JILL HAWORTH: LIFE WAS A CABARET OLE CHUM

Over the past year, a number of 60s personalities have died, but the one that has most saddened me is Jill Haworth who died in her sleep yesterday. She was one of my most favorite interviews as she graciously invited me into her home in 1999. She was just so saucy and honest holding nothing back. What makes it even sadder for me is that I am reading the new entertaining Sal Mineo bio by Michael Gregg Machaud and Jill is quoted extensively throughout as she had a long romance and friendship with the actor.

Petite blonde Jill Haworth made three movies while under personal contract to Otto Preminger–Exodus (where she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Female Newcomer), The Cardinal, In Harm’s Way–before going freelance. After starring in the British horror movie It! she landed the role of Sally Bowles on Broadway in Cabaret. The musical was a huge hit and Jill remained in the role for 2 1/2 years. To this day I still prefer the original cast album over the movie’s. Especially love Jill’s singing “Don’t Tell Mama.”

Surprisingly, when she returned to Hollywood in 1969 all she could get were TV guest spots and thrillers (including The Haunted House of Horror with Frankie Avalon, Horror on Snape Island, and a TV-movie that gave me the creeps as a kid, Home for the Holidays with Sally Field whom Jill adored). Though Jill never stepped on a Broadway stage again, she did do regional and Off-Broadway theater during the 70s and 80s (There’s a Girl in My Soup, Butterflies Are Free) and then concentrated solely on voice over work. She did one last movie Mergers & Acquisitions in 2000 playing a loopy ex-hippie mother of two competing sons. She stole the movie and was the hit of a screening I saw on top of a hotel in Manhattan one summer night.

Below are some of Jill’s sassiest comments to me:

When asked what she thought of John Wayne from In Harm’s Way.

“He was the meanest, nastiest man with the worst attitude I ever worked with.”

Asked why she stayed in Cabaret so long, she jokingly replied:

“Just to spite Walter Kerr.” (Who in his NY Times review wrote maliciously and unjustly “the musical’s one wrong note is Jill Haworth whose worth no more to the show than her weight in mascara.”)

When asked if she ever had a chance to play Sally in the film version of Cabaret, she said:

“No, they always wanted Liza Minnelli for the movie. She’s still doing the movie!”

When Cabaret was revived on Broadway in 2000 with Natasha Richardson and Alan Cummings, Jill was miffed that she was not invited to the opening. When I said “maybe they couldn’t find you”, she snapped, “I have only been living in the same apartment since 1966!”

Jill never let her stardom go to her head. She was in awe of her Sutton Place neighbor Greta Garbo who walked her dog almost the same time Jill would walk hers. But Jill was too shy to ever say anything. After Cabaret opened, she passed the reclusive star who said, “Good morning Miss Haworth” to which Jill replied, “Good morning Miss Garbo.” Jill told me that was worth more to her than anything.

Finally, I received one of the nicest compliments from her after my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema was released (now available in soft cover). She called to thank me for including her and told me that of all the interviews she had given, the piece I wrote really sounded like her and she appreciated that. Farewell dear Jill. Here’s hoping you went like Elsie…

 

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  • Cyrena Esposito

    Tom,
    thank you for this. I’m a very close friend of Jill… and there is no one with more wit, class, and heart than Ms. H. I will miss her terribly… this is wonderfully written and from someone who knew her very well, right on… Perfect. This says it all.

     
     
     
  • Hi Tom. Thanks for mentioning my biography of Sal Mineo. Jill never spoke about her love for and life with Sal before. I contacted her nearly six years, and she was forthcoming, trusting, very funny, and brave and generous with her recollecions. She shared letters, telegrams, and personal photographs with me, and my story of Sal would have been incomplete without her loving contributions. I am stunned by her passing and talked with her the day before she died. I will miss her. Michael Gregg Michaud

     
     
     
  • Thank you for your kind article. I met her twice. Once as a very young teenager accompanying my father on the set of “In Harms Way” in late 1964; the other after one of her performances in “Cabaret.”

    A truly nice and unpretentious young lady;I was shocked when I saw her obituary.

    Thank you again.

     
     
     
    • She was one of my favorite interviews. She was outrageously funny and didn’t care who she trashed.

       
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