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Happy Birthday Jeannine Riley!

ajeannineA busty brown-eyed blonde who resembled a cross between Carol Wayne and Deanna Lund, Jeannine Riley usually was cast as the naive hillbilly or slutty country girl on television and the big screen but she had the ability to do more. She is most remembered for TV’s Petticoat Junction as the rural comedy hit’s first Billie Jo from 1963 to 1965 (the b/w years that were rarely re-aired in syndication) or from TV’s corn pone Hee Haw beginning in 1969 as the first in a long line of scantily clad Daisy Mae types the Hee Haw Honeys. In between her many television appearances, Riley could be seen on the big screen in low budget drive-in fare such as Ted V. Mikel’s Strike Me Deadly (1963) and the race car drama Fever Heat (1968) to bigger budgeted movies which showcased her comedic abilities such as The Big Mouth (1967) with Jerry Lewis and The Comic (1969) with Dick Van Dyke.

Her most memorable movie with a big cult following was Electra Glide in Blue (1973) starring Robert Blake as a diminutive motorcycle cop of American Indian descent whose dreams of becoming a detective are realized when he questions rightfully an open-and-shut suicide.  However, now partnered with detective Mitchell Ryan, Blake’s integrity comes into play during the investigation of a murder as his adoration of Ryan turns to revulsion.  Riley surprises giving a poignant performance as Ryan’s embittered girlfriend who owns a dive bar where the walls are decorated with childhood pictures from her glory days in high school and as a young dancer who had dreams of going to Hollywood. More dramatic roles should have followed in the seventies but she was relegated TV only. She called it quits by 1980.

REad more about Jeannine Riley in my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood.

 

WESTWORLD, HO!

The one new fall TV series that I am truly looking forward to is Westworld on HBO due to debut this Sunday October 2, 2016. It is a remake of of one of my favorite sci-fi movies Westworld (adapted from the novel by Michael Crichton) released in 1973. The film featured in a supporting role the lovely former Playboy Playmate Anne Randall whom I interviewed in my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood.

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A sort of precursor to TV’s Fantasy Island, the exciting Westworld (directed and scripted by Michael Crichton) starred Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as rich vacationers to Delos, an adult-themed amusement park, where they can live out their wildest fantasies in wild west world, medieval world, or Roman world. The duo choose to play cowboys in the wild wild west where they battle with Yul Brynner’s robotic gunslinger when Delos’ robots start to flip their lids and begin killing the guests.

awestBefore Anne Randall was cast in Westworld, the lovely blonde was Playboy’s Miss May 1967 and appeared in a number of movies and TV shows. Most memorably she was a teenage temptress in the drive-in exploitation hit Hell’s Bloody Devils (1967); a sex shop receptionist in director Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969); and a gorgeous mostly topless private detective in Stacey (1973). Westworld would be her last film appearance. Here she played a sexy wench in the resort’s Medieval World and the first robot to malfunction striking guest Norman Bartold as a Knight trying to seduce her. Recalling her role, Anne Randall remarked in my book:

“It is one of the few movies I made that when watching it I thought, ‘I like this movie.’

Michael Crichton who wrote and directed this was absolutely brilliant. I loved and admired him. For my part they were looking for a girl to be sexy.  That was it. I wore sexy clothes and my hair long to try out for it. I didn’t have to read for Michael because all he did was talk with me. And I got picked for the part. I understand that is how he cast people because he figured if you already have gotten work you would not freeze on the set and should be easy to direct.  I just had a wonderful experience working with him.

I didn’t work with any of the stars because my character worked in Medieval World. My scenes were with character actor Norman Bartold who was a really nice guy.

I was surprised how popular Westworld became. It was the only movie that I was in that became such a smash at the box office.”

 

Happy Belated Birthday Diane Bond!

adianeDiane Bond was a real looker with long straight auburn hair, green eyes, and a distinctive look that set her apart from the young actresses of the day. The fact that she was extremely athletic and worked as a stunt woman also made her an atypical starlet. A shapely beauty (the press book for A Swingin’ Summer extolled her measurements as being “36-23-36”), Bond was bikini-clad in practically all her film appearances from Pajama Party with Annette Funicello, to Tickle Me with Elvis Presley, to A Swingin’ Summer as “The Girl in the Pink Polka Dot Bikini.” However, her most memorable movie was the spy spoof In Like Flint playing one of the three shapely beauties (bikini-clad, of course) who work for super cool spy Derek Flint (James Coburn). Bond didn’t take advantage of the movie’s success and moved to Rome, ala Mimsy Farmer, where she made a few films including Barbarella and House of a 1,000 Dolls with Vincent Price.

Read my interview with Diane Bond in my upcoming BearManor Media book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies.

 

Happy Birthday 60s Glamour Girl Anne Randall!

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A sexy mini-skirted blonde in the mode of Alexandra Hay and Melodie Johnson, Anne Randall, Playboy’s Miss April 1967, descended on late sixties movie audiences and epitomized the new breed of independent free-spirited women. You may remember her most from the classic sci-fi flick Westworld (soon to be a new HBO TV series) as a Medieval wench who is the first robot to flip her top. Her film debut was in Hell’s Bloody Devils in 1967 but she quickly progressed to more prestigious fare with The Split with Donald Sutherland; Jacques Demy’s Model Shop with Gary Lockwood; and the western A Time for Dying with Audie Murphy in his last film appearance. She spent time on TV’s corn pone Laugh-In rip-off Hee-Haw before returning to the big screen in drive-ins across the country playing leads in The Doomsday Voyage and Stacey. She retired from acting in 1979.

Read my interview with Anne Randall in Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood.

 

 

Happy Birthday 60s Starlet Mary Mitchel!

amaryPretty Mary Mitchel resembled and sounded a lot like Connie Stevens.  But Mitchel was more appealing and less annoying than her famous counterpart as she played the ingenue in various low-budget drive-in movies during the early to middle ‘60s.  She danced in the rock-and-roll musical Twist Around the Clock (1961) and screamed her way through Panic in Year Zero (1962), and the cult horror movies Dementia 13 (1963) and Spider Baby (1964).  In 1965, she hit the beach for typical teenage shenanigans in A Swingin’ Summer with William Wellman Jr. and Quinn O’Hara, and The Girls on the Beach with Martin West, Aron Kincaid, and Gail Gerber. During this period she was married to actor/producer Bart Patton. She retired from acting in 1968 to work behind the camera.

Read more about Mary Mitchel in my book Drive-in Dream Girls.

 

 

Happy Birthday Elvis Girl Ann Morell!

aannmA sultry petite raven-haired Texas beauty with a lilting Southern accent, Ann Morell decorated a number of sixties movies including two with Elvis Presley but never made it to the big time due to missed opportunities and her strict moral convictions.

Ann Morell’s screen debut was in the sci-fi film Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), which was filmed in her native Texas, followed by a bit role in the forgettable talking duck comedy Everything’s Ducky (1961). For the next couple of years, Morell worked steadily alternating between decorative roles and ethnic parts due to her dark exotic looks while posing for pin-up and cheesecake photos like every good starlet and contract player did during the sixties.  In the Robert Goulet comedy Honeymoon Hotel (1964) she was a newlywed, in John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965) she was one of the many starlets draped in veils as a harem girl, and in Red Line 7000 (1965), directed by Howard Hawks, she was the “Girl in the Café” jilted by two potential suitors after sultry French babe Marianna Hill saunters by. In between movies, Morell also kept busy on television in shows such as Burke’s Law and Branded opposite Burt Reynolds. Back on the big screen, Morell snuggled up to Elvis Presley playing one of the many sexy denizens at a dude ranch for models in Tickle Me (1965) and as a curvaceous brunette itching to work as Elvis’ secretary for his helicopter tour business in Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966). British blonde beauty Suzanna Leigh got the job in the movie while in real life she was nominated for “Star of Tomorrow” at the Hollywood Deb Star Ball in 1967 but lost out to Sivi Aberg.  On TV, Ann’s varied roles ranged from a sexy barber on It Takes a Thief and a Latin American revolutionary on Mission: Impossible, to appearing as herself on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and The Dating Game.

aelvis-3After being cast as a sexy Italian belly dancer in the long forgotten spy spoof The Phynx (1970), Ann Morell finally landed a co-starring movie role albeit in the Grade-Z production Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) directed by Al Adamson.  Sporting some of the shortest mini-skirts ever worn on screen, she played a former biker chick turned hippie who aides buxom Vegas lounge singer Regina Carroll search for her missing sister at a carnival freak show.  Ann’s last movie before retiring was as a prostitute during the Depression who befriends Barbara Hershey as Boxcar Bertha (1972) produced by Roger Corman and directed by Martin ScorseseUnfortunately, most of her scenes were cut and the film did not generate any more roles for her as her life took a new direction as wife and mother.

Read my interview with Ann Morell in my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood!

 

Beach Blanket Bingo! Birthday Greetings to Bobbi Shaw!

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Blonde bombshell Bobbi Shaw was known for her trademark saying, “Yah! Yah!” clad in her trademark fur bikini in a series of American International Pictures beach party movies beginning with Pajama Party (1964) where she was the sexy foil to comedian Buster Keaton. She made such a huge impression and became an instant fan favorite that AIP paired her again with Keaton in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). The studio let her stretch her acting chops to great amusement in bigger roles in Ski Party (1965) as an amorous Swedish ski instructor and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) as a conniving carnival worker. Once the tide rolled out for the beach movies, Shaw began doing improvisation and then teaching.

More on Bobbi Shaw with my interview with her in my upcoming BearManor Media book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies.

 

Happy Birthday to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’ Dolly Read & Cynthia Myers!

abeyond2Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was the story of All-American girl rock trio who travel across country to Hollywood where they are re-named the Carrie Nations by music industry impresario Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell (John Lazar) and experience fame, fortune, and heartache. Keeping with his casting of big bosomed actresses in lead roles such as Lorna Maitland in Mudhoney, Tura Satana in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and Erica Gavin in Vixen, it is not surprising that Meyer cast these two former Playboy Playmates as the girl rockers. British Dolly Read, Miss May 1966, played Kelly MacNamara the lead singer and long-lost niece of her dead mother’s sister Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis). Success goes straight to Kelly’s pretty head as she dumps naive Harris Alsworth (David Gurian) her loyal high school sweetheart and the band’s unofficial manager, falls in with the pot-smoking Hollywood in-crowd, and begins a romance with actor/gigolo Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett) who cajoles her to go after a bigger share of her grandfather’s inheritance held by rich Aunt Susan. Kewpie-face Read projected a sincere naivety with her performance as she spirals down into the valley of the dolls but comes to her senses, ditches the drugs, drops the suit, and reunites with a now paralyzed Harris who accidentally fell from a catwalk during one of her concerts. Read also convincingly lip-synched all her songs including “Come with the Gentle People,” which were actually sung by Lynn Carey and bared her breasts a number of times.

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Cynthia Myers, Playboy’s Miss December 1968, clinched the role of Casey the guitar-playing lost soul of the group due to her 39DD cup, which bosom master Russ Meyer flipped over. A powerful senator’s daughter who has been used and abused by men, Casey falls in love with Lesbian clothes designer Roxanne (Erica Gavin). However, when her jealous lover learns that she is pregnant by Harris after a drunken one night stand, she demands that Casey have an abortion. She goes through with it, but pays for her wanton ways when at the film’s climax she and Roxanne have their pretty little heads blown off by the crazed Z-Man who reveals a set of knockers to rival any Playboy Playmate. He goes off the deep end as Super Woman also beheading a bound Lance clad only in leopard bikini briefs.

Russ Meyer aimed Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to be “the first rock, horror, exploitation film musical.” And he succeeded spectacularly!

Read more about Dolly Read and Cynthia Myers in mu bool Glamour Girls of Sixtues Hollywood.

 

REVISTING MODEL SHOP (1969) WITH HILARIE THOMPSON & ANNE RANDALL


One of my favorite film genres is the alienated youth films from the late sixties. I am  a sucker for those movies featuring aimless young shaggy haired guys who reject conventionalism while trying to find themselves during such a turbulent period. For me, one of the best of this ilk is Model Shop, director Jacques Demy’s homage to the city of Los Angeles and the youth culture of the time. Not to everyone’s taste, it is very laid back as the cameras follow Gary Lockwood (fresh off 2001: A Space Odyssey) during the course of a day where he encounters practically every type of young person who populated LA ca. 1969 from grasping starlets to pot smoking hippies to long-haired musicians to radicals who want to change the world.

amodelA laconic Gary Lockwood, at his sexiest wearing tight blue jeans and a T-shirt, plays George Matthews an alienated twenty-six year old unemployed architect who quit his job because his creativity was being stifled by “the man.” He now has the draft hanging over his head and needs $100 to prevent his roadster from being repossessed. He lives with his vapid, self-absorbed blonde starlet girlfriend Gloria (lovely Alexandra Hay, the poor man’s Sue Lyon, who should have turned down the whininess a notch or two) who has given up on him because he won’t marry her or give her a baby.

amodel3The movie then follows George during the course of a twenty-four hour period as he drives around LA to get the cash. While trying unsuccessfully to borrow money from his friend who works as a parking lot attendant, George  spots a beautiful French woman (a touching Anouk Aimée) clad in a white form fitting dress with matching head scarf picking up her white Mercury convertible. On an impulse, George follows her out of the parking lot and into the Hollywood Hills where she enters a mansion with beautiful views of the LA basin. George drives off and picks up a hitchhiking hippie who needs a lift to the Sunset Strip. She chatters while rolling a joint, which she gives to him as payment for the ride before she hops out of his car.

amodel1George returns to his task of getting the dough to save his automobile and visits his friend the lead singer of Spirit. George hits pay dirt as the group’s first album is hot off the presses so they have money to spare. George takes it and stops at a burger joint to eat where he spots the French woman walking down the street. He follows her to the Model Shop where perverts can rent cameras at fifteen minute increments to take photos of their “models.” George chooses his mystery woman of course and learns her name is Lola. He barely says a word as he snaps away. The rest of the movie has George obsessed with Lola. While visiting some friends who publish an underground radical newspaper, we learn George is really a lost soul. They talk of the Vietnam War and George confesses his fear of death. He then recounts his feelings about LA when seeing that view from the Hollywood Hills and how he wants to design a building for the city he loves but doesn’t know how to begin. He then calls his parents in San Francisco and shockingly learns he is to report for military service the next day. Dumbstruck, he opts to spend time with Lola who he thinks he has fallen in love with (and eventually learns is an unhappy divorcee trying to earn money to return to France to see her 14 year old son) rather than with Gloria who is only interested in landing a TV commercial set up by a male friend. By fade-out George has lost most everything.

Both Hilarie Thompson and Anne Randall have small roles in Model Shop. Thompson is the pot smoking dark-haired hippie and Randall is the model/receptionist painting her toe nails at the Model Shop when George comes to see Lola the second time. Both actresses had scenes only with Gary Lockwood and both only had fleeting memories of him. Thompson said, “All that I remember about Gary is that he took me out on a date and tried to seduce me—unsuccessfully I might add.” Blonde Anne Randall must not have been Lockwood’s type as she remarked, “I found him to be very professional. By that, I mean, he didn’t ‘hit on’ me. I didn’t get to know him and I really can’t remember any kind of exchange with him.”

amodel2Despite their small parts, both actresses consider Model Shop one of the highlights of their careers due to director/writer Jacques Demy. Anne raved, “Jacques was a very nice man and so easy to work with. He was wonderful and [doing this film] is one of my favorite memories!” Thompson mused, “I hardly remember the picture itself but as I was playing this role I felt more like myself. I usually felt like a cartoon caricature of a hippie in most of the hippie roles that I played but not here. It’s hard to talk seriously about “hippies” these days because it is conceived as a silly, youthful fad. But I was a hippie. Having survived a harrowing, bohemian childhood, to finally be able to be the neurotic, war protesting, free loving and thinking person I was “raised” to be was quite liberating. The late 60’s liberated me from that 50’s and early 60’s bourgeois life style of the normal and functioning which my family was not.” Kudos must go to Jacques Demy for making such an exceptional film of this genre.

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You can read my interview with Hilarie Thompson in my book Drive-in Dream Girls and my interview with Anne Randall in my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NICOLETTA MACHIAVELLI!

NAVAJO JOE, Nicoletta Machiavelli, 1966

NAVAJO JOE, Nicoletta Machiavelli, 1966

 

 

A classic beauty with dark hair and olive skin, the late sultry Italian born Nicoletta Machiavelli made a name for herself in the popular spaghetti westerns of the sixties usually playing Native Americans or Mexicans. With her wind blown long mane of hair, dust on her clothes, and stunning vistas of Spain’s Almeria desert behind her, Nicoletta was visually perfect for the genre. She also spoke English fluently, which was a great asset since she was cast opposite many American actors. The Hills Run Red was her first, but the movie most remembered in the U.S. was Navajo Joe starring Burt Reynolds as the title character out for revenge with Nicoletta as a helpful Indian. It never received much of a release in America, but became infamous from all the bad-mouthing Reynolds has given it over the years. More spaghetti westerns followed including Hate Thy Neighbor; A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die; and Garter Colt. Nicoletta proved talented and versatile enough to work in other genres including very popular mid-sixties spy spoofs such as Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die and Matchless.

Read my interview with Nicoletta in my upcoming BearManor Media book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies.