl causing a conflicted de Havilland to decide if she should tell him or not. Though his family is welcoming of the girl, her father wants to institutionalize her when she returns. In a change of pace role, Mimieux was the spoiled rich girl who flaunts her Hawaiian boyfriend James Darren in the face of bigoted big brother Charlton Heston with tragic results in the lush soaper Diamond Head (1963). It was then back to another child-like role for Mimieux but this time she received critical pans as the young insecure bride of ne’er do well Dean Martin who now suddenly rich returns home raising the suspicions of his two older spinster sisters in the film version of Lillian Hellman’s well-received play, Toys in the Attic (1963).

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The critics again weren’t kind to Yvette Mimiuex concerning her performance as the young wife of law student Richard Chamberlain in the lifeless twenties-set love story Joy in the Morning (1965). The reviewer in the New Yorker insultingly described her as “the poor man’s Carol Lynley.” Trying to shake off her earlier ingénue roles, which she described as “frightened fawns,” Mimiuex co-starred in The Reward (1965) as the companion of fugitive Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. who is pursued across the Mexican desert by two men who want to collect the bounty on his head.  Unfortunately for Mimieux, her role was nothing more than window dressing and the film bombed at the box office.

B_TWTuesday Weld had more of an edge to her than Sandra Dee and the other Baby Doll blondes, and in keeping with her real life wild child persona see-sawed back and forth between the mischievous hormonal teenager, the tramp, and the self-absorbed sex kitten. Suffice it to say these roles made her a favorite of teenage boys. As a child, Weld competed with Dee and Lynley for modeling jobs in New York City. She made her film debut at the age of thirteen in the low-budget New York-lensed exploitation movie, Rock, Rock, Rock (1956) as a teenager who schemes to purchase a prom dress she cannot afford. Weld went unnoticed as the rock ‘n’ rollers including Chuck Berry, LaVerne Baker, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, The Moonglows, etc. were the reasons the fans paid to see this.

After understudying on Broadway in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Tuesday Weld went to Hollywood and snagged a contract with 20th Century-Fox. She received a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Female for her secondary role as Comfort Goodpasture a kooky teenage girl who realizes that she likes boys, just not current steady Dwayne Hickman, in Rally’Round the Flag, Boys! (1959) stealing the movie from leads Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. After playing the polio-stricken daughter of Danny Kaye as bandleader ‘Red’ Nichols in the biographical The Five Pennies (1959), Weld was a regular for one season (1959-60) on the hit TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Reunited with Dwayne Hickman who starred as the likable small town teen, Weld was in fine form as Dobie’s unattainable dream girl, vapid materialistic Thalia Menninger, who was only interested in acquiring “oodles and oodles” of money. Though only on the series for one year, it catapulted Weld into stardom of the teenage idol kind. She was every adolescent boy’s fantasy come to life. Not so their parent’s, as her bohemian lifestyle, outlandish statements to the press, and wild antics in Hollywood made her a tabloid reporter’s dream. She was dubbed “Tuesday Wild,” “archetypal nymphet,” and “Shirley Temple with a leer,” amongst others. Needless to say, Tuesday Weld was no virtuous Sandra Dee and was not considered to be a very good role model for the impressionable young.

Despite Weld’s popularity and notoriety, 20th Century-Fox didn’t know what to do with her and instead focused on making the more wholesome Carol Lynley and dark-haired Diane Baker stars. Weld then went freelance and snagged the role of a troubled cheerleader with a bad reputation, just one of a few students new high school teacher Dick Clark tries to help, in Because They’re Young (1960). After appearing in two exploitation films for producer Albert Zugsmith, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve and Sex Kittens Go to College both starring Mamie Van Doren, Weld was back at Fox in a role turned down by Carol Lynley playing a husband-chasing coed who ignores the advances of Fabian and pursues the much older millionaire Bing Crosby who has returned to college to finish his degree in the Blake Edwards comedy High Time (1960).

Critics finally took notice of Weld’s talent and versatility with her next two movies from 1961 though one of the roles she truly desired that of a scatterbrained Scarlett Hazeltine in the Billy Wilder comedy One, Two, Three went to Pamela Tiffin. In the Clifford Odets penned Wild in the Country, Weld does quite well as the unhappy, booze guzzling unwed mother who is a cousin of rebellious con Elvis Presley. He comes to live with his uncle and her as conditions of his parole. Desperate to break free from her stifling home life where she is forced to pretend that she has a husband overseas, Weld sets her sights on Presley to run away with her (“I want hours and hours of heaven that just slides right down to hell.”) even though he loves good though bland girl Millie Perkins) and has feelings for older psychologist Hope Lange who encourages his writing aspirations. An atypical Elvis movie with only four songs sung by the King and an ending where he doesn’t get any of the girls, reviewers were impressed but the fans stayed away. In Return to Peyton Place, Weld takes over from Hope Lange as rape victim Selena Cross who murdered her stepfather in self defense. She at first turned the role down because she did not want to play second fiddle to Carol Lynley but her mother convinced her that the role of Selena was the juicier part. It was. As the town pariah, she has to relive the “whole dirty story of Selena Cross” when best friend Allison MacKenzie recants it in her novel about hypocritical Peyton Place. With a new beau ski instructor Gunnar Hellstrom reading it aloud, Weld flips out when he starts to read the passage of her rape and thinking he is her stepfather clocks him with a fire poker before fleeing like a lunatic into the night. Somehow a stronger Selena emerges (perhaps the cold winter air knocked some sense into her) as she defiantly tells off Peyton Place’s residents and stands up for Allison’s book at a town meeting.

Despite her critical success in Return to Peyton Place, it was back to playing precocious teenagers for Weld but not Lolita, which she famously turned down by commenting, “I don’t have to play Lolita—I am Lolita!”  Instead she did the forgettable comedy Bachelor Flat (1962) directed by Frank Tashlin. As a coed who unexpectedly turns up at her family’s beach house only to find her mother’s new beau Prof. Terry-Thomas there alone for the week, the mischievous teen pretends to be a juvenile delinquent on the run needing a place to hideout. Another disappointment was the service comedy-drama Soldier in the Rain (1963), starring Steve McQueen as Eustis Clay a supply sergeant always scheming to make a buck. As the wonderfully named schoolgirl Bobby Jo Pepperdine, Eustis sets her up on a carnival date with his superior Jackie Gleason. Their mutual dislike for each other is the film’s high point in terms of laughs. She greets him with, “Hi fatty.” And he describes her as “an imbecile.”  However, after he gets into fisticuffs defending her honor (elated she coos, “You were like Randolph Scott in the movies—a fat Randolph Scott.”), the pair share a tender moment watching a fireworks display.

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In 1965, Weld essayed the role of poker player Steve McQueen’s neglected girlfriend in The Cincinnati Kid and then was once again playing a trouble-prone teenager ala Sandra Dee in Take Her, She’s Mine in the much less successful I’ll Take Sweden. High school senior Weld is forced to accompany her disapproving father Bob Hope to Stockholm to keep her away from her amorous boyfriend Frankie Avalon. However, she falls for the handsome free-loving Swede Jeremy Slate to her father’s chagrin. Weld would continue playing adolescent roles until the end of the decade though she had ample opportunity to branch out to more mature parts.

B_DMNever the innocent ingénue perhaps due to her looks punctuated by high cheek bones and porcelain skin, pretty Diane McBain seemed to be always cast as the spoiled rich girl or innocent looking bad girl who never got her man. After moving to Glendale, California when she was a child, the blonde beauty became a very successful teenage model. She was spotted by a Warner Bros. talent scout while appearing in her senior class play and signed to a contract in 1958. The teenager immediately began doing guest stints on their popular TV series before becoming a regular on the series Surfside Six in 1960 playing kooky socialite Daphne Dutton who owned the yacht docked next to the houseboat where private eyes Troy Donahue, Van Williams, and Lee Patterson lived and operated. Her film debut was the same year in a small role as Richard Burton’s granddaughter in the epic Ice Palace.

Bigger roles followed in 1961. In Parrish she was Dean Jagger’s spoiled, willful daughter newly returned home drawn to Troy Donahue’s Parrish amid the tobacco fields in Connecticut . The greedy girl dumps our teen dream when he refuses an offer to work for wealthy mean Karl Malden. McBain marries the rich man’s younger, weak-willed son and their dysfunctional, unhappy marriage causes her to drink and sleep around. Realizing money can buy lots of Jack Daniels but can’t buy you love; she makes a desperate pathetic attempt to reunite with Donahue who soundly rejects her  In Parrish blondes may have more fun and better acting roles, but a feisty brunette Sharon Hugueny wins Donahue at the fadeout. McBain faced a worse end in Claudelle Inglish, based on Erskine Caldwell’s novel. She beat out Shirley Knight for this role and excelled as a baby doll Southern tramp who uses and abuses men after losing her true love. The enticing vixen has men young and old drooling over her and even exchanges sexual favors for pretty dresses. She pays for her wicked ways with a stomach pumped full of buckshot by an irate father.

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McBain’s go as a nice nurse in love with psychiatrist Robert Stack in The Caretakers (1963) was a bust because most of her scenes were excised from the final print purportedly due to the insistence of jealous co-star and investor Joan Crawford. It was back to losers-at-love with the comedy Mary, Mary (1963) as an uptight society gal and health nut whose paramour Barry Nelson leaves her for his ex-wife, Debbie Reynolds after they meet to wrap up their tax problems and the western A Distant Trumpet (1964) as the snooty East Coast fiancée of cavalry officer Troy Donahue who has fallen in love with his commander’s wife Suzanne Pleshette in the Arizona Territory. Though McBain brought a vulnerability to these characters and made the audience empathize with them, they typed her almost forever as the bitch. Warner Bros. next wanted her to play a secretary in the Tony Curtis/Natalie Wood comedy Sex and the Single Girl (1964) but insulted to play such a minor role she asked and received release from her contract. She would be the first Baby Doll blonde to suffer the fate of going freelance in the later part of the sixties.

B_SLSexy Sue Lyon was the last of the baby doll blondes to burst on the scene. A lovely wholesome looking girl with a hint of a wild streak, she was an overnight sensation as the underage nymphet Lolita and should have become the sex kitten du jour but a tumultuous personal life hampered her career.

Following in the footsteps of Sandra Dee, Carol Lynley and Tuesday Weld, Sue Lyon too began her career as a child model. This led to some minor acting roles on such TV series as A Letter to Loretta and Dennis the Menace where she famously gave that little rascal his first kiss. In 1961, producer James H. Harris was having a hard time trying to cast the role of Lolita in the movie version of Vladimir Nabakov’s novel, Lolita (1962). Tuesday Weld, Hayley Mills, Jill Haworth, and Joey Heatherton all turned it down. He and director Stanley Kubrick thought fourteen year old Sue Lyon whom they spotted on TV had just the right quality to project Lolita’s immaturity and peculiar brashness. She met with them for an hour thinking she was interviewing for a TV show. Before screen testing, her protective mother sat her down to explain what the controversial movie was about though the teenager was familiar with the notorious novel by Nabokov. Lyon was the perfect choice to play Lolita as she had the sexy but innocent appearance to make audiences believe that staid James Mason as writer Humbert Humbert would go to such extreme lengths to be with the underage nymphet after first catching a glimpse of her sunning herself wearing a two-piece bathing suit, sunglasses, and picture hat. The scene of Lyon laying on her bed licking a lollipop, while taunting the frustrated Mason, is unforgettable as is when they are living together after the death of her mother Shelley Winters and he paints her toenails while interrogating the girl about her afternoon whereabouts. She sips her Coke nonchalantly feigning innocence about the boys she met at the malt shop. In an interview she did for the 1987 French TV Show Cinéma cinémas, Lyon claimed a lot of the scowls and funny faces she makes in the movie as well as her gum chewing were suggested by her to make the character more childish. For her expert performance Lyon shared the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Female with Patty Duke and Rita Tushingham.

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Her next movie was director John Huston’s The Night of the Iguana (1964) based on the play by Tennessee Williams where she was once again the scantily-clad nymphet. This time Lyon’s sexy teen tempts defrocked minister Richard Burton on a bus tour of Mexico to the consternation of her controlling sexually repressed chaperone Grayson Hall who unconsciously lusts after her as well. The beguiling bikini-clad blonde sets her sights on the troubled Burton driving him to drink by sneaking into his room at night and whispering about how the boys back home love her soft skin and asking him, “Have I grown up too early?” When he rejects her advances, she gets tipsy with two shirtless Mexican beach boys and turns her attentions to blonde bus driver James Ward who comes to her “rescue.” As with Tuesday Weld, Sue Lyon’s on screen antics coupled with her highly publicized off-screen love affairs and a quickie marriage to actor Hampton Fancher made her every parent’s nightmare and not a teen idol for their children to admire.

It has to be said that all these actresses were working in their teens when most of their peers where in school and doing kid things. Most became the bread winners for their families and were thrust into the limelight at relatively young ages so it is no surprise that some of them said outrageous things to the press over the years. Tuesday Weld was forever publicly blaming the poor choices she made in her personal life (and career) and her wild behavior on her mother who she was forever cutting out of her life. At one point she began telling reporters that the woman had passed away. She hadn’t. Years later, her mother in retribution wrote a Daughter Dearest type book titled If It’s Tuesday I Must Be Dead, which was released shortly after her actual death in 2002.

Yvette Mimieux in an interview with the Saturday Evening Post refused to talk about her male co-stars because she found most of them to be “egotistical, conceited and have no minds.” She then went on to add, “I like stories about me, just me.” Diane McBain stated in the Los Angeles Times, “I never saw an actor I’d marry…Who wants to share the Kleenex box and the mirror?” Carol Lynley once declared, “I like to pull out my check book and gaze how much money I have in it.” After her career faltered, Sue Lyon constantly blamed Hollywood for her troubled personal life and years later commented on screen in Cinéma cinémas that she was never cut out to be a movie star with all the promotional duties that come with it bemoaning, “I hate the spotlight. I hate people looking at me. I don’t like people—strangers—asking me questions. I like to be left alone really.” She eventually got her wish.

The times they were a changing; in 1966, Stay tuned for Part II to see what became of these Baby Doll blondes in the second half of the decade when young people began rebelling against everything, the studio system was collapsing, nudity on screen reared its head, and these baby doll blondes, no longer the “It” girls of Hollywood had to change with the times or they could kiss their big screen careers goodbye.

To read more about some of them see links to my below books and link to my upcoming tribute book to gorgeous sixties cult icon Pamela Tiffin.

 

60s Starlets in the News

Two hardworking actresses from the 60s are still going strong and both gave recent interviews. Francine York just appeared on TV’s The Mindy Project and talks about her career and her 3 appearances on the cult 70s TV series Jason of Star Command on The Unofficial Jason of Star Command Appreciation Page.

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Tina Louise has been surprisingly busy lately and will have 2 new movies in release. Below is a telephone interview where she discusses the horror film Late Phases where a retired vet moves to a retirement community and discovers the residents are dying from what seems to be dog bites and Tapestry where she plays the mother of Stephen Baldwin a man in personal turmoil.

Interviews with Francine York can be found in my books Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema and Film Fatales.

 

Kathy Kersh Has A Gemini Affair with Marta Kristen

Marta Kristen and Kathy Kersh were two pretty blonde sixties starlets who had a fair amount of success during the decade. Kristen was much more well-known due to her three year stint as space castaway Judy Robinson on the hit sci-fi TV series Lost in Space and for playing a mermaid in the classic Frankie and Annette beach party film Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Kersh was a former Miss Rheingold who racked up TV appearances on many popular shows such as My Favorite Martian; The Beverly Hillbillies; Ben Casey; The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Batman where she played the Joker’s moll Cornelia one of the series most memorable. She was a talented singer who cut a few singles and played Vegas, but she stayed in the public eye mostly due to her short highly publicized marriages to actors Vince Edwards and Burt Ward both culminating in divorce before the decade was over.

By 1973, both actresses’ careers had faulted as it did for many a sixties starlet facing down her thirtieth birthday. Fed up with auditioning and being typecast, Kersh had actually quit acting. Her last TV appearance was in a 1969 episode of Love, American Style with Van Johnson, Sue Ane Langdon, and Paul Lynde. She was enrolled in college to study business administration. Kristen was still in the game after some time off to have a baby though. She did a guest episode on Mannix; a one-line role in The Mephisto Waltz (1971); and co-starring roles in the cult exploitation action movie Terminal Island (1973) and the barely released Once (1974).

Then along comes director Matt Cimber. The former husband of the Jayne Mansfield, he directed her last movie Single Room Furnished (1967) before she perished in a car accident. He went on to direct pseudo-sex documentaries and exploitation movies during the Seventies including He & She; The Black Six: and The Candy Tangerine Man. Cimber offered Kersh a co-starring role opposite Kristen in the infamous Gemini Affair – A Diary (1975) a romantic tale with Lesbian overtones, whose tag line proclaimed, “A different kind of love story.” Though she didn’t think the screenplay was that good and there were nude scenes, Kersh decided to accept the part. She explained in a telephone interview with me, “Since I had been so typecast and was so frustrated that I could not get better roles—not that I am the best actress in the world—I decided it would be fun to get the chance to do some real acting. I thought I could finally show everybody what I was capable of. My character cries, gets drunk, and has a few other emotional displays that I wanted to see if I could even do. As for the nude scenes, I thought, ‘I’m a big girl—I could live through it.’”

Kathy Kersh was cast in the part of the desperate, overwrought, booze-swilling uninhibited Jessica who works as a high-class hooker while Marta Kristen played Julie, fresh-faced and naïve. After only finding rejection in big bad Hollywood they turn to each other for comfort, which leads to a very brief love affair. Jessica is the flashier of the roles with over-the-top dialog and really bad Seventies fashions from Orhbachs no less. No wonder Kersh could not say no to it. The other role of Julie is written like some naïve teenager just off the bus when the character is thirtyish. By this age, she should have had more experience with career let downs and therefore the character is a bit unrealistic.

GAKersh’s first challenge before she had to disrobe for the cameras was her crying scene. “I was not a crier, but Marta Kristen could turn it on and off like a faucet,” reveals Kersh. “Crying is very hard for me. When we did the scene, I pulled it out from within. I took enough acting classes to know what I had to do. It was difficult but I did it.” Seeing the scene, you would never imagine that the actress had such a hard time with it as it looks so natural.

As for filming her nude love scene with Kristen, Kathy recalls, “It was shot in the dark and was very shadowy. It wasn’t very graphic, but it was very tough for me to do it—even with only a skeleton crew present. Marta felt about the same way I did about doing it. They showed more of her than they did of me. I only saw a rough cut of Gemini Affair at that time and was surprised that the light during our love scene was always on Marta keeping me in the dark—what a crummy thing to do! I couldn’t believe it!” Perhaps it was because in prior scenes Kathy had already bared all?

In the movie, New York theater actress Julie (Marta Kristen) is newly arrived in Hollywood after a producer saw her play and flies her in for a screen test. Taking him up on his offer, she makes plans to stay with childhood friend Jessica (Kersh) who she thinks is a successful model especially when she arrives at her sumptuous house in Beverly Hills. Wearing a curly wig that makes her resemble Connie Stevens in the TV-movie The Sex Symbol, Kathy Kersh as Jessica comes running out of the front door to greet her friend who she hasn’t seen in eight years. Inviting her in, Julie is awed by her house complete with pool and view where you can see the ocean in the distance. While Julie takes in the beauty, Jessica pours herself a scotch. She then confesses that the house belongs to friend away in Europe and that there is no number one man in her life only “temporary men who take care of me.” After getting over the initial shock that her friend is a call girl, Julie breaks the tension and Jessica quickly departs to meet a businessman named Lester, one of her many paramours. There is a quick cut and the next scene is a stark naked Jessica (a surprisingly busty Kersh goes full frontal) going into bed, which she is sharing with Julie. Hard to believe with a house this size that there no other bedrooms?

GA2Turning out the lights, Jessica yells, “Oh, fuck!” She then explains to Julie that they have to get up early because the bitchy cleaning lady is coming and she “scares the hell out of me.” The next morning Julie meets scowl-faced Mrs. Wilson (Anne Seymour) and puts the old battleaxe in her place. When Jessica awakes close to noon and sees what her friend did for her, they embrace and she squeals, “Welcome to California!” The following day an insecure Julie wakes Jessica up before she leaves for her meeting with the producer. Seeing her friend needs some support, Jessica bounces out of bed completely naked once again and offers to drive her. Excited because her meeting went well, Julie cooks dinner, but Jessica departs when she forgot she had plans with a guy named Harold who likes her to talk baby-talk. When a tired Jessica returns home, she rips off her wig and plops down in a chair. Julie saved her dinner and surprises her grateful friend with it. She then goes back to doing needlepoint. When Jessica notices, she asks what is it. “Life in the jungle,” replies Julie to which the outrageous Jessica says, “I would like to make one of people fucking.”

The next morning while Julie rushes off to her screen test, Jessica remains home only to be harangued by Mrs. Wilson. She escapes the old biddy by delving into a bottle of scotch. Arriving home, Julie awakens the lush and to sober her up, pushes her into the pool. Jessica pulls her in as well and Julie shares the good news that everybody loved her test. The following morning, Julie still has not gotten word that the part is hers and Mrs. Wilson goes over the line with her insults. Julie fires her and sends the bitter old woman running for the hills to Jessica’s great joy. To celebrate, the girls ready themselves for a day at Disneyland. Jessica teases Julie about her flat chest and looking like a fourteen year old boy while Julie retorts at least she won’t be sagging in a few years. Jessica quips, “Sagging!?! Mount Rushmore will fall first!” Julie meets a guy named Hadley (Tom Pittman) there and they make a date. She finally gets laid, but then learns she did not get the part. Not to be discouraged, Jessica arranges for her to meet with an agent named Inez (Victoria Carroll). She is just as bitchy as the housekeeper with snide cracks about Jessica and tells Julie the only way she can help her if she is willing to disrobe on camera, which Julie is not. She makes a subverted pass at Julie and coos if she ever needs her advice please call.

Julie strikes out on her own and gets an offer to play a rape victim gang raped by bikers and then thrown naked through the sheriff’s window. The gals have a good laugh over it before Jessica gets dressed up like a school girl to meet that night’s client Georgie-Porgie. She returns in a good mood only to find Julie packing. With only fifty dollars left to her name and not wanting to be a charity case, Julie has decided to return to New York. Jessica tries to encourage her not to give up and to contact the producer again. Julie replies that she has called enough and the only thing left to do “is to fuck him.” When Jessica asks why she didn’t, Julie responds, “That’s your trade, not mine” and gets a slap in the face in retort. The two begin fighting and wind up in the living room hitting each other with pillows. After breaking into laughter, they apologize to each other. Drinking to nurse their bruises, a drunk Julie decides to stay awhile longer and make some money the Jessica way.

GA3Julie “double dates” with Jessica and her client Woody who brings a friend. Julie goes through with having sex for money, but back home she weeps in bed. Saying she “feels like a piece of meat,” a naked Jessica comforts her. The women begin to caress one another leading to their infamous love scene—the film’s money shot that drove video rentals in the Eighties. There’s lots of moaning and groping and yes, Kersh is right, Kristen was better lit. Afterwards, Julie flips out (yikes, I had sex with a woman!) and goes fleeing into the night. Hopp1ing into her Mercedes, Jessica finally catches up with Julie. Sitting on a ridge, looking out on the LA basin, Julie confesses how back in high school she and this girl named Amanda (the class outsider) watched a couple having sex. Poor Marta Kristen is forced to give a blow by blow description with cheesy dialog seemingly lifted from a trashy romance novel. Finally, after an agonizing number of minutes, she gets to the point of the tale. She just so horny watching the couple make love, she didn’t protest when Amanda put her hand down Julie’s pants and made her climax.

Kersh then gets her big moment and tells Julie to get over it. There is nothing to be ashamed of and she needs to stop letting moralizing people in the world make her feel guilty of any type of sexual attraction. With the matter resolved, Julie decides to return to New York and has a teary farewell with Jessica.

Gemini Affair could have been exploitative but actually handles the subject matter very respectfully and the two actresses are just lovely. Perhaps too much so since hardly anyone saw it due to distributor Moonstone Entertainment only being able to get it very limited release. The fact that the movie had a stage-bound feel with most of the action set in the house and was at times slow and plodding did not help. Despite her good turn as Jessica, this was Kathy Kersh’s swan song from show business.

The movie finally found an audience when released on VHS during the eighties as horny male TV fans clamored to see Judy Robinson naked. Kathy Kersh was an additional treat to their eyes.

Read more about Kathy Kersh in my and Louis Paul’s book Film Fatales and more on Marta Kristen in my book Drive-in Dream Girls.

 

 

 

 

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING STILL GETTING ITS DUE

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For me Bunny Lake Is Missing is one of the most underrated movies of the 1960s. Producer/director Otto Preminger’s engrossing b/w mystery about the disappearance of a little girl or may or may not exist sucks you in right from the get go. The opening credits designed by the legendary Saul Bass features one of the most haunting but ignored film scores by Paul Glass as a hand strips away pieces of construction paper revealing the film’s cast and crew.

Carol Lynley stars as the harried young American mother newly arrived in London who misplaces her daughter Bunny Lake at a nursery school (or does she?); Keir Dullea is her overprotective and hyperkinetic brother; Laurence Oliveir is the doubting police inspector who begins to suspect there is no Bunny Lake when not a piece of evidence can be produced to prove her existence; and red herrings as suspects pop up in the forms of Noel Coward as a lascivious landlord who collects shrunken heads and idolizes the Marquis de Sade; Martita Hunt as the eccentric former school master who lives in the nursery’s attic writing her book about children’s fears; Lucie Mannheim as the school’s disgruntled cook who agrees to keep an eye on Bunny Lake left in the First Day Room; etc.

In 1965, Bunny Lake Is Missing opened to mixed reviews. Carol Lynley rightly complained a lot of the critics were reviewing Otto’s notorious bad behavior on the set towards actors than the film isself. A box office disappointment, both Otto and Columbia Pictures washed their hands of it to Carol’s grave disappointment as she stated that she put her heart and soul into this picture. It shows, as Carol as never been better. Her desperation to find her missing daughter turns to sheer panic when she realizes Scotland Yard doesn’t believe she exists and won’t help her. However, her look of permanent bewilderment causes the moviegoer to doubt her as well. Come Oscar time, Columbia Pictures threw all it weight behind The Collector (a film that has not held up as when it was first released) earning its female star Samantha Eggar an Oscar nomination in my opinion that should have gone to Lynley.

Only a few years after the movie was released, critics began giving it a second look and realized it was much better than thought. The new persceptive continues to this day. With Bunny Lake Is Missing now on Blu-Ray you can judge for yourself. Click on reviews from The New York Times and DVD-Savant.