A HILL NAMED MARIANNA

Sultry Marianna Hill, profiled in my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood, was a typical 60s starlet who started out in small roles (The New Interns, Roustabout), got a break with a big time director (Howard Hawks’ Red Line 7000), co-starred opposite Elvis (Paradise, Hawaiian Style) and did tons of television.

However, Marianna was an atypical in that her 70s career out shined the 60s. First up was El Condor (1970), a personal favorite, where she played the often undressed mistress of General Patrick O’Neal trying to protect the secret of his Mexican fortress from scoundrels Jim Brown, Lee Van Cleef and a tribe of Apaches out to steal the gold supposedly hidden inside in this exciting spaghetti western.

Next came two of the strangest horror films of the decade. The Baby (1973) featured Hill as a wild-haired member of a wacko family of women who keep their adult brother in diapers and treat him as an infant while trying to outsmart nosy social worker Anjanette Comer leading to a truly surprising ending. She had the lead in the low-budget dark Messiah of Evil (1973) as a young woman who comes to a California coastal village searching for her missing father and encounters townsfolk who have turned into zombies.

Most popular was the Clint Eastwood-directed western High Plains Drifter (1973) with Hill as a feisty town belle who comes out swinging—insulting and slapping mysterious gunslinger Eastwood who has just killed a man in self defense. He rapes her with no consequence (“Isn’t forceful rape in a broad daylight still a misdemeanor in this town,” she exclaimed) and though she comes after him guns blazing she pretends to fall for him as he is hired to protect the town from advancing gunfighters. In cahoots with the bad guys, she sets him up for a failed assassination attempt.

Proving she had talent and versatility with her prior roles, the ultimate acting job came her way when she was cast in The Godfather: Part II (1974). This should have brought Marianna lots of attention as the grasping, complaining wife of John Cazale’s weak-willed Fredo Corleone but her best scenes were cut from the final print though they resurfaced on the deluxe DVD release years later.

During the remainder of the decade, Marianna made the requisite episodic TV appearances but deserved better than that and the roles offered to her in Grade Z horror movies beginning with Schizoid (1980) as a newspaper advice columnist who is in communication with a serial killer and Blood Beach (1981) as a woman investigating the mysterious death of her mother who was devoured by an underground creature while strolling on the sands of Santa Monica Beach. The best thing about the movie was its tag line lampooning Jaws “Just when you thought it safe to go back into the water, you can’t get across the beach.”

Though she gave it her all in these parts it was at this point where Marianna Hill’s career trailed off most likely from the actress’ frustration in not obtaining parts that were worthy of her talent and she became an acting coach.

 

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