R.I.P. Shelby Grant
I was saddened to learn that Sixties starlet Shelby Grant passed away on June 25, 2011 of a brain aneurysm. Married to actor Chad Everett since 1966, she is most remembered as being one of the Flint Girls in Our Man Flint (1966). Below is a profile excerpted from my book Film Fatales (co-written with Louis Paul).
Shelby Grant was born Brenda Thompson on October 19th, 1940 in Orlando, Oklahoma. After graduating college she became a schoolteacher but left the profession when she was discovered by a 20th Century-Fox talent scout and put under contract. Needing a more original name, she told columnist Hedda Hopper that she “drew Shelby Grant out of a hat.” Her first roles at Fox were bit roles playing a party guest in The Pleasure Seekers (1964) and a nurse in Fantastic Voyage (1966). Nevertheless, Grant got noticed and due to her poise, offbeat beauty, and talent she was voted a Hollywood Deb Star for 1966.
The classic spy spoof Our Man Flint (1966) stars James Coburn as Derek Flint, a hip high-living secret agent sharing his luxurious New York penthouse with four luscious international beauties— Leslie (Grant), Anna (Sigrid Valdis), Gina (Gianna Serra) and Sakito (Helen Funai). Their ideal living arrangement is interrupted by Lloyd Cramden (Lee J. Cobb) the head of ZOWIE when a computer picksFlint as the most qualified agent to stop an organization called GALAXY from controlling the world through its weather. As the shapely French cutie, Shelby Grant’s first appears on screen shaving Flint to the consternation of Kramden who has come to personally plead with Flint to accept his assignment. After Flint refuses, he accompanies his lady friends (in beautifully designed futuristic evening gowns by Ray Aghayan) to one of New York’s most fashionable restaurants. As Flint is dancing with Sakito, one of GALAXY’s assassins’ Gila (Gila Golan), thrusts a poison dart at Flint. It misses him but instead hits Cramden. The murder attempt forces Flint to change his mind and flush out GALAXY. He bids his women adieu and heads to France when he learns that three of GALAXY’s top agents are operating out of Marseilles. Flint is seized and taken to a remote volcanic island off of Italy where he learns his lovely roommates have been programmed into pleasure units. Flint finds Leslie and the rest of the girls in the “reward rooms.” He de-programs them (“You are not a pleasure unit”) and sabotages GALAXY’s weather controlling machine. As the island paradise blows upFlint gets his girls out of danger by putting them in barrels and floating them to safety.
As with the other actresses, Grant plays her part enthusiastically. She commented to Hedda Hopper, “I had some good action, a chic wardrobe and featured billing.” However, most of the time Grant and the other girls are there to just fawn over Coburn’s Flint. They are forever kissing him or looking adoringly into his eyes. So it is a bit surprising—or maybe not—that by the film’s end they heartily accept Gila into their circle. Most of Grant’s reviews were like Variety, which found she and the others “nice to look at” or Leo Mishkin of the Morning Telegraph who wrote “Gila Golan, Gianna Serra and all the others decorate the scenery most attractively.” In the film’s sequel the number of girls is reduced from four to three with none of the actresses from Our Man Flint reprising their roles.
Grant curtailed her acting career to raise a family but did appear in the low-budget cult horror movie The Witchmaker in 1969 and a handful of episodes in her husband’s popular TV series Medical Center during the Seventies as seen below.