Welcome to SixtiesCinema.com the home of award winning author and film historian Tom Lisanti's groovy books on 60's starlets and drive-in movies from Elvis and beach party musicals to biker films to teenage exploitation. Check out his Blog below for updates or tribute pieces on all your favorite '60s starlets and B-movie actors. Purchase his highly entertaining, well-illustrated books directly from Amazon.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kersh’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?
Turning 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.
Julie “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 Fatalesand more on Marta Kristen in my book Drive-in Dream Girls.
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.
For me, Rod Taylor was one of the most rugged leading men of the 1960s. I enjoyed many of his movies, but one of my all-time favorites was Dark of the Sun with Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, and Jim Brown. I love adventure movies set in Africa (though this was filmed in Jamaica), and this one delivers nonstop action with Taylor and Brown as mercenaries in the Congo jungle during its 1960s civil wars. Hired to retrieve diamonds, they also reluctantly try to save the trapped mine workers and their families plus aid worker Mimieux. Just check out the trailer for a small taste.
Yesterday, I tweeted about the fabulous-looking new book Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures from the 20th Century-Fox Archives by Angela Cartwright and also included a link to her promo video. I wished her well with it, but said I would only be getting it if there were photos of my fave 60s gals Carol Lynley, Pamela Tiffin, or Julie Newmar. Angela’s co-author Tom McLaren, who I omitted from the tweet due to space constraints (sorry Tom!), responded and said there are 2 full pages photos of Carol and 3 of Julie. He thinks they have never been published before. 2 out of 3 is not bad. Sad no Pamela Tiffin. Hoping Diane Baker and Jill St. John did not make the cut either, meow! Do know per Tom there are photos of Barbara Eden, Farrah Fawcett plus Raquel Welch, Ann-Margret, Sandra Dee, Tuesday Weld, etc.
The book is now on my Must Have list and just from the video you know it would make a wonderful coffee table gift book for the movie lover in your life. And I think Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema or Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood would make a wonderful companion piece.
So sorry to hear of the passing of 1960s starlet Mary Ann Mobley. I always wished I got to interview her for my books. I did come close about 15 years ago but after playing phone tag with her assistant and then her, I stupidly gave up out of frustration and a looming deadline. A few years later her husband Gary Collins’ illness preoccupied her and I missed out again.
Sweet as Southern pie, is the way Mary Ann Mobley was described by some of her co-stars. After being crowned Miss America in 1959, Mobley began honing her singing and acting craft on television for a few years. She snagged the lead and made her film debut in the teen musical Get Yourself a CollegeGirl in 1964. A Sam Katzman production, this is a Sixties Starlet lover’s delight as Mobley co-stars with Joan O’Brien, Nancy Sinatra, and Chris Noel.
But it was her performance as the thrill-seeking girlfriend of John Dillinger (Nick Adams) in YoungDillinger (1965) that won her real kudos and made the critics take notice. She shared the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomers with Mia Farrow and Celia Kaye and was voted a Star of Tomorrow, placing higher on the list than Julie Christie. Mobley next co-starred with Elvis Presley in Girl Happy (1965) as a Southern sexpot who loses combo leader Elvis to coed Shelley Fabares; and in Harum Scarum (1965) as an Arab princess who wins the heart of Elvis this time playing a matinee idol. Her vivaciousness made for a charming Elvis leading lady and she always brighten up every scene she was in with her big Southern smile. But she was not all sweetness, and exuded much sex appeal too.
To spy fans, she is remembered as the original Girl from U.N.C.L.E. on an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Unfortunately, when it was picked up as a series, Stefanie Powers replaced her because the producers felt that Mobley was too soft. She also tested for the role of Batgirl on the TV series Batman and lost out to Yvonne Craig. Fox though chose her to play Wayne Maunder’s love interest in the TV western pilot Custer. The pilot was picked up as a series, but Mobley’s character was dropped.
A few more movies followed (but none that offered the acting challenge of Young Dillinger) including the Jerry Lewis comedy Three on a Couch where she, Leslie Parrish and Gila Golan play kookie patients of therapist Janet Leigh. She needs to marry them off before she accepts the marriage proposal of Jerry Lewis who masquerades as the girls’ three different suitors. Her last leading movie role was in the swinging youth film For Singles Only (1968) with John Saxon, Lana Wood, Peter Mark Richman, Chris Noel, Ann Elder, and Duke Hobbie. Mobley and Wood played two friends who move into a “hip” singles complex in Southern California run by Milton Berle. Though advertised as a light-hearted view of the singles set, Wood’s character falls in love with a married man, contemplates suicide, and then gets gang raped on the beach. Mobley meanwhile brushes off the advances of lothario Hobbie while fighting her attraction to tight pants wearing Saxon. The movie is a hoot because it is too square to be cool even for back then. The title song though is quite catchy.
After 1978, Mobley retreated to television and worked steadily until the Nineties. Her easy going charm was perfect for such lightweight fare as Love, American Style; The Love Boat; and Fantasy Island (where she and Carol Lynley tie for most guest appearances) plus a slew of game show (The Match Game and The Hollywood Squares in particular) and TV talk show appearances. The Eighties saw her replacing Dixie Carter on the last season of Diff’rent Strokes; recur as a psychiatrist on FalconCrest in 1988; and give one of her finest performances as pertinent Southern Belle tour guide of Old South homes on an 1990 episode of Designing Women where she amusingly butts heads with Dixie Carter as Julia Sugerbaker.
One of my favorite new TV channels is Get TV. Though it does have commercial breaks, it airs movies in wide screen format and does not edit out any scenes. The channel has access to Columbia Pictures library stock and concentrates on films from the ‘40’s, ‘50’s, and ‘60’s. I recently watched the lush sudsy soap opera Diamond Head (1963). Fun in the sun, as island big shot and hypocrite Charlton Heston freaks out when his headstrong sister Yvette Mimieux becomes engaged to Hawaiian native James Darren (such realistic casting–not). Heston though has a secret Hawaiian mistress France Nuyen who he has knocked up. I also watched some forgotten flicks such as the surprisingly good off-beat teenage exploitation movie Life Begins at 17 (1958) with Mark Damon and Luana Anders; and the dullsville rock musical Two Tickets to Paris (1962) with Joey Dee (resembling a pudgier less attractive Sal Mineo) and Jeri Lynn Frazer (a very poor man’s Deborah Walley).
What I was most excited to see though was the 1966 spy spoof Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die a.k.a. Se tutte le donne del mond0, directed by Dino Maiuri and Henry Levin. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the Italian-Portuguese co-production had a nice size budget for a Euro Spy Movie and was beautifully shot on location in Brazil. In this entertaining film, the great Michael Connors played an American CIA agent named Kelly in Rio de Janeiro on assignment to investigate mysterious suave industrialist Mr. Ardonian (Raf Vallone whom I always like) who has perfected a satellite that emits ultrasonic waves that can sterilize mankind. In cahoots with the Red Chinese, he plans to target the U.S only but he double crosses them with his determination for worldwide domination to make up for his implied impotence. While monitoring Ardonian, Kelly learns that is has collected a stable of unsuspecting beautiful women including Nicoletta Macchiavelli, Beverly Adams, and Margaret Lee who he freezes and plans to use to repopulate the planet with him. At first Kelly assumes Brit Susan Fleming (the less great Dorothy Provine clad in over-the-top mod fashions) is just another one of Ardonian’s girlfriends. She is aided by a trusting and resourceful chauffeur (Terry-Thomas). They agree to work together to bring him down. Ardonian discovers that Susan is a spy and Kelly saves her from becoming part of his “hibernation harem” before dispatching of the madman.
Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die is colorful and fast moving fun. Mike Connors makes a very convincing secret agent and no wonder was snagged for Mannix shortly after this. As Susan Fleming, Provine’s forced British accent is off-putting and annoying. Even so, Provine acquits herself quite well as a prim and proper spy who doesn’t use a gun but relies on some outlandish gadgets (including a mascara tube that emits knockout gas and a ring laced with poison) to waylay her enemies. Provine also displays quite a voluptuous figure when she strips down to her jungle shorts outfit though she is outclassed by some of the film’s other shapely beauties amongst them American starlet Beverly Adams (next seen as Lovey Kravezit in The Silencers and 2 additional Matt Helm spy flicks). She appears briefly as Karin who suffers the wrath of Ardonian when she decides to get married to another man. Before the nuptials can take place, she is killed by a poisonous snake concealed in a beautiful frilly white boa given to her as a wedding gift from Ardonian.
The only other thing that annoyed me about this movie was the musical score a mixture of Latin rhythms with sort of standard sixties spy music. This and Provine’s accent aside, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die ranks as one of the better Euro Spy movies that I have seen and for me stands right up there with In Like Flint in the arena of James Bond copycats.
To my friend and former 1960s starlet Gail Gerber (1937-2014). Gail lives on her in beach and Elvis movies and her award-winning memoir Trippin’ with Terry Southern: What I Think I Remember. We miss you Gail!