52 Years Ago Today…
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini opened starring Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley, Aron Kincaid, Nancy Sinatra, Quinn O’Hara, Harvey Lembeck, Bobbi Shaw, Piccola Pupa, Claudia Martin, and Susan Hart. Plus the regular cast of beach boys and girls including Ed Garner, Christopher Riordan, Salli Sachse, Mary Hughes, Patti Chandler, and Luree Holmes.
Financially the least successful of the Beach Party movies, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini put the nail in the coffin for the genre at AIP. After six movies, seven if counting Ski Party, the beach films was getting tired. AIP tried to pump life into it by shifting the locale to a creepy mansion and mixing aspects of the beach-party formula with the horror genre and populating it with fresh faces. Three heirs (Kirk, Walley, and Patsy Kelly) to a fortune gather at Hiram Stokely’s mansion for the reading of his will unaware that his crooked lawyer (Basil Rathbone) with the help of his near-sighted but knockout of a daughter (O’Hara) and a bunch of bungling circus performers (Shaw, Jesse White, Benny Rubin replacing the ill Buster Keaton, and a gorilla) plans to off them so he can steal the inheritance. His nevarious plot goes awry due to the interference of a beautiful ghost in an invisible bikini (Hart) who is sent down by Hiram (Boris Karloff) to make sure the money winds up in the rightful hands. There’s nary a beach or a surfboard in sight, which greatly hurts the movie. Instead all the action takes place at a spooky old estate with a fair number of scenes around an in-ground swimming pool with boys in bathing trunks and girls in bikinis twisting to the sounds of The Bobby Fuller Four and Nancy Sinatra. The less said about that Italian “singing sensation” Piccola Pupa the better.
Commenting on the shoot, are a number of its stars from my books Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies; Hollywood Surf & Beach Movies: and Drive-In Dream Girls.
Bobbi Shaw on Harvey Lembeck:
“Harvey was amazing and always a joy. You could tell he just loved what he did waking up in the morning and showing up on the set. We always had fun. After we finished making the beach party movies, Harvey started a comedy group and asked me to join. I didn’t, but he was always sweet and friendly. His wonderful son Michael directed Friends for many years and we are buddies.”
“When I first met him I was so afraid I’d say, ‘Rasil Bathbone’ that I actually did! He was a charming man. I heard that during his heyday in Hollywood he and his wife would throw the most magnificent parties. I was just so happy to play his daughter.”
“One day they sprayed the wig and turned on the big lights for a scene. The make-up girl came over to powder me and she turned her head away as she did it. Then the guy who measures the distance for the lights came near me and let out a, ‘whoa!’ I thought, ‘My gosh, what is the matter?’ The director [Don Weis] started to come over and he wouldn’t get close to me. I started to get upset. Finally, somebody came over and asked me, ‘What’s the matter?’ I answered, ‘I don’t know but something is wrong because everybody who comes over to me looks at me funny, turns around and walks away. Please what is it? Do I smell or something?’ Turns out that the damn sheep oil got so hot that I started stinking like a sheep. I couldn’t smell it because not only did I have it on all that time but they had those big fans blowing as well.”
“Aron Kincaid is a fabulous guy. He was the most dedicated, serious guy I ever worked with who wanted to become a movie star. He actually lived, breathed, and ate show business. I was amazed. He couldn’t believe that I couldn’t give a hoot about it.”
“I adored Quinn O’Hara. I had known her for a few years prior to this. She was a wonderful girl and an actual beauty queen—Miss Scotland. She had been at Universal when I was there. I had always said that once they put her in color everything would change. She looked great in black and white but nothing like she did in person.”