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: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 is now available and look for his next book Sixties Pop Cinema in 2016.
I am a guest tonight on the radio program TV Confidentialairing tonight 7pm ET 4pm PT on KSAV.org Internet Radio.
I will be promoting my newest book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies and will be talking Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Elvis Presley, Bobbi Shaw, Pamela Tiffin, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, Diane Bond, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Irene Tsu, Celeste Yarnall, Steven Rogers, Aron Kincaid, Arlene Charles, Edy Williams, and all our fave 1960s teenage silver screen stars.
Climate change is rearing its head in NYC this week since it is almost mid-October and having hot humid days forcing me to turn on the air conditioning all week. The strange hot weather made me want to have a Ski Party (1965) personified by the “Lots, Lots More” song performed by Frankie Avalon. For me, this is the best musical number in the movie and perhaps the entire Beach Party series as the bathing suit clad college boys and girls are shimmying away poolside in the open cold air with snow-covered mountains in the background.
The first scene features beach party regulars Salli Sachse and Patti Chandler leading the girls to fight to regain the boys’ attention away from Swedish blonde bombshell Nita (Bobbi Shaw). The song begins with Frankie flanked by beach party regular Luree Holmes (daughter of AIP studio head James Nicholson) and Salli Sachse. As he gets up and moves to the side of the pool, two dudes (one being big time surfer and another beach party regular Mickey Dora) hop up. Frankie makes his way over to Patti Chandler and Playboy Playmate Jo Collins as their dancing partners blonde hunk Aron Kincaid and another dive into the pool. Frankie then dances his way over to AIP beach party movie first timer Mikki Jamison (though she had a rival beach movie Beach Ball already under her belt) and then his leading lady Deborah Walley.
The song ends with hunky but not to bright beach boys Steven Rogers (another AIP first timer) and beach party regular Mike Nader trying to score with Bobbi Shaw’s winsome Nita. Also in the movie are Dwayne Hickman, Yvonne Craig, Robert Q. Lewis, Mary Hughes, Christopher Riordan, with musical numbers by James Brown and the Flames, Leslie Gore, and The Hondells.
Being able to sneak in a pool scene with bikini-clad cuties and shirtless surfer boys in the middle of snow covered Sun Valley was genius and just what the teenage audience wanted. “Lots Lots More” would just have been a catchy song warbled by Frankie Avalon with twistin’ beach babes dancing beside him if it were not for Rafkin’s unusual camera angles capturing the curvy features of Walley, Chandler, Jamison, and Collins in particular and sometimes of just their torsos. HE also positioned the camera on a low angle looking up at the gals a few times, making them look almost Amazonian-like. This style would be used even more ingeniously by Russ Meyer when shooting his wildcats in the following year’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Available now in soft cover from BearManor Media! My newest book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies!
A collection of profiles, interviews, and tributes about actors and films popular with the drive-in movie crowd during the sixties. Interviewees include Arlene Charles, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, and Irene Tsu talking Elvis Presley musicals; Bobbi Shaw and Steven Rogers talking beach party movies; Jan Watson and Diane Bond talking spy spoofs; Nicoletta Machiavelli talking spaghetti westerns; Mimsy Farmer, Maggie Thrett, Lara Lindsay, and Lada Edmund, Jr. talking alienated youth movies; and Valerie Starrett talking biker films. Some of the chapters center on one movie or a genre while others are career profiles with a main focus on one or two drive-in movies.
Very sad to hear of the passing of this iconic funny man. I always admired his talent and his dedication to help those in need with his many philanthropic causes. Below are comments from some of the sixties starlets that worked with him over the years who had nothing but praise for him that I interviewed for my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema:
“Jerry Lewis is Jerry Lewis. There is no switch that turns him on or off. He is what he is. I think every great comedy performer has a dark side. And I think it is part of that dark side that lends itself to the pathos that you have to have in order to be a strong comedic actor, especially in the type of humor that Jerry does. I worked on The Ladies’ Man for many weeks. Jerry Lewis [who directed] was kind enough to let me off after about six weeks because I had an offer for a TV pilot.”
“Jerry Lewis was totally off the wall and we had a lot of fun working on this film [It’s Only Money, 1962]. He had me laughing so hard and so long during some scenes we had to stop and start over. We wasted a lot of time and money just cutting up and laughing. He was such a practical joker and had all of us including our director, Frank Tashlin, in stitches. You never knew what Jerry was going to do next. You could play the same scene with him ten times and it wouldn’t come out the same way twice. But Jerry could be serious also. He was very generous and gave me a book that I still have called You’re Better Than You Think. Inside he inscribed, ‘and you really are Joannie.’ I was going through a period of time with a bad marriage and feeling down and depressed. I was unhappy about a lot of things. Jerry really set my head straight…”
“Jerry could be a little bit of a maniac sometimes. When he had someone like Frank Tashlin directing him, he’d fool around a lot. But when he was directing himself using Paramount’s money he’d be more careful and serious. Watching him direct himself in The NuttyProfessor was really something! When he called, ‘Action!’ he’d go from being Jerry the serious director to Jerry the actor playing the suave Buddy Love or the nerdy Prof. Kelp. It was amazing to watch. On The Disorderly Orderly, he missed one of his pratfalls and hurt his back. We filmed this up in the Doheny Estates for about eight weeks. When I did Cracking Up with him in 1982 he was really nervous. It was right before he had his heart attack and he was a basket case throughout the shoot. This was a funny movie but Orion went bankrupt and it didn’t get released in the U.S. But it was a huge hit in Europe because they just revere Jerry. They thought my part was so funny because I was speaking fractured French and it was subtitled. But the average American didn’t know I wasn’t speaking real French.”
“Overall I had fun doing this movie [The Nutty Professor]. Watching Jerry Lewis play this outrageous character was a great experience. He was always making the cast laugh. However, one moment he’d be a really nice person and the next minute he’d be crazy. He scared me. I had a scene with a few of lines. I drank a lot of coffee that morning because we sat around a lot. Those were the days when you could be on a movie for three months and not do much. I don’t even drink coffee but because I was bored I drank it. I got very nervous from drinking the coffee and I was also nervous about doing the scene. Since I didn’t do it correctly he yelled at me. I tried to do it right a second time and he yelled again. I started shaking all over. So he cut the scene entirely.”
“I was so in awe of Jerry Lewis and thought he was amazing. Frenetic is a good word to describe him on the set [of The Nutty Professor] but he could be charming as well. He wore Alfred Dunhill cologne, which smelled wonderful. One day when he walked by I said, “Jerry you smell so good.’ The next day he handed me a bottle of it. He also gave me a very good talk about being a young girl in Hollywood and what I should expect. I think he could see that I was a very straight-laced young person. I was very pristine and was lucky to have gone out in a car on a date at this point.”
“Jerry was just lovely to work with. But to be honest it was a little confusing. Because he wore so many hats on Hardly Working—actor, director and co-writer—it was hard for me to get my character in tune with the right person. First you’re listening to Jerry the intellectual analyzing the scene and speaking with the cameraman and the rest of the crew. And then all of a sudden he’s this lunatic. It was quite an experience. I think it is very difficult for an actor to direct himself. I know it’s done all the time and sometimes extremely successfully but it’s hard. Jerry’s health also wasn’t very good at the time.”
Podcast now online of me discussing 1960s Elvis movies and my book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies with host Ed Robertson of TV Confidential. Entire program is an interesting listen but if just looking for me I come on about the 30 minute mark or so.
In honor of the return of Nova to the rebooted Planet of the Apes movie series in War for the Planet of the Apes, I am sharing a revised interview with the original Nova Linda Harrison that ran in Filmfax magazine.
Linda Harrison will always be remembered as the beauty among the beasts. She left an indelible impression on 1960s moviegoers as the mute Nova, opposite Charlton Heston’s lost astronaut, Taylor, in the classic sci-fi films, Planet of the Apes (1968) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). With her long, dark hair and big, brown eyes, Linda had the perfect qualities to bring Nova to life on the big screen. “Nova means new,” reminded Linda Harrison. “I felt very comfortable playing her. I didn’t even have to audition. Dick told me I had the look they wanted.” Dick was Richard Zanuck, then head of 20th Century-Fox. It was on the studio lot that Linda met Zanuck, whom she married in 1969.
Beauty pageants led to an introduction to a young agent named Mike Medavoy who helped Linda get signed by 20th Century-Fox. The studio was restarting its acting school program for its contract players. At the time, the acting roster included Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Selleck, Christina Ferrare, Lara Lindsay, and Corinna Tsopei. After playing small roles in the unfunny Jerry Lewis comedy Way…Way Out (1966) and the better received comedy The Guide for the Married Man (1967) with Walter Matthau and Robert Morse, Zanuck then handed the brunette beauty the role she would become world famous for that of Nova in Planet of the Apes.
Before she was given Nova, Linda was part of the make-up creations by John Chambers who would go on to win a special Academy Award for his ingenious work. “I was used as a model for the make-up. That is what contract players did back then. You were being paid a weekly salary so sometimes you had to do things like this. The studio heads wanted to see if the makeup was doable. At that point they hadn’t green lighted Planet of the Apes yet. I had to lay back and be perfectly still as they put this plaster mold on my face. You had to know how to control your body. The whole process took about three hours.”
Lucky for Linda and Charlton Heston, they didn’t have to go through this process daily unlike co-stars Hunter and McDowall. Recalling the cast, Harrison remembered, “He [Heston] had a quiet quality about him. Charlton was gentle and was always looking after me. He taught me how to favor the camera. As an actor, I was someone he kind of took under his wing, which was good for the film. Sometimes, simple things like that transfer to the screen, and are very dramatic.”
“Roddy and Kim were great people and fabulous troopers. I’m not just saying that; they were pros. They had a difficult time with all that makeup. And they had to report to the set at 3:00 am!”
Director Franklin J. Schaffner (who would go on to win a Best Director Academy Award for Patton) was chosen to direct and per Linda had his own vision for the movie. “He was a very interesting man—very quiet. I remember Dick and I would have dinner with the assistant director on the movie. He and Dick were best friends. He would tell us nobody knows what the next shot will be, because Schaffner keeps it in his back pocket. He would only tell his cameraman, Leon Shamroy. But that lent itself to this kind of picture. It gave the actors a very interesting edge, not knowing what to expect next. I think his directly style worked very effectively.”
One of the film’s many standout scenes and one that remained vivid in Linda’s mind was when the audience first sees the marauding gorillas on horseback hunting the humans in the forest backed by Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting Oscar-nominated score. It was a very complicated action piece per Linda. “We had the humans running one way, some apes beating the bushes, and some others on horseback. I’m sure this scene was dangerous, but I wasn’t aware of it. I had total trust in the people in charge. This was shot in Malibu on the 20th Century-Fox ranch. They also built Ape City there. I remember it was always extremely hot. Even though I was scantily clad, my costume was made from real bark, with a rubber backing. I still felt the heat.”
After hurling through space for over 2,000 years, four astronauts land on a planet where humans are mute primitives, and apes are their masters. Of the space travelers, only Taylor (Charlton Heston) survives their first encounter with the apes, but he is shot in the throat by the marauding human hunting gorillas on horseback. He is taken to Ape City (along with other humans including an intense beauty he dubs “Nova”) where he tries to convince a sympathetic psychologist Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) and her archeologist finance Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) of his intelligence. When he regains his speech, he proves his superiority, but is thwarted by Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) who has always been aware of man’s intellect as well as being the harbinger of death. The film climaxes in the Forbidden Zone with Taylor proving that apes evolved from humans only to have Zaius cover up the proof. Zaius allows Taylor to go off with Nova deeper into the Forbidden Zone only to discover the horrible truth: the planet of the apes is actually Earth, whose civilization was destroyed by mankind. Taylor is on his knees in the sand yelling, “You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you to hell! The camera peers up to reveal a wrecked Statute of Liberty in the film’s final shot.
Planet of the Apes was a critical and popular smash. Linda quickly agreed to reprise her role of Nova in the sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, because “I was to be featured more prominently in this so, as an actress, that suited me just fine.” Heston, however, would only agree to five days’ work because it felt a sequel was a bad idea. James Franciscus was then cast as astronaut Brent, who is sent to find Taylor and his crew. What he finds is a planet of talking hostile apes (“The only good human is a dead human!”) and Nova, sans Taylor. After help from Zira and Cornelius (played by David Watson filling in for Roddy McDowall who was committed to another project), Brent and Nova venture beneath the planet of the apes where they discover the ruins of New York City inhabited by a race of masked telepathic human mutants who worship the atom bomb. After reuniting with the missing Taylor, Nova is sadly gunned down by the invading apes. The battle between ape and human ends with Earth being blown to bits, killing everyone. Or so it seemed.
For Linda Harrison, one of the biggest differences in the film was that Nova gets to speak, albeit briefly, in the sequel. “She says, ‘Taylor.’ Nova was very loyal to him. They bonded, and he was her man. That was an endearing quality about the character. She never forgot him.”
It seems like Nova’s loyalty to Taylor carried over Linda’s loyalty to Heston in real life. When asked to compare her leading men, Harrison replied, “Charlton is a visionary kind of actor. He truly inspired me while making Planet of the Apes. I felt that Jim Franciscus was more of a cerebral guy. He was an Ivy League graduate, and was more mental rather than inspirational. I thought Heston was a more caring and special guy.”
Recalling the shoot, Linda said, “It was more relaxed on Beneath the Planet of the Apes due to director Ted Post. It was also for me a more physical shoot. I had to ride a horse, and there was lots more running and being chased by the apes. At one point I was racing down this hill, and one of the stunt guys had to jump in and stop me. I had picked up too much speed and couldn’t stop.”
Though she had a bigger role and enjoyed working with Ted Post, Linda knew this was going to be inferior to the original. “It was fun but it wasn’t the first picture. Though Ted was a wonderful TV director, he wasn’t a Franklin Schaffner.”
Despite the Earth’s destruction, one year later Escape from the Planet of the Apes hit the big screen, followed by two additional sequels, a prime time TV series, and a Saturday morning animated series. The millennium brought a Tim Burton not-so-good remake of the original Planet of the Apes (2001) starring Mark Wahlberg with Linda Harrison in a cameo role and then an entire reboot of the series beginning with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and now culminating with War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).
She said what!?! Talking about the spaghetti western Navajo Joe, Nicoletta Machiavelli commented that her leading man Burt Reynolds “was so snooty that the whole crew couldn’t stand him!” Read more in my book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies.