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.
Who wouldn’t want to unwrap a gift this holiday season to find lovely 1960s actress Pamela Tiffin inside?
The cult pop icon awed moviegoers with her beauty in her film debut in Summer and Smoke (1961) and then wowed them with her hilarious performance as a Southern fried belle in Billy Wilder’s frenetic satire One, Two, Three (1961). She then became “the favorite airhead of the sixties” and the darling of teenage drive-in movies with State Fair (1962), Come Fly with Me (1963), For Those Who Think Young (1964), The Lively Set (1964), and The Pleasure Seekers (1965). She finally shook off the ingenue image to vamp Paul Newman in the gritty detective mystery Harper (1966) and then took it one step further dying her hair blonde to play a not-so-dumb blonde sexpot opposite Marcello Mastroianni in the Italian 3-part comedy Oggi, domani, dopodomani (19966). She remained blonde and ran off to Italy to escape an unhappy marriage cementing her cult status in America since most of her films did not reach these shores. She did return for one film the very funny comedy Viva Max (1969) with Peter Ustinov and her two movies with Franco Nero the giallo The Fifth Cord (1971) and the spaghetti western Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears (1973) are highlights from her time in Rome.
Below is a review of my book from David Tucker on his Blog:
For fans unfamiliar with 60s/70s actress Pamela Tiffin the subject of my new book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1916-1974, below is my personal choices of her best movies or her most memorable performances. Three are from Hollywood and three from Italy.
One, Two, Three(1961) d. Billy Wilder
Pamela Tiffin’s second motion picture contains her most memorable performance (she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress) and catapulted her to the top of the sixties starlet heap destined for stardom. A fast-paced, hilarious satire set in Berlin and poking fun at Communism and Capitalism, it was directed by Billy Wilder and written by him and I.A.L. Diamond fresh off their Academy Award wins for The Apartment. Tiffin plays impetuous Southern belle Scarlett Hazeltine who, while under the care of Coca-Cola’s man in West Berlin C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney delivering a brilliant rapid-fire performance), sneaks across the border into East Berlin and marries Communist Otto Ludwig Piffl (Horst Buchholz) causing all sorts of comedic trouble for MacNamara. He first undoes the marriage only to have to turn Otto into a capitalist son-in-law in good standing once the boss’ daughter’s pregnancy (“Scarlett is going to have puppies,” his daughter announces) is discovered. Pamela truly excelled in the movie. The scenes where Scarlett nonchalantly reveals her marriage plans and introduces Otto to MacNamara are some of Pamela’s best ever on film. She plays dumb so sincerely that you cannot help but laugh. Her lilting Southern drawl coupled with her slow delivery compared to Cagney’s fast sharp-tongued comebacks make her performance even more humorous, as dim-witted Scarlett seems to be in a world of her own oblivious to everything around her. She makes a wonderful foil to Cagney’s frustrated businessman who bemoans, “I’d rather be in hell with my back broken.” For Pamela Tiffin fans, this hell is heaven.
The Pleasure Seekers(1964) d. Jean Negulesco
Though One, Two, Three proved Pamela was a talented comedienne, the studios typecast her as the innocent virgin in a string of popular drive-in movies including Come Fly with Me, For Those Who Think Young, and The Lively Set. The Pleasure Seekers is her second three girls looking for romance travelogue and is a standout due to the glossy production values, beautiful on-location cinematography by Daniel L. Fapp in Spain, and a standout performance by Pamela Tiffin who looks stunning and steals the movie. This was a remake of 1954’s Three Coins in the Fountain, from that film’s director Jean Negulesco, about three girls looking for love and romance this time in Madrid. Here Tiffin is naïve Susie Higgins newly arrived in Spain who falls for caddish playboy Emile Lacayo (Tony Franciosa). College friend Maggie Williams (Carol Lynley), working for a news wire service, pines for her married boss (Brian Keith) while ignoring her true feelings for loyal playboy reporter Pete (Gardner MacKay) while aspiring singer/dancer Fran Hobson (Ann-Margret) falls for a poor Spanish doctor (Andre Lawrence). Ann-Margret sings/dances well and cries atrociously, while Lynley pouts prettily throughout leaving the real acting to Tiffin. She has the most rounded part and juggles the dramatic, comedic, and romantic scenes quite well. She also gets the best exterior scenes in Spain and the viewer does not mind looking at a vision as lovely as she in front of some gorgeous Madrid and Barcelona scenery. One of Tiffin’s most amusing scenes is when Susie attends her first Spanish party and Maggie schools her friend on the caddish ways of Emilio. The beautiful Tiffin elicits laughs with just the quizzical look on her face or a quick quip as the conflicted Susie knows she should not care about Emilio, but cannot help herself from being attracted to the no good playboy. Her romance culminates with a meeting with his mother (the elegant Isabel Elsom) where a touching Tiffin’s mortified Susie realizes she was duped by Emilio’s fake marriage proposal and faces him while his mother apologizes profusely for the behavior of her cad of a son. The Pleasure Seekers is a movie well worth seeking out especially for fans of these sixties starlets at their loveliest.
Harper (1966) d. Jack Smight
Released during the mid-sixties spy boom when secret agents James Bond, Matt Helm, and Derek Flint were ruling the box office, Harper was a throwback to the forties tough private eye yarns. This was Pamela Tiffin’s biggest hit and one of her best movies—not surprising since her leading man was Paul Newman. Based on Ross MacDonald’s novel Moving Target, this intriguing twisty mystery yarn has Newman’s gumshoe Lew Harper being hired by icy paralyzed equestrian Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall) to find her hated missing industrialist husband, which leads him to mix it up with a colorful cast of suspects including Robert Wagner, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, and Robert Webber. Pamela Tiffin finally gets to act the vamp as the missing man’s spoiled hot-to-trot daughter who first appears on screen when Elaine instructs Harper to speak with Sampson’s young pilot Alan Taggert (Wagner) the last to see him before he vanished after disembarking from his private jet in Los Angeles. Alan is poolside with Miranda wearing a white polka-dot bikini. She is dancing on the diving board and gives a nonchalant wave over her head when Alan introduces her as she keeps shimmying to the music. Pamela is quite a vision of loveliness and elegance and her diving board shimmy has become one of sixties cinema’s most iconic images. The actress plays off Paul Newman quite well during the entire movie with her rude insights delivered in a droll manner as she accompanies him first to LA and then a mountaintop retreat to find clues to her father’s whereabouts. Though Miranda was spoiled, privileged, and insensitive, compared to the other vile characters Harper meets in his investigation, the brazen Miranda comes off the most likable due to Pamela’s ability to get the audience to feel some empathy towards her due to the disappearance of her father and how shabbily she is treated by Elaine and Alan. Pamela proved she had the acting chops to go toe-to-toe with acting legend Paul Newman and more than held her own with him on screen.
Kiss the Other Sheik(1968) d. Luciano Salce
Not Pamela Tiffin’s best movie by far, but it is notable for changing her life when asked to go blonde to act the sexpot in this Italian sex comedy starring Marcello Mastroianni. She would remain a blonde working in Italy for the rest of her career severely curtailing her chance for super stardom. A re-edited version of 1966’s three-part Oggi, domani, dopodomani (never released in the U.S.) with newly filmed scenes, Tiffin plays sexy, ditzy housewife Pepita whose husband Mario plots to sell her to a Sheik for his harem, but discovers his wife is shrewder than he thought. You may ask why Mario would want to dump a wife as beautiful as Pepita until you see scenes of the wife lazing in bed while the maid cleans up around her or dumping the dinner dishes over the balcony because she is too lazy to wash them. The film is recommended just for the visage of newly blonde Pamela Tiffin. The sweet dark-haired Hollywood ingénue of State Fair only a scant three years prior is long gone. Watching her pose with nothing but a straw hat or seductively trying to entice her husband into the boudoir or dancing in a tight gown for a sheik, Pamela is a stunner. And although she is badly dubbed, her knack for comedy comes through with her facial expressions be it surprise running from sword-wielding guards or satisfaction in her revenge on her louse of a husband. After seeing her in this movie, her decision to remain blonde makes perfect sense.
Giornata nera per l’Ariete/ The Fifth Cord (1971) d. Luigi Bazzoni
In my opinion, Pamela Tiffin’s best Italian movie is this stylish entertaining giallo from director Luigi Bazzoni. As with Harper, Pamela is once again part of an ensemble cast and once again is a highlight. And once again she has an excellent leading man this time Franco Nero who plays Andrea Bildi a reporter investigating a series of murders that begins after a New Year’s Eve party. He soon becomes the assigned police detective’s number one suspect since he is acquainted with all the victims. Pamela played Bildi’s no-strings attached paramour Lu. Though this role is by no means an acting stretch for Pamela, it is wonderful to see her play a sexy contemporary vibrant role with a bit of mystery. Pamela also has wonderful chemistry with Nero. Her character brings out the playful side of Andrea (despite his mistreating of her) rather than his gloominess seen throughout the rest of the movie. In fact, she is perhaps the only character who is happy and perky, as the other characters must deal with the death of friends. Considering her forte for comedy, it is no surprise she would be cast in the most lighthearted role. This violent suspenseful thriller (featuring impressive cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and a memorable score by Ennio Morricone) will keep suspense game players guessing to the end and is highly recommended.
Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears(1973) d. Paolo Cavarra
Pamela Tiffin’s swan song for American audiences was this late-in-the-cycle violent spaghetti western from director Paolo Cavara that reteamed her with Franco Nero. Pamela Tiffin delivers a feisty performance as Susie a whore with a heart and mine of gold who falls for gunslinger Johnny Ears (Nero), the companion to the hearing-impaired Erastus “Deaf” Smith (an effective Anthony Quinn) working for the state of Texas to stop a rebellion. Johnny becomes caught between the demands of his new love who wants to run away with him and his commitment to the deaf Erastus that needs him—or does Johnny need Erastus? Arguably this is Pamela’s best performance after One, Two, Three. She is well-matched with Franco Nero and play off each other expertly. She is wonderfully funny in their early scene at the whorehouse as she tries to fight him off as they climb and tumble up the stairs. Deaf Smith really gives her a chance to show her range as an actress. Amusing in one scene complete with pratfalls, and tough and hardened in the next, as she pushes and flings Nero’s Johnny away from her only to wind up in his bed where the two realize they are in love. Her character has many nuances and reminds one of Tiffin’s excellent turn in Harper where her Miranda was a woman of many emotions. On its own, the western is quite entertaining. Its premise, with one of the leads being deaf and mute, is a novel and intriguing idea. There are some nice touches as seeing the action through Deaf Smith’s eyes with no sound. Though quite stirring for the most part, the plot is a bit implausible expecting moviegoers to believe that the fate of Texas is left in the hands of only two men. It is also full of plot holes and a longer than necessary shoot’em up finale. Despite these minor shortcomings, Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears is buoyed by the three lead actors and a special treat for Pamela Tiffin fans.
In planning stages of branching out from 1960s cinema and working on a book about the daytime serial Ryan’s Hope. I interviewed actor Roscoe Born (ex-Joe Novak, 1981-1983; 1988). He sent me this photo of him and Linda Vail in the Washington Theatre Club production of Senior Prom and asked me to share. I told him looks like a still from Grease. More to come on the book in the near future, but for now take a look on my just released book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974.
In honor of it being the late Gail Gerber’s birthday month, thought I would share an excerpt on how the classic Easy Rider was created from her 2010 memoir Trippin’ with Terry Southern. It was the most talked about section as she refutes most of the bullshit Peter Fonda and the late Dennis Hopper have been shoveling for decades.
Excerpt from “Uneasy Rider” from Trippin with Terry Southern: What I Think I Remember by Gail Gerber with Tom Lisanti
Peter Fonda showed up at the carriage house on East 36th Street one rainy night in November of 1967. The son of Henry Fonda and sister of Jane, Peter gave an impressive Golden Globe-nominated performance as a solider in The Victors (1963) but the studios tabbed him a new romantic lead pairing him with Sandra Dee in the corny Tammy and the Doctor (1963) and with Sharon Hugueny in The Young Lovers (1964). Fonda was saved from becoming another Troy Donahue when American International Pictures asked him to step in at the last minute as a replacement for actor George Chakiris who balked at doing his own motorcycle riding in Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels (1966). Peter played Heavenly Blues the leader of a local Hell’s Angels motorcycle club chapter. The film was an immediate hit and suddenly a long-haired Peter Fonda was cool in the eyes of the youth culture. Signed to do two more films for AIP, Fonda next starred as a TV commercial director who decides to experiment with LSD in The Trip (1967). He had one more film owed on his contract and that’s when he knocked on our door.
Terry had known Peter Fonda from the time he arrived in Hollywood in 1964 when it was a sleepy town in the doldrums between cinematic highs, and the children of the great stars of another era were trying to develop careers … or not. Terry and I would spend time at the Malibu home of Bobby Walker where we met and became friendly with Peter.
Terry was expecting Peter when he turned up at our doorstep on that chilly autumn night. While Terry was in Rome a few weeks prior he had lunch with Peter who was making a movie for Roger Vadim and where he shared with Terry an idea for a film that came to him in a hotel room in Toronto. Per Terry it was first about two daredevil racecar drivers being exploited by greedy promoters but then morphed into a tale about two bikers who score some dope, go on a road trip, and have a series of “interesting incidences” when Peter realized that he owed American International Pictures one more biker film.
Terry was very enthusiastic about the project but Peter felt he wouldn’t have enough in the budget to pay Terry’s fee to write the script. After I let Peter into our home he reiterated the plot once again to Terry and said he had a title for the movie, something like The Loners. Terry, sitting on our golden couch, raised his hand to indicate a marquee, and said, “Why not call it Easy Rider.” Terry once again expressed great interest in writing the screenplay. As I remember, which differs from Peter’s recollection, the rest of the conversation went something as follows:
Peter: “We can’t afford you Terry. Can you do it on deferment?”
Terry: “I can’t, but I’ll do it for scale and a percentage. Who is going to direct?”
Peter: “Dennis Hopper.”
Terry: “Are you sure!?!”
Dennis had never directed before and had such a bad reputation at this time. Despite his trepidation about Hopper, Terry agreed with the understanding of receiving a percentage of the profits and was to come up with the “interesting incidences.” Fonda was pleased, and rushed out into the night. This was the era of oral agreements and handshake deals, and Terry had no reason to doubt Peter.
Despite the fact that he had co-authored such classic movies as Dr. Strangelove, The Loved One, The Cincinnati Kid, and Barbarella, Terry wasn’t getting any offers in the U.S. at this time. I thought it was a little strange, (soon we would learn that the FBI had a hand in Terry not working) but was not involved in his business. I assumed he had smart New York and Los Angeles people looking after his “best interests,” but it seems that they were looking out for their own welfare, where Terry only thought of the next project. Terry said to me once, “An agent never got me a job, but was always there to take their percentage.”
Peter returned after the holidays and moved into the monk-like half furnished room on the third floor. He and Terry finally got down to business, hired a typist from a typing pool in Washington D.C who came to the house, and started on the series of “interesting incidences.” They worked nonstop all day for about a month, Terry with his yellow pad and pencil, and Peter pacing around the living room—the better to think. The typist would come by about five o’clock in the afternoon and type up the pages, triple spaced, and then Terry would work on the script some more into the wee hours of the night.
One night, very late, Peter had gone out on the town. Terry continued to work with the typist. They finished up and were just talking while I made drinks. The typist mentioned that she had done a lot of typing for the government, and that these classified documents she was working on had to do with how there are alien people from outer space walking around amongst us, and working for the government. They looked just like us, and had infiltrated the highest offices, and had blended right in.
After she left, Terry got right to work on it and incorporated this into a scene he wrote with his good friend Rip Torn in mind. The part was that of the “Faulkner-like” country lawyer eventually played by Jack Nicholson in the movie. As Wyatt and Billy sit around a campfire with the lawyer getting stoned, he regales the bikers with this conspiracy theory about the government covering up the existence of aliens. Terry showed the scene to Rip and asked if he would do it. Rip was busy with rehearsals for his new play called The Cuban Thing, which coincidentally was the same play I had auditioned for but didn’t get. Rip said he would try to do the movie if his schedule worked out.
Eventually Dennis Hopper, who was to direct Easy Rider, arrived. Early in his career Hopper was being compared to James Dean. A confrontation with legendary director Henry Hathaway on the set of From Hell to Texas in 1958 pretty much blackballed him from the film industry though he remained active on television. Terry had met Dennis in 1965 when he was hired by Vogue to do a magazine piece on Hopper’s then-wife Brooke Hayward, daughter of the Broadway producer Leland Hayward. Dennis was not working as an actor at the time, but as a photographer. They had a house in the Hollywood Hills, and Dennis had quite a collection of contemporary art. Terry entitled his article, “The Loved House of the Dennis Hopper’s.”
We stayed friendly with Brooke and Dennis (Terry, always with the nicknames, called him “Den”), and we’d go to the house for dinner. Brooke would serve something wonderful and wisely go to bed. Dennis and Terry would retire, with drinks in hand, to the living room, which had a disconcerting dentist’s chair. I would find a cozy sofa and watch Dennis and Terry talk. Dennis would expound on his idea of how Shakespeare should be spoken, and rant on about a film he wanted to direct called The Last Movie, which he eventually managed to make. Terry loved madness and people behaving badly (and you couldn’t get any madder or badder than Hopper). Terry would draw this behavior out, and then go home and write “fiction.”
When Dennis showed up at our house in New York we let him stay in Nile’s room, which he complained about and rudely called “a closet.” I tried to stay out of the way as best I could. Dennis was there for about two weeks, and at night he and Peter would be pacing around my living room, gesturing, and throwing out ideas between passing joints between the three of them. Though Terry was a martini man he would just hold the joint and pass it along most times. Somebody had to stay straight to do the writing so Terry sat with his pencil and a long yellow pad on our golden couch, scribbling away. He would hand the pages to the typist and she would type them up immediately. Dennis would rant and rave, using a lot of four-letter words, and the typist would break into tears, and run sobbing out into the night. Terry would have to call the typing pool the next day, and get another typist. Terry suggested that they change the “drug of choice” from marijuana to cocaine, which was not in fashion yet, because pot was too bulky to be carrying on the motorcycles. Dennis thought that running the credits upside down might be interesting, and he also whined about why the two characters had to die.
Terry loved collaborating with other people. He always felt that two heads were better than one when creating a story or screenplay. Terry was really in his element sharing concepts with Peter and Dennis. He just loved to work in this free-for-all fashion with people yelling out story ideas while nestled on the sofa he jotted down the better ones in pencil on his yellow legal pad. Peter once remarked that Terry agreed to work on Easy Rider on a handshake “just for the sake of having the freedom to play with an idea that appealed to his individual nature.” This statement is oh-so-true.
Terry had the scripts neatly bound and held on to the original. He handed copies to Peter and Dennis, and off they went back to Hollywood. Terry also gave a script to Rip Torn who retained his copy after all these years.
Peter, who owed American International Pictures one more movie, took the script to studio heads James Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff. Peter and Dennis were trying to use this biker movie to make a more interesting statement about the current state of affairs in the U.S. but also as a springboard to launch Dennis’ directing career. But due to the proposed budget and the rampant drug use, AIP turned it down to Sam Arkoff’s forever regrets. Fonda then made an agreement with Bert Schneider who, along with director Bob Rafelson, brought The Monkees to television and produced their movie Head in 1968. Bert had a production deal with Columbia Pictures, which wound up distributing the movie. However, there was a stipulation as the studio gave Dennis and Peter about $40,000 to go to New Orleans Mardi Gras to shoot some test footage, which was eventually used in the film, to see if they could really pull off making a movie.
This shoot was scheduled to commence in March. At the last minute someone was bright enough to check and discovered Mardi Gras that year was in February so the rush was on to get to New Orleans for the parade, where one of the last scenes was to be shot in a graveyard. It was Peter’s soliloquy, and a photo exists of Terry and Peter discussing it, with Fonda clutching the script.
Terry and I flew down to New Orleans and found the cast and crew settled in a crummy motel at the airport. We caught the end of the parade and then went to the graveyard for Peter’s scene. When night came there was no crew to light the set. In the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind, a crew member said that there was so much chaos someone’s girlfriend had to hold the Sun Gun. I was that person. I had no idea what a Sun Gun was when I volunteered to help while standing late at night in a boggy, soggy New Orleans cemetery. Some guy’s voice came out of the dark, and said, “We have no one to hold the Sun Gun.” Trying to be helpful, I chirped, “I’ll do it!” Before I knew what was happening, a couple of burly guys strapped this giant, heavy battery pack around my waist, which caused me to sink further into the bog. I was to hold this pole the size of a broomstick with a bright light on the end and keep it steady on Peter’s face while he did his monologue. This was a lengthy speech and it took all night to shoot. I tried so hard to keep the pole steady, while I continued to sink further and further into the misty marsh. Peter was emoting like mad, and the crew was concentrating, knowing this was going to be a one-take shot that they only had one chance to get. Luckily, we got it. If not, I’m afraid that I might have disappeared completely into the bog never to be heard from again.
Everyone slept all the next day, which is odd for people who are supposed to be shooting a movie. In the morning I went wandering, and found a classic New Orleans funeral. I saw the Dirge and later the joyful exit, and the Second Line with umbrellas in the light drizzle of rain. Later that afternoon, we gathered in someone’s room in the motel. It had been raining all day, and Dennis insisted he needed the camera to film the neon lights reflected in the puddles. No one was about to give Dennis a camera. I went back to our room and didn’t see the camera go through the motel’s plate glass window.
The next day I told Terry that I was going back to New York. I returned home to East 36th Street, and a few days later Terry showed up. He looked perturbed but was tight-lipped about it. When I asked him what went on down there after I left, all he would manage to bark out was a “Hrrrmph.” Actress Karen Black, who played a New Orleans prostitute in the film, said Dennis’ behavior became so unruly that Terry turned to him and said, “The cacophony of your verbiage is driving me insane.” There was nothing more to shoot in New Orleans that I know of, and I guess they all de-camped. The filming was finished for the moment. Peter and Dennis returned to Hollywood with the screenplay to raise the rest of the money. Everyone in the film business knows you can’t get financing without a script.
Later, in the early summer after Columbia agreed to release Easy Rider, there was a meeting in a restaurant on the Upper East Side to discuss shooting the rest of the movie with Peter, Dennis, Terry, Rip Torn, myself, and a director whose name I can’t remember. Dennis was late so we went ahead and ordered drinks and appetizers. Terry was sitting on my left and Dennis’ place was on my right. I was the only woman at the table. Rip was on the other side of the round table, and so was Peter, who was talking to a couple of pretty girls sitting nearby. Dennis soon showed up in full Easy Rider regalia—long hair, bushy mustache, and fringed buckskin jacket. He didn’t sit down but continued to stand on my right at his place at the table. Agitated, he exclaimed, “Man, I’ve been lookin’ for shootin’ locations in Texas and man, I’m lucky I’m still alive—those mother-fuckin’, redneck bastards!” He then spotted Rip across the table and said, “Hey Rip, you’re from fuckin’ Texas, aren’t you?” Rip replied, “Yes, but don’t judge all bastards by me.” Dennis continued his ranting and, still standing, picked up the knife at his place setting and leaned across the table, brandishing the knife at Rip. Rip, who had been in the army and was a tough Texan, didn’t even get up, but leaned over the table, grabbed Dennis’ wrist, and twisted. The knife clanked to the table. Peter, who had been leaning back in his chair and balancing on two legs so he could flirt with the girls, fell over backwards. Rip, controlling his temper, offered to meet Dennis outside to finish the fight, and left the restaurant. Dennis sat down, acting as if nothing had happened, and continued to dominate the conversation all through dinner.
Needless to say, Rip refused to work with Dennis Hopper and backed out of the movie. He not only lost out on a memorable movie role but unfortunately for Rip the controversial play he was starring in The Cuban Thing about a Cuban family during Fidel Castro’s revolution closed after opening night. During previews a Cuban resistance group bombed the theatre in protest of the play.
Scrambling to find a replacement for Rip, Peter purportedly talked with William Wellman, Jr. about a role but when Wellman learned that Dennis was co-starring and directing he opted to work in a Bob Hope comedy instead. Finally, they found someone who would work with Dennis—Jack Nicholson who was recommended by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. It was a star-making role for Jack, which was not surprising as Terry wrote wonderful dialogue for the character and Jack brilliantly brought to life this straight laconic Southern lawyer who smokes marijuana for the first time. At this point Terry had moved onto his next endeavor while Peter and Dennis traveled the country filming Easy Rider from Terry’s script…
Just got word from my publisher McFarland and Company that my new book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 has shipped. What a strange journey it has taken. I started off doing a book about American actresses who went to Italy to work during the sixties. I first wrote about Mimsy Farmer and then tackled Pamela. I just kept writing and writing and realized I had enough for a book just on her. My plans to turn into a biography with hopefully a new interview with Pamela was sadly squashed when I was informed by her husband that she could not participate. I was going to abandon the project, but knowing I was a big fan he suggested I continue.
Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 pays tribute to the stunning beauty that is Pamela Tiffin. Prettier than Raquel Welch. Funnier than Jane Fonda. More appealing than Ann-Margret. Yet they became superstars, but Pamela did not despite adulation from the critics and even James Cagney who hailed her “remarkable flair for comedy.” Contractual obligations and self-imposed exiles in New York and then Rome hampered her, though she remains a cult sixties pop icon to this day.
Dark-haired Pamela Tiffin debuted in the movie version of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke (1961) as the stunning innocent who steals handsome doctor Laurence Harvey from sexually frustrated spinster Geraldine Page and then she was a scene-stealing comedienne giving a Golden Globe nominated performance as an addle-brained Southern teenager who sneaks into East Berlin and marries Communist Horst Buchholz in Billy Wilder’s hilarious political satire One, Two, Three (1961) starringJamesCagney.
Next came a succession of popular teenage drive-in movies where Pamela once again delivers highly amusing performances. She’s a bored farm gal itching for more than hanging out with the hogs in the musical State Fair (1962) with Pat Boone and Bobby Darin; a bungling flight attendant in the romantic travelogue Come Fly with Me (1963) with Hugh O’Brian and Dolores Hart; a surfing college student in the beach movie For Those Who Think Young (1964) with James Darren; a race car driver loving coed in The Lively Set (1964) again with Darren; and a naive tourist in the Madrid-set comedy The Pleasure Seekers (1964), a remake of Three Coins in the Fountain, with Ann-Margret and Carol Lynley. With her beauty and seductive soft-voice, Pamela Tiffin instilled in her romance seeking characters not only a wide-eyed naïveté and endearing flightiness, but a sexiness that her contemporaries at the time could not match. It was these qualities that made these movies better than expected due to the actress’ comedic abilities and made her rise above the competition of the time. So successful was she that Turner Classic Movies has dubbed her “Hollywood’s favorite air-headed ingénue in the sixties.”
Sophisticated and intelligent in real life (she lived in New York to continue working as a model and taking college courses between films), Pamela was not a fan of her teenage movies and strove to get more mature roles. However, she was beholden to the contracts she signed with producer Hal Wallis (who discovered her), 20th Century-Fox; and the Mirisch Brothers. To her delight, Pamela was finally able to shed her ingenue image after landing a sexy adult role as a sharp-tongued, man-hungry heiress in the detective film Harper starring Paul Newman. Her sexy bikini-clad dance on top of a diving board has become one of the sixties iconic film moments.
Instead of taking Hollywood by storm at this point with her new sex kitten persona, she went blonde and headed overseas to become Marcello Mastroianni’s first American leading lady in the Italian three-part comedy Oggi, domani, dopodomani (1966) and then opted for a Broadway play, Dinner at Eight in the role essayed by Jean Harlow in the 1930s movie version. An unhappy marriage caused her to run away to Italy in 1967 putting a halt to her career trajectory in the U.S. leaving her many fans wanting more and wondering where she disappeared to.
Hollywood’s loss though was Italy’s gain. She was paired with some of the country’s most famous leading men including Franco Nero (twice), Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, Nino Manfredi, and Lando Buzzanca. Though enjoying being a sexy blonde, Pamela wanted to act and went after more character parts during her time there hence her long blonde locks were hidden under dark or red wigs. Quite popular, especially when her notorious pictorial in Playboy was released, her films ranged from comedies such as Straziami ma di baci Saziami/Kill Me with Kisses (1968, one of Italy’s highest grossing movies of the sixties), L’arcangelo/The Archangel (1969), and Il vichingo venuto dal Sud/The Blonde in the Blue Movie (1971); to the underrated giallo Giornata nera per l’Ariete/The Fifth Cord (1971); tothe spaghetti western Los Amigos/Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears (1973) featuring one of her best performances as a whore. In between, Pamela returned to the U.S. for one memorable role as a political activist taken hostage by Mexican General Peter Ustinov and his army when they retake the Alamo in the very funny satire Viva Max (1969).
Not a biography, Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 is a career retrospective of Pamela Tiffin’s movies plus TV and stage appearances. Interviewees (including Franco Nero, Hugh O’Brian, Lada Edmund, Jr., Carole Wells, Tim Zinnemann, Martin West, Niki Flacks, Jed Curtis, Peter Gonzales Falcon, Eldon Quick, John Wilder, and Larry Hankin) provide a behind-the-scenes look at her work. Plus noted film historians Dean Brierly, Roberto Curti, Howard Hughes, and Paolo Mereghetti weigh in on Pamela Tiffin’s place in cinematic history.
To most television fans actress Judy Carne is only remembered as the original Sock It To Me girl on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. But the bouncy auburn-haired British lass (born Joyce Audrey Botterill on April 27, 1939 in Northampton, England) had a prolific career on television before she literally made a splash on that groovy hit variety series. The daughter of a London fruit merchant, she danced with the Bush-Davies ballet and made her stage debut in the 1956 revue For Amusement Only in the West End. Before Carne headed for the U.S. she was a panelist on Juke Box Jury and a regular on the sitcom The Rag Trade.
Judy Carne was first introduced to American audiences as Heather Finch, a British exchange student who comes to stay with an American family in the first hour long comedy series Fair Exchange in 1962. She next played the rich Barbara Wyntoon daughter of the snobbish Cecil Wyntoon (John Dehner) and in love with the poor Jim Bailey (Les Brown Jr.) on the long forgotten sitcom The Baileys of Balboa during the 1964-65 season. And on the big screen she had a small role as one of the three “nameless broads” (the others being Janine Gray and Kathy Kersh) who are found in bed with James Coburn in the comedy The Americanization of Emily (1964).
With the advent of the Beatles in 1964, all things British were in during the mid-sixties so Carne with her cute looks and mod dress was perfect for the spy genre making two memorable appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1965 and 1967.
In between, Judy Carne landed her third TV series called Love on a Rooftop during the 1966-67 TV season. She played newlywed Julie Hammond Willis, the pampered daughter of a rich used car dealer, who is married to struggling architect David (Peter Duel) and living in a tiny windowless apartment, which sits on the roof of a building with a wonderful view of the San Francisco Bay area. Though warm and original, critical kudos could not save it from cancellation after only 1 season. I remember this show and Carne in it quite fondly. It made me want to live in an apartment with incredible city views. Something I still have not achieved to this day. The sitcom was rerun at night during the summer of 1971, which was a few years after my first memories of watching prime time TV. Land of the Giants, Here Come the Brides, Here’s Lucy, Mayberry R.F.D., Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Mothers-in-Law, and the western Lancer still standout for me.
Shortly after her last appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Judy Carne found “overnight” fame on the innovative new variety series Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In beginning in January 1968. Though Carne had comedic talent she is best remembered as the Sock It to Me girl, in which she would invariably get doused with a bucket of water or fall through a trap door on the floor. Also memorable were scenes of Carne gyrating in a bikini as the camera zoomed in on phrases and slogans painted in Day-Glo colors on her body. She became one of the most popular actresses on the show (she was my favorite) rivaling even that of Goldie Hawn (who was funny but her incessant giggling annoyed this 8 year old). Capitalizing on her popular catchphrase, Carne even released a novelty single. Judy stayed with the series for two years and left part way through season three. She told TV Guide in 1969, “Frankly, it has become a big bloody bore.”
Post Laugh-In, whole Goldie Hawn went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Cactus Flower and became a bona fide movie star, Judy Carne did not fare as well but remained popular nevertheless. She landed a one-year gig on The Kraft Music Hall, starred on Broadway in The BoyFriend, did a number of TV guest shots (including 6 appearances on Love, American Style always to my delight) and movies-of-the-week (most notably QB VII in 1974) and was a regular performer on the talk and game show circuits.
The late seventies, however, really did sock it to Judy Carne. She made headlines in the road company of AbsurdPerson Singular for an altercation with co-star Betsy Von Furstenburg who reportedly purposely spilled a glass of water on Carne during a performance. A nightclub act she put together failed and was a big disappointment. Her sixties experimentation with drugs developed into full-blown heroin addiction. In 1978 she was busted for illegal prescription drugs (she was acquitted) and suffered a broken neck in a car accident.
In 1985 Carne co-authored (with former boyfriend Bob Merrill) her heartbreaking autobiography Laughing on the Outside, Crying onthe Inside: The Bittersweet Saga of the Sock-It-To-Me Girl. She candidly revealed details of her tumultuous three-year marriage to Burt Reynolds, her admitted bi-sexuality, her love affair with singer Lana Cantrell, life on Laugh-In and her drug addiction. The book put her back in the spotlight for a short period and to capitalize on her newfound notoriety she put together a cabaret act entitled Only I…. Her show ran for a few months at the Duplex in Greenwich Village during the early nineties and she caught the attention of radio shock jock Howard Stern appearing on his radio and TV shows. Shortly after, she returned to England and lived the rest of her life out of the spotlight.
Rear more about Judy Carne’s spy genre appearances in my and Louis Paul’s book Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973.
Pity Jane Wald. The beautiful buxom brunette was saddled with a curvaceous figure measuring 38-22-35 that most women would kill for. But, as with most sexy actresses, she wanted to stand out due to her acting talent rather than her bra size. During the early to mid-sixties, Wald graced a number of glossy sex comedies that gave her little to do but glide across the big screen wearing nothing but a bikini, a towel, or harem wear.
Jane Wald was born Jane Wolberg in Mount Vernon, New York. Her father was an international businessman and her mother an artist. As a young adult, she attended at few semesters at NYU before enrolling at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She began learning her acting craft while doing summer stock and supported herself by working as a model appearing on billboards and in newspaper ads for Parliament cigarettes and Rheingold beer. Noticing her print ads, Playboy came a-calling three times but the modest Wald declined the offers to be a Playmate. Her first foray to Hollywood ended when the studio dropped her option and a dejected Wald flew to Europe to be with her parents.
Refusing to give up, Wald decided to give acting one more try and returned to Hollywood in 1959. To gain notoriety, she went the typical starlet route posing for lots of cheesecake photos, attending many openings, and entering promotional beauty contests. Wald was voted queen of the 1960 National Truck, Trailer and Equipment Show. She also gained a lot of publicity in 1962 when she accompanied Johnny Grant on a tour of Hawaiian military bases. She joined a troupe that included Ruta Lee, Ann B. Davis, and Cynthia Pepper.
Jane Wald began finding acting work due to her next door neighbor Barbara Steele. Invited by the actress to lunch at the 20th Century-Fox commissary, Wald was spotted by actor Paul von Schreiber who was putting together a small independent avant-garde drama called Weekend Pass (1962). She played a dance hall girl opposite von Schreiber’s naïve sailor on leave. After spending time with him, the sailor is shocked when she asks to be paid for her services. Jane Wald recalls, “This was a non-union production and it was filmed in downtown Los Angeles. We walked around the streets at night shooting it and a lot of the homeless people became part of the crew helping out carrying lights and things. I believe it was an entry at some film festivals [Coronado International Film Festival, for one] but it never was released nationally.”
The film, clocking in at less than an hour, played the Los Feliz Theater in Los Angeles for one week in late December 1961 to be eligible for Academy Award nominations. Alas, none were earned. The featurette did pop up in LA again in September. Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times called it, “less savage then The Savage Eye and praiseworthy as straight-forward cinematic storytelling.”
When it rains, it pours as the old adage go and soon Jane Wald would not lack for work. Television kept the pretty brunette busy and she turned up in episodes of Surfside 6; The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; Shannon; and The Tab Hunter Show as a gold digger after millionaire Richard Erdman’s money. Wald’s movie career officially started with a splash literally as she is seen soaking in a bath tub in The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962). She covered up, albeit with a towel, for her role as one of lecherous landlord Hogan’s (Jack Lemmon) va-va-voom tenants who likes to shower with her basement bathroom window open in the hit comedy Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963). She apologizes for not paying her rent for the last two months, but the voyeuristic playboy doesn’t mind a bit and presents her with a flower he just picked. Hogan is preoccupied with virginal coed Robin (Carol Lynley) who has just moved in with her boyfriend (Dean Jones) in an experiment to live platonically to see if they are marriage compatible. Despite her small role, Jane Wald’s image was used to promote the movie in many print promotions throughout the world.
“This was such a fun picture to work on,” exclaims Wald. “Jack Lemmon, Carol Lynley, Paul Lynde and the whole cast was just so nice. After Yum Yum Tree was released my dad who was on business in Japan called me. He was in a taxi and looked out the window and saw this huge block-long billboard of Jack Lemmon handing me a flower through my open bathroom window.”
Jane Wald continue getting small parts opposite some of Hollywood’s most popular leading men. In the comedy Take Her, She’s Mine (1963) she was one of coed Sandra Dee’s Parisian roommates. When her daddy (James Stewart) comes looking for his wayward daughter, Wald emerges from the bathroom brandishing her tooth brush. In the Shirley MacLaine What a Way To Go! (1964) she gives an energetic performance as artist Paul Newman’s kooky French beatnik friend who creates her artwork by shooting paint balloons onto her canvas.
“Sandra Dee, Paul Newman, Shirley MacLaine were all sweet to me,” says Wald. “Actually I never had any problems with the stars I worked with.”
Despite showing promise in her latter role, Jane Wald was still restricted to the decorative role due to her beauty and curvaceous figure. Her first bikini role was playing a bit in the sex farce Honeymoon Hotel (1964) starring Robert Morse and Robert Goulet. Next came the abysmal comedy John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1964) starring Richard Crenna as a former football player coerced to coach the sheik’s football team and Shirley MacLaine as a reporter. Jane was indistinguishable from many of the other scantily-clad starlets (including Barbara Bouchet, Teri Garr, Shelby Grant, and Irene Tsu) who were part of sheik Peter Ustinov’s harem.
Wald was frustrated with being cast due to her looks more so than her talent. She reflected, “I knew I had a nice body, but it was something I sort of took for granted. In Hollywood, it got a lot of attention—it made me self-conscious. I wanted to be known as a serious actress. I should have just gone with the flow but we always want something we don’t have. It was kind of silly of me that I didn’t since I obviously had a great body. I didn’t take advantage of it like the girls do today especially that in those days there was no nudity to worry about.”
Next came Jane Wald’s most memorable role. Dear Brigitte (1965) starred James Stewart Robert Leaf, an absent-minded professor of poetry and lover of all creative arts, who lives on a retired steamboat called the River Belle with his wife Vina (Glynis Johns);money-hungry teenage daughter Pandora (Cindy Carol); and eight-year-old tone-deaf, color-blind son Erasmus (Billy Mumy) who turns out to be a mathematical prodigy to the chagrin of his father. Pandora and her boyfriend Kenny (Fabian) get the idea to make money off Erasmus’ ability and use it to handicap the horse races. They begin winning big, but are eventually busted by the outraged parents. The professor learns that his son has been writing love letters to French movie star Brigitte Bardot and when she finally writes back and invites the boy to meet her. Erasmus begs to go. How can a father say no to Bardot and off they go.
The movie opens with Ed Wynn as the Captain describing all the creative types who live in his waterfront community. He then waves to artist George (Charles Robinson) who is painting his topless wife Terry (Jane Wald) whose back is to the camera. They live on the boat next door to the Leaf family and happily greet the Captain. Terry’s skimpy attire, or lack thereof, is the film’s running gag as the professor is always telling her to put on some clothes. About an hour into the film Wald’s Terry is finally clad, albeit in short shorts and halter top, and has more lines as she and George alert Prof. Leaf that his students are leading a protest outside to persuade him to return to campus. He quit when the dean accused him of knowing that Erasmus was betting the ponies. Later she runs out in a very skimpy green and white checked bikini and joins the Leaf family and the Captain who is launching his new model sail boat. The vessel disappeared into the sea and alas Jane did too from the movie.
“I adored working with Jimmy Stewart on Dear Brigitte,” exclaims Jane. “I used to go over his lines with him. He was very nice and he said to me that I had great comedic timing. We filmed this on location in Sausalito. I asked Ed Wynn to visit this museum one day. He said, ‘I’m afraid they may keep me there’ so he wouldn’t go with me.” This story was told to the press back in 1965 with Wynn adding, “And I don’t know whether that’s humorous or witty. Just cautious.”
On television Wald turned up on Batman as a curvaceous bad girl who helps Cesare Romero as the Joker fake the kidnapping of a visiting Maharajah in “The Joker Trumps an Ace” and “Batman Sets the Pace.” The Dick Van Dyke Show offered her the female lead in “Stacey Petrie, Part 2” playing Julie Kincaid a love interest for Jerry Van Dyke as Dick’s bungling brother Stacey who wrote letters to her from the army on behalf of his buddy a drummer named James Garner. When the GI lost interest, Stacey did not and kept corresponding using his buddy’s name. Now in town to open up a coffeehouse, he finally gets up the courage to meet her. Stacey comes to Julie’s upper Eastside abode, complete with a butler, where an elegantly dressed Julie greets him. So excited to hear about the man she loves, Stacey hands her one last letter where he reveals the truth. Thinking she would be happy, Julie instead is furious and slaps Stacey twice and hits him over the head with a pillow before storming off. A dejected Stacey heads to his club where Rob and Laura are decorating for the opening and he wallows in self pity. Arriving home, Rob answers the phone and it is Julie looking for Stacy. In a funny bit, she talks to Rob who relays what she is saying to Laura and it goes back and forth. Julie wants Rob to tell Stacy that she is sorry. Julie arrives at the opening and seeing her Stacey gets tongue-tied again as each tries to apologize and they amusingly keep cutting each other off. Wald is quite charming in this role and does well playing off the frenetic Jerry Van Dyke whose shtick can be grating.
In 1966 Jane Wald was still getting press and columnists speculated that her meetings with producer Arthur Jacobs was because she was being considered for the role of Nova in Planet of the Apes. That part went to Linda Harrison. She says, “I stopped acting around 1966 after I remarried and was expecting my first child. Because I resembled Natalie Wood, I was offered a part as her sister but had to turn it down. However, I did appear in a Buick commercial showing how a pregnant woman could fit behind the steering wheel.” Hubby #2 who was not in show business. They went on to have three children before divorcing in 1974.
Jane Wald’s last two sixties movies, the cult thriller Seconds starring Rock Hudson and the biker flick Hell’s Bloody Devils, only featured her in very minor roles and were a complete waste of her talent. It is surprising since she had graduated to bigger roles on TV and proved she had comedic ability that she would wind up the decade so insignificantly.
Wald made intermittent attempts to revive her acting career. In the mid-seventies she turned up in the episode “Flight to Danger” on Barnaby Jones and in 1993 she co-starred with Deanna Lund and Liz Torres as college chums who look back on their university days while vacationing at a ski resort in Girl Talk, a sort of precursor to Sex in the City.
Asked if she had any regrets giving up her career, Jane Wald firmly states, “I would rather have my children and the life I have now then a woman who doesn’t have children. That’s what is important in life—it’s not having a career. If you have a career and come home to an empty home at night—what’s the point?”
Pretty, blonde Melody Patterson (profiled in my book Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties) will forever be remembered as shapely cowgirl Wrangler Jane on the cult TV comedy series F Troop. Patterson was fresh-faced, feisty and a bit reminiscent to real-life western heroine Calamity Jane. I loved this show and her on it. Most of the online tributes and obits deservedly concentrate on her success here and her short-lived marriage to actor James MacArthur. However, I love 60s biker movies and going to profile her 2 appearances in the genre, which many fans may be unaware of.
Proving she could play strong-willed women convincingly, the biker film genre took advantage as Melody was cast as a Hollywood starlet in The Angry Breed (1968) and a former motorcycle gang member trying to go straight in The Cycle Savages (1969).
Melody was cast as movie starlet named April whose boyfriend was the leader of a motorcycle gang in the exploitation film, The Angry Breed (1968). “During the late sixties, Hollywood seemed to be always trying to portray itself as being populated by dope-crazed, LSD-taking, weirdoes,” remarks Patterson. “I think that is what this movie was supposed to be about. But I am not really sure. It is the worst movie ever made.” The Angry Breed tried to merge the world of violent bikers with the hip pill-popping Hollywood set but it was not a success. The reviewer in Variety noted that the film “[had] the look of a mismatch between an out and out sexploitation item and the type of actioner that has proven such a formula for American International.”
Though billed fifth, The Angry Breed starred Murray McLeod as Johnny Taylor, an actor and Vietnam vet, who has just returned to Hollywood with a script from a writer whose life in saved in battle. (“Good God, Murray wore his pants practically up to his armpits and was supposed to be the big hero,” jokes Melody laughing.) Johnny’s attempts to sell the script are unsuccessful. Broke, he begins living on the beach in Malibu where he comes to the rescue of Diane Patton (Lori Martin) who is being harassed by a Nazi-clad biker gang headed by Deek Stacey (James MacArthur). Patton’s father Vance (William Windom), a film producer, is so grateful to Johnny he agrees to finance the film. He hooks Johnny up with greedy homosexual agent Mori Thompson (Jan Murray) whose favorite client is none other than biker Deek who wants to star in the film. Mori convinces Vance to throw a costume party to celebrate the film’s start but he and Deek plot to do away with Johnny. At the party, which turns into a freak-out complete with LSD, Johnny’s leading lady April Wilde (Melody Patterson) pursues him but he wants Diane. A crazed Deek in disguise tries to kill Johnny but he escapes thanks to a diversion caused by Patton’s mute maid. The next day on the set Johnny recognizes Deek and has him thrown off the lot. That night Johnny learns that Vance has pulled his financing since he is unhappy about the budding romance between Johnny and Diane. Furious with her husband, his neglected wife (Jan Sterling) sabotages the cable car that takes Vance down to the beach for his nightly swim. Deek shows up bent on revenge and during the struggle with Johnny ends up in the cable car along with Vance. The car crashes killing Deek while an injured Vance realizes the error of his ways.
Recalling the shoot for The Angry Breed, Melody says, “This fellow’s [David Commons] only credit was a ketchup commercial and he thought he could direct a feature. How he got all of us—it was a good cast—in this movie to begin with I’ll never know. I haven’t the foggiest idea what my character was supposed to be doing and why. I ran around for a week sporting a mustache. It was difficult wearing it trying to flirt with Jimmy MacArthur, who was dressed in a Nazi uniform.” Mustache or not, Patterson was a knockout and got MacArthur’s attention—so much so that they were wed two years later.
The following year Melody Patterson had a more defined role and gave a convincing performance as Lea a troubled young woman trying to go straight while keeping her distance from her former biker gang in the violent film, The Cycle Savages (1969) directed by Bill Brame. Interestingly, the movie was produced by Top 40 deejay Casey Kasem and record executive Mike Curb, who later became the lieutenant governor of California. As the trade ads proclaimed, “Hot steel between their legs…The wildest bunch on wheels!” The film also featured a great exploitation cast including Bruce Dern, Chris Robinson, Scott Brady, Gary Littlejohn and Maray Ayres. Though panning the film, Variety’s critic commented that “the whole cast really tries.” Melody remarks, “Bruce Dern was wonderful and an absolutely an exciting actor. Chris Robinson and I had the same manager so we knew each other pretty well. I loved the director because he was an editor and knew what he was doing.”
An artist named Romko (Chris Robinson) gets on the bad side of crazed gang leader Keeg (an intense Bruce Dern) for sketching him and his outlaw bikers as they terrorized the patrons of a hamburger drive-in. Keeg is determined to retrieve Romko’s sketches because they could incriminate him and his renegade roughnecks in a white slavery operation they run. They slash Romko’s midsection and his neighbor Lea nurses him after Keeg threatens her to keep Romko away from his apartment. To stall Romko, Lea allows the artist to draw her nude while the gang ransacks his pad looking for his drawings. Lea falls for Romko and they make love but when the police come to investigate his attack they reveal that Lea was a decoy for the gang and was pressured to distract him. Meanwhile, Keeg and his gang have coerced a high school girl over to their lair where they give her LSD and gang rape her. After being rejected by Lea, the bikers capture Romko and torture him by squeezing his hand in a vise. A pistol-packing Lea arrives to save him but she lacks the courage to shoot anyone. As the police close in, the gun is grabbed by biker chick Sandy (Maray Ayres), who chases a fleeing Keeg and shoots him dead.
“I had a better experience working on The Cycle Savages than The Angry Breed though I can’t say it was a better movie,” comments Patterson. “I was in the midst of my Method acting period and it seemed like everybody was taking long pauses before saying their lines. I didn’t like doing nudity but I agreed to do a back shot and a love scene. That is when I found out that I had a curvature of the spine. My mother was on the set to make sure everything was on the up and up. It was done with the utmost care and on a closed set. What I found amusing the most was that the sketch of me drawn by Chris’ character was a lot bustier than I was.”
RIP Melody Patterson. You will be missed.
For more on Melody Patterson, link below to purchase my book Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties:
Lovely Yvonne Craig’s passing has truly saddened me. She was one of my childhood favorites along with Miss Julie Newmar, Tina Louise, Deanna Lund from Land of the Giants, and Bridget Hanley from Here Come the Brides. Yvonne had the looks and knockout figure for sure, but she also had acting talent as evidenced by the varied roles she played. She was the ultimate 60s chick appearing in Elvis musicals, beach parties, spy flicks, melodramas, westerns, the original Gidget, and guest starring on all the popular TV shows of the decade. She was tops as Batgirl and would bring a smile to my face Friday nights when she frequently popped up on Love, American Style. Below is my tribute to her cribbed from my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood:
Yvonne Joyce Craig was born on May 16, 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois. When her family relocated to Dallas, Craig began ballet training with Edith James. A superlative dancer, Yvonne wowed guest teacher Alexandra Danilova who chose her to be her protégé. It was through Danilova that Craig won a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York, which led her to become the youngest member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo where she progressed to soloist. While on tour in Hollywood, she passed on film offers but when she returned in 1957 (after abandoning a career in ballet possibly because she was a bit too voluptuous to be a dancer) she accepted the female lead in the handsomely produced western The Young Land (1959) starring Patrick Wayne as a lawman torn between the Anglos and Mexicans in the newly formed state of California. Craig with cleavage amply on display played his Senorita girlfriend. When filming was delayed, she accepted a supporting role in the teenage exploitation film Eighteen and Anxious (1958). More movie roles followed—the disapproving high school friend of Sandra Dee’s surfing sweetie in Gidget (1959) and a pony-tailed teenage vixen who puts the moves on shy drummer Sal Mineo in The Gene KrupaStory (1959). Craig also began appearing on the small screen with small guest roles on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Perry Mason, Bronco, Philip Marlowe, and a few appearances on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
In 1960, television viewers were treated to Yvonne Craig playing the sweet ingénue on episodes of The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Channing, The Dick Powell Show, Dr. Kildare, Follow the Sun, Hennessy, and many others. On the big screen she played a brainy college coed in the Bing Crosby comedy High Time (1960) where she met her first husband Jimmy Boyd (they divorced two years later) and a young nurse held captive by the Japanese in the WWII adventure Seven Women from Hell (1961). Craig then shocked her fans when cast as the town tramp who vamped rich playboy George Hamilton in By Love Possessed (1961). Sitting in his car, the amorous Craig seductively purrs, “If, ah, I get drunk and pass out…it’s no fun for me. If you get drunk and pass out…it’s no fun for me.” After their roll in the hay he gives her the brush off. Furious, the gold digging tart then accuses him of rape.
Craig’s big screen persona softened during the mid-Sixties after signing a contract with MGM and co-starring twice with Elvis Presley. In It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) she was a small town girl clad in a tight form-fitting dress caught making out on the family sofa with playboy pilot Elvis by her gun-toting father who runs the poor boy out of his house and in Kissin’ Cousins (1964) she vied with her hillbilly sister Pamela Austin for the charms of distant cousin GI Presley. In a surprising twist, brunette Craig’s charm lands the King while blonde Austin has to settle for another.
Craig was next wasted in a small part as a saloon girl in the comedy western Advance to the Rear (1964) starring Glenn Ford and Stella Stevens, and then played the spoiled fiancée of meek news reporter Robert Morse who almost loses him to half-Maori girl Anjanette Comer while on assignment in Antarctica in the lightweight romantic comedy, Quick, Before It Melts (1964). In Ski Party (1965) a beach party in the snow starring Frankie Avalon and Deborah Wally, Yvonne played the love interest of Dwayne Hickman. When she and Walley go gaga over ladies man Aron Kincaid, the guys dress in drag and pretend to be British lasses determined to discover what women look for in a man. Craig gives a perky performance and looks simply fetching in her ski outfits but unfortunately she is no where to be found when the bikini girls gyrate poolside to a warbling Avalon. Though a professional ballet dancer, Yvonne could not muster sixties pop go-go dancing.
At this time Yvonne started landing bigger and even more memorable roles especially in the spy genre on TV beginning with an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Brain Killer Affair” as the young innocent who joins Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo as he searches for U.N.C.L.E. chief Mr. Waverly who is being held prisoner by THRUSH agent Elsa Lanchester the creator of a mind-altering machine whose rays render the captive ineffectual. On The Wild Wild West Craig gave a passionate performance as the amusingly named Ectascy La Joie, a seductive assassin whose every attempt to kill a Middle-Eastern despot is foiled by Robert Conrad’s agent James West in “The Night of the Grand Emir.” For marquee name value only Craig appeared in added scenes in two theatrically released Man from U.N.C.L.E. features. In One Spy Too Many (1966) she played Leo G. Carroll’s niece who is attracted to Robert Vaughn’s virile agent. But the role was just created for gratuitous titillation as Craig is seen lying topless on her stomach in a bikini tanning under a sun lamp while working in the communication room at UNCLE headquarters. One of Our Spies Is Missing (1966) featured Craig as agent “Wanda” who unfortunately keeps her uniform on but has no interaction with any of the other actors in her brief scenes in the control room.
She next played a sexy mini-skirted scientist who recites a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo in the sci-fi cheapie Mars Needs Women (1966) opposite Tommy Kirk as a Martian sent to abduct nubile lasses to bring back to the Red Planet where their female population has plummeted. However despite the film’s tag line “They were looking for chicks…to go all the way!” it is not as fun as it sounds. After putting her ballet skills to good use in the more high profile role of a Russian ballerina/enemy agent in In Like Flint (1967) opposite James Coburn as suave Derek Flint (though she does her own dancing Craig was disappointed that they shot her scenes from what looks like the balcony), Yvonne landed the role that will make her live on in infamy—Batgirl on TV’s Batman. With the ratings falling during the second season, the producers wanted to inject the series with a female crime fighter. The network was skeptical but after watching Craig who measuring 37-23-35 was a knockout in her skintight purple cat suit during a short promo film Batman was renewed for a third season in 1967. Her meek librarian Barbara Gordon by day morphed into crime fighter Batgirl by night aiding the Dynamic Duo in keeping Gotham City safe from a rogue’s list of felonious felons. Her best episode was perhaps the first one that introduced her to the series as Barbara Gordon is kidnapped by Burgess Meredith’s Penguin who aims to marry her making him the son-in-law of the city’s police commissioner. Though Craig brought more excitement to the show it did not translate into bigger ratings so the series was cancelled in 1968.
Yvonne finished up the decade playing various roles on such series as The Mod Squad as a singer with meningitis on the lam from the mob in “Find Tara Chapman!,” Star Trek as a demented green-skinned alien denizen of a space asylum in “Whom Gods Destroy,” and Land of the Giants as a time-traveling researcher in “Wild Journey.” Yvonne also turned up four times on Love, American Style. She was perfect for this late ’60s/early ’70s lightweight satire on love between the sexes.
Yvonne returned to the big screen wearing a auburn wig in the comedy How to Frame a Fig (1971) playing a duplicitous secretary aiding crooked politicians to set up bookkeeper Don Knotts to take the fall for their looting of the town’s coffers. She is quite seductive in her fur coats and mini-dresses as she tries to romance Knotts to keep him distracted from catching on to the politicians’ scam but she disappears from the movie far too soon. The rest of her credits include small dramatic roles in the made-for TV movie Jarrett (1973) and on O’Hara, U.S. Treasury, Mannix, The Magician, Kojak, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Starsky and Hutch. Tired of being typed in sexy roles, Craig instructed her agents not to accept them anymore. Hence, her career came to a screeching halt as she wasn’t able to progress to mother-type roles. Needing to support herself, she obtained a real estate license while accepting an occasional acting role such as in “Remember…When?” on Fantasy Island in 1983. Yvonne received a resurgence of popularity when then the remake of Batman was released in 1989, which led to many talk show appearances and a small role in the direct-to-video comedy Diggin’ Up Business (1990). At this time, she began doing autograph conventions where she was a fan favorite. Her popularity inspired her to write her memoirs entitled From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond, which was released in 2000 by Kudu Press. After appearing as herself reminiscing about her dancing days in the documentary Ballet Russes (2005), she announced her retirement from making personal appearances in 2006 to spend more time with her husband Kenneth Aldrich whom she wed in 1988. Sadly, she passed away on August 17, 2015.
On August 14th the highly anticipated feature film The Man from U.N.C.L.E. starring Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin will be released. I am excited to see it since they are keeping the movie set in the 1960s and making it an origin story as how the two agents came to be paired up. Of course, the wildly popular TV series starred Robert Vaughn as Solo and David McCallum as Kuryakin. Every U.N.C.L.E. episode had lovely ladies in it and the film is no exception co-starring Elisabeth Debicki and Alicia Vikander.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E., (originally conceived by James Bond creator Ian Fleming as Solo), became one of the biggest hits on television during the 1964-65 season. Solo was teamed with sexy Russian Illya Kuryakin, both who took orders from their no-nonsense bureau chief Mr. Waverly (Leo G. Carroll).
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a true delight for young viewers, especially men as a number of sexy starlets including Senta Berger, Yvonne Craig, Carol Lynley, Danielle de Metz, Irene Tsu, Barbara Luna, France Nuyen, Luciana Paluzzi, Diane McBain, Anna Capri and others could be seen on the program. The show was so popular that a number of two part episodes were re-edited, padded with new footage or outtakes and rushed into theatres. During the show’s first two years on the air, fans could see their favorite U.N.C.L.E. stars on the big screen in To Trap aSpy(1965), The Spy with My Face (1965), One Spy Too Many (1966) and One of Our Spies IsMissing (1966). Unfortunately, as the series began to become more of a spoof than a dramatic show by season three, the quality of the program suffered though it vastly improved in Season four but not enough to defeat the weak ratings (NBC kept jerking fans around by moving the series time slot) killing the show in mid-season.
Over the years I have interviewed many an actress who worked on the series and below are some of the more notable:
Sharyn Hillyer recurring role as U.N.C.L.E. agent Wanda during 3rd season 1966-67
“There was always this flirtation between Wanda and Solo. I was usually in a huff because he would go off and get involved with other women. I was left back at headquarters so there were always scenes of me steaming. I remember one episode [“The My Friend the Gorilla Affair” (12/16/66)] where Vaughn’s character was going to Africa and I got to give him his inoculations before he went. And so Wanda kind of got even with him for always running off and flirting with women all over the world. She got to give him a number of shots with a big needle.
Robert Vaughn was nice and friendly enough but he kept to himself. He was professional but he wasn’t much fun. He wouldn’t hang out where as David McCallum would. David was playful and would have lunch with me. I don’t remember a lot about Leo G. Carroll. He didn’t hang around much between scenes. He was very nice and always courteous to me. He was also very generous as far as time and working with someone but he was sometimes a bit forgetful.”
Sue Ane Langdon in “The Shark Affair” aired October 13, 1964
“I had met Robert Vaughn previously before doing this. He has the same atmosphere about himself as Napoleon Solo in the show—a very tongue-in-cheek polish and too, too suave! Bob Culp played the villain and didn’t hang around the set that much. He was not unfriendly but we didn’t have much opportunity to talk to each other. I also think he immersed himself in his character on and off screen. I saw him years later and he was much looser with a great sense of humor. That didn’t come out when we worked together.”
Joan O’Brien in “The Green Opal Affair” aired October 27, 1964
“I played a housewife who was abducted off the streets of Bedesda, Maryland—I have an amazing memory, don’t I? This was fun to do because we had a scene where we had to run through the jungle barefoot chased by a live cheetah. I had to wear mold skin on my feet to help me from tearing up the skin. It was a very far out episode. Again it was fun, but not anything I’m extremely proud of.
Robert Vaughn and I went together for a couple of years prior to this. We had an on-again off-again relationship. He was fine to work with. David McCallum was a typical British actor. I really didn’t care for Carroll O’Connor who played the villain all that much. He was rather smug and not particularly warm. He was all business, but he did give me some interesting tips on acting. He told me I was moving my head around too much in the tight shots. I had never thought about that. He said, ‘If you really want people to listen to what you are saying and observe you closely don’t move your head. It’s distracting.’ I realized he was right and took his advice.”
Irene Tsu in “The Hong Kong Schilling Affair” aired March 15, 1965
“I remember working with David McCallum and he was a very precise actor. In one scene we were playing Chinese checkers. He didn’t want me to come in and say my line until he did a certain move. The first couple of times I goofed it up. He said sternly, ‘Don’t say anything until I make my move!’ I finally got it right.”
Danica d’Hondt in “The Girls of Nazarone Affair” aired April 12, 1965
“David McCallum was a nice guy and very professional to work. I wasn’t so impressed with Robert Vaughn who acted ‘the star.’ Sharon Tate was so sweet and we socialized a bit after this shoot. When I heard about her murder it was extremely disturbing to me. She was such a lovely girl.
I had to learn how to drive a finely tuned sports car called a Cobra. They had one that was the show’s car and another that was this guy’s prize possession that they were going to use for the speed scenes. Well, the TV car’s back axel locked so we could only use the really fancy one. The guy who owned it did not want me driving it. The stuntman had parked the car with the wheels turned and I didn’t notice that. They gave me strict instructions not to baby the car but to put my foot on the gas and go. I got in the car with this actor [Ben Wright], I said my lines, I put my foot on the gas and since the wheels were turned I was headed for about fifty crew members. I swung the car around and careened down the road. I think it was being in character that saved me otherwise I would have been too scared to do that. They got it all on film and everyone was thrilled to death except the poor guy in the car with me who I think had to go and change his underwear.
Danica is pictured holding pistol; Sharon Tate in center; and Kathy Kersh on right.
Kathy Kersh in “The Girls of Nazarone Affair” aired April 12, 1965
“I respected Robert Vaughn very much as an actor but he was rather pompous and a bit full of himself. At one point [during a fight scene], Sharon [Tate] was supposed to hold his arms back and I was supposed to hit him in the stomach. In the rehearsal, I didn’t hit him very hard. I didn’t have a lot of experience doing this so he stopped the scene and said, ‘Now look, you can hit me as hard as you want. Hit me as hard as you can.’ He was holding in his stomach tight. So I hit him and he said, ‘See, you can’t hurt me.’ He was a little annoying the way he carried on and on.
Before we actually went before the cameras, I said to Sharon, ‘When you grab his arms from behind rather than just grabbing him—I want you to grab his arms and snap him back. And then quickly stick your knee right in the small of his back. I’ll hit him in the stomach.’ Sharon was very athletic and she thought that it was a great idea. And that’s what we did. Sharon snapped him back, which he totally did not expect and I punched him good in the tummy. He doubled over. We really didn’t hurt him—that wasn’t the point—but it was his pride that was injured. I remember some of the cast and crew turning away so as not to laugh in front of him. After he got up he said something like ‘Maybe you shouldn’t do it like that.’ Sharon and I had a good laugh.”
Celeste Yarnall in “The Monks of St. Thomas Affair” aired October 14, 1966
“There is a great story of how I won this role. They were only auditioning French actresses like Claudine Longet for this part. I just signed with a new agent and told him I did dialects. He sent me to MGM to interview for this. When I walked in I said in a French accent, “Bon jour. My name is Celeste Yarnall and I’m from Paris.’ The producer [Boris Ingster] who was foreign, started speaking to me in French. I know only a little bit of French so I said using a French accent, ‘No, no, no. I am in this country to practice my English. Don’t speak French to me. I will read the script in English and you tell me how I do.’ One of the words in the script was the Beatles. When I got to it, I pronounced it ‘the Be-a-tles.’ They fell on the floor laughing and I got the part almost on the spot. After we started shooting, I said to Boris Ingster, using my normal American accent, ‘You know I’m really not French.’ His jaw dropped and he said that I had totally convinced them that I was from France.
Overall, doing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was an excellent experience for me. Robert Vaughn was wonderful to work with. He is a very elegant and intelligent man. I must have done a good job because it lead to many more acting offers for me.
Diane McBain in “The Five Daughters Affair” aired January 11 & 18, 1967
“[Fellow guest star] Telly Savalas was such a sexy man, very virile, as was David McCullum. Telly was the kind of man who could go up to any woman, sweep her into his arms and take her right there, no matter where. Not that he did that to me—I only imagined it. But, I’d bet a bundle he could. David McCullum wouldn’t have had any trouble doing the same thing, either. It may not be true, but I imagined these men had endless women crawling in and out of their dressing rooms, at all hours. When you work with actors in that milieu, especially on a set with limited contact, it is difficult to get to know them all that well. Telly seemed to keep to himself unless it had something to do with business. Then, he was always available. But, he was, on every relevant occasion, very pleasant to be around and to work with.”
Thordis Brandt in “The Prince of Darkness Affair Part II” aired October 9, 1967
“Robert Vaughn and David McCallum kept to themselves. Neither one socialized with me on the set.”
She had more fun working on the sister series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. “Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison were wonderful. Noel was such a sweet man. This show was a lot of fun to work on. The producers told me that they could use me in the background a lot if I could change the way I look. I was a real chameleon so I was able to pull it off.”
Marlyn Mason in “The Deadly Quest Affair” aired October 30, 1967
“We [Robert Vaughn and her] had to do a kissing scene In those days when people kissed on television and in movies it was all very tame stuff. There was no slurping and nobody was eating anybody’s face like you see nowadays. So we do this scene and Vaughn just jams his tongue down my throat. Of course the actress in me just kept on acting but I was not responsive. I was trying to keep my mouth shut. I was so stunned and I decided that I was just not going to say anything. We did this in one take but I thought, ‘There is no way that they are going to see this in the dailies and pass it. We’re going to have to do this again.’ Sure enough, the next day the director came and told us we had to do the scene over again. I was watching out of the corner of my eye as the director took Robert Vaughn aside and told him, ‘You can’t kiss her like that.’ We did it a second time and he made a half-ass attempt to do it again. But my mouth was tightly shut!”
Photo is from her Marlyn’s prior appearance in “The Fiddlesticks Affair.”
BarBara Luna in “The Man from Thrush Affair” aired December 4, 1967
“When I saw this episode recently it looked like I was walking through it. I was very boring in it. I thought Robert Vaughn was very good though. As for acting with him, he is not unpleasant to work with, just aloof. When I see him at conventions, he still is very aloof, but I like him anyway.”
To read more about the U.N.C.L.E. gals and other spy chicks, check out our book (co-written with Louis Paul) Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1963-1973 and some of my others: