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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

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Tom Lisanti is an award-winning author and historian on Sixties B-movies. He has written a series of books on the subject and has interviewed some of the most famous starlets of the time. His latest book Pamela Tiffin: A Career from Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 will be released in 2015.

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SHE WILL WRANGLE NO MORE. RIP MELODY PATTERSON

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).

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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:

http://www.amazon.com/Drive–Dream-Girls-B-Movie-Starlets/dp/0786471654/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1440522665&sr=1-1&keywords=drive-in+dream+girls

 

 

TRIBUTE TO YVONNE CRAIG, RIP

yvonne-craigLovely 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 Krupa Story (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.

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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.

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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.

 

HERE’S TO THE GIRLS FROM U.N.C.L.E.

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 a Spy (1965), The Spy with My Face (1965), One Spy Too Many (1966) and One of Our Spies Is Missing (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.”

MUSH

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.”

MUSAL

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.”

MUJOB

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.”

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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.

MUDD

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.

MUCY

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.”

MUDB

 

 

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.”

MUTB

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.”

 MUMM

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.”

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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:

 

The Girls on the Beach for the Beach Party Blogathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blogathon

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AQUARIUS, AQUARIUS

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

1. Salli Sachse in The Trip (1967)

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

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

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

3. Hilarie Thompson in Model Shop (1969)

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

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4. Tisha Sterling in Coogan’s Bluff

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

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5. Carol Lynley in The Poseidon Adventure

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

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Read more about these Sixties Starlets in my books:

 

 

ROBERTO CURTI DOES IT AGAIN

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

 

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

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

Gail and I receiving our IPPY Award.

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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