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52 Years Ago Today…

Frankie and Johnny opened starring Elvis Presley, Donna Douglas, Sue Ane Langdon (who previously worked with Elvis in Roustabout), Anthony Eisley, and Nancy Kovack. A bit different than the typical Elvis film, Frankie and Johnny was based loosely on the classic folk song.  Set on a Mississippi gambling-showboat circa 1865, it featured Elvis as Johnny a singer and gambler who loves Frankie (Douglas) but she refuses to marry him until he gives up gambling. Together they perform on a showboat owned by Clint Braden (Eisley). Johnny tries to give up gambling but a fortune teller reveals that a beautiful redhead will soon enter his life and change his luck.  Things get complicated when the redhead turns out to be Nellie Bly (Kovack) the former lover of Braden. Frankie becomes jealous of Nellie who is only using Johnny to get Braden to marry her and Braden becomes jealous of Johnny. Amidst this complicated quadrangle, Langdon livens up the proceedings as Mitzie, Frankie’s ditzy lovelorn showgirl friend.

“I truly enjoyed my part of Mitzi in Frankie and Johnny,” says Langdon“I had a great time with that role. I didn’t notice any change with Elvis. He seemed pretty much the same—still a very nice guy.  Donna Douglas was of interest to him at that time and he was spending a lot of time with her.  I just hung out with the guys on the set like I did on Roustabout.  Whenever you were with Elvis for the most part you were with his entourage.  Those guys were always around but they were all very nice.  I really had a great time working with Elvis but I don’t think he was that comfortable appearing in movies.  He was much more relaxed as a singer on stage…”

Read more of my interview with cover girl Sue Ane Langdon in my book Drive-In Dream Girls.

 

 

 

52 Years Ago Today…

Harper opened. This hard-boiled detective yarn starred Paul Newman as a gumshoe hired by the icy paralyzed Lauren Bacall to investigate the disappearance of her hated wealthy husband and the father of her stepdaughter Pamela Tiffin. There are a lot of red herrings in this mystery played by the likes of Arthur Hill, Robert Webber, Julie Harris, Robert Wagner, Strother Martin, and Shelley Winters. As the sex-starved heiress Miranda, Tiffin almost steals the film with her seductive dance in a bikini atop a diving board. As the hated daughter and stepmother Elaine, Tiffin and Bacall have a number of great catty moments, which were superbly acted. After hearing that Miranda has been rejected by private pilot(Wagner), Elaine maliciously quips to Miranda, “I should think you’d be accustomed to not being loved by now.”  Miranda responds, “I love your wrinkles.  I revel in them.” When an unmoved Elaine learns that her husband has been murdered, she calls out to Miranda in a singsong voice, “Miranda!  Mommy has something to tell you!”

Pamela described Paul Newman as being “attractive, professional, and a car lover.” She added, “I was veryimpressed with Lauren Bacall but she was very tense and stand-offish. Since Paul Newman likes to rehearse, we gathered around a long table and ran lines for a week, if not more. Everyone was there except Lauren Bacall because she wanted to be the big movie star. I couldn’t be angry at her or feel slighted because I thought she was fascinating!”

Read more in my McFarland and Co. book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961 – 1974.

 

50 Years Ago Yesterday…

Wild Racers opened starring Fabian and Mimsy Farmer. He is arrogant race car driver Joe Joe Quillico who calls himself “Joe Joe Quillico, King of the Hillico. They call me Joe Joe, because I have the mojo.” After being banned from NASCAR racing in the U.S. due to an accident he caused, he has moved abroad to compete in Formula One and sports car prototype racing on the European Grand Prix circuit. She is a tourist who hooks up with him and follows from race to race.

This was the only film Mimsy Farmer did for AIP that was not a hit with the drive-in crowd. Though featuring great racing sequences comparable to Grand Prix and Le Mans, the film directed by Daniel Haller may have been too artsy for the typically teenage and drive-in audience. The quick edits and off-camera conversations over nicely shot racing footage may have been bit much for them. However, this stylized approach is what makes the movie way above average. It is also buoyed by the interesting mix of French pop songs by Pierre Vassiliu with a bouncy music score by Mike Curb, and from the fine performances from the two leads. Fabian, who with his boyish looks, makes Joe Joe likable despite his self-centered attitude and Mimsy Farmer, with her short hair worn in a small pony tail, is adorably sweet and innocent as the girl who almost tames him.

Read more about Mimsy Farmer in my BearManor Media book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies.

 

55 Years Ago Today…

…Come Fly with Me opened. Pamela, Tiffin, Dolores Hart, and Lois Nettleton portray stewardesses who fly the New York to Paris and Vienna routes. Hart is a gold digger who thinks she has landed a rich handsome baron in Karl Boehm but he is broke and using her unwittingly to smuggle diamonds. As the innocent virgin, Pamela competes for playboy co-pilot Hugh O’Brian with his married lover Dawn Addams. While the jaded though wiser Nettleton lands widowed tycoon Karl Malden without realizing he is loaded.

“I remember Hugh O’Brian was always busy being a playboy,” said Pamela Tiffin. “He played a playboy in the movie and lived it fully in real life! Dolores Hart and I had some nice conversations. She is a warm, decent, and vulnerable woman. Dolores had some unhappy experiences in love matters. And if I’m not mistaken, she was ending one up at the time. She told me the story and was still very upset about it. She said she was going to enter a convent. And at that time I couldn’t understand it. I said, ‘Oh, but you don’t want to, Dolores!’ Now I understand it.  So there she is.”

Read more behind-the-scenes stories in my book Pamela Tiffin:Hollywood to Rome, 1963-1974.

 

51 Years Ago Today…

The AIP racecar drama Thunder Alley opened. Fabian is a stock car racer suspended from racing after he causes the death of another driver. He goes to work for promoter Jan Murray’s “thrill circus” and falls for his daughter Annette Funicello. If you can’t get Frankie Avalon, Fabian is a nice subsitute. Diane McBain is once again the bad girl as Fabian’s thrill-seeking  former girlfriend who uses rival racecar driver Warren Berlinger to get back at her ex. Though directed by Richard Rush (The Stunt Man), Thunder Alley is a standard programmer but perfect for the sixties drive-in crowd. Choreography was actor/dancer Christopher Riordan and former beach party gals Salli Sachse, Mary Hughes, and Luree Holmes decorate the background.

Commenting in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema, Diane McBain said with a laugh:

“I don’t remember much about this film.  Most of my off screen time was spent watching them film In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier next door…But I did enjoy working with Fabian.  He’s very nice.”

 

51 Years Ago Today…

 

 

The hit spy movie In Like Flint opened, the sequel to the popular Our Man Flint (1966) that introduced James Coburn as suave secret agent Derek Flint to the masses. Here he must thwart a secret society of women who are plotting to take over the world.  Led by Lisa (Jean Hale) and the three top female fashion leaders, they operate from a lavish spa in the Virgin Islands called Fabulous Faces.  Their plan is to take over a space station that controls nuclear weapons. To reach their goal, they disguise two of their women as golf caddies and kidnap the president of the U.S. and replace him with an imposter (who eventually turns on them).  To get the rest of the female population to support them, their clientele get “brain and hair washing at the same time.”  Flint’s three lovely assistants (Diane Bond, Mary Michael and Jacki Ray) however are able to resist to the chagrin of the nefarious ladies.

 

Jean Hale recalled working with Coburn and remarked in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema, “James is adorable and easy, yet challenging to work with. He is a very sweet, gentle man. When I went on tour to promote the film, the big question was always, ‘What was it like to kiss James Coburn?’  I’d respond, ‘it was lovely but all in a day’s work.’”

Diane Bond  only had kind words to say about James Coburn but not so much about Jean Hale in Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies, “We passed a lot of time together and he was a splendid, jovial person, always joking. He was very down-to-Earth and you could even tell that from his body language…Jean Hale was really unsexy and I thought someone better could have been the lead.” Meow!

 

51 YEARS AGO TODAY…

50 years ago today, Harry Alan Towers’ grade-B exploitation film House of 1,000 Dolls opened in the U.S. starring the slumming Vincent Price as a mad magician and Martha Hyer as his willing assistant who get sexy women audience members to volunteer for their act and then sell them into white slavery. Diane Bond played one of them and commented, “Towers was a real sleaze of a person…The whips were supposed to be fake but there were only a couple and the rest were real. That’s what the thug picked up as the film was rolling. I screamed and the director Jerry Summers must have thought what a great actress…” Read more in my book Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies from BearManor Media

 

TRIBUTE TO MARY HUGHES

Remembering the late Mary Hughes on her birthday. A sexy statuesque blonde in the tradition of Brigitte Bardot, she was the perpetual Sixties beach bunny and stood out from all the other girls on the beach due to her eye-popping proportions—standing 5-foot-9 and measuring 36-22-36.  Most of the other gals on the sand could turn as many heads, as she.

Mary Hughes was raised in Southern California and attended University High School.  A true California beach girl, the tanned beauty with the long white-blonde hair would drive the surfers of Malibu crazy every time she laid foot on the sand.  It was there where she was discovered by director William Asher. Needing more beach girls to populate the background of Muscle Beach Party (1964), the sequel to the previous year’s Beach Party, Mary Hughes was literally whisked off the sands of Malibu by Asher and brought to the attention of AIP.  Though she had nothing more to do in the movie than to look good in a bikini, nobody did it as sexily as Mary.

She quickly followed this with appearances in Bikini Beach (1964) and Pajama Party (1964).  The latter featured a beach volleyball game and though one of the players was the sexy Susan Hart male viewers couldn’t take their eyes off of the stunning Hughes just standing on the right watching the antics.  AIP signed the lissome sexpot to a contract sending her on public relation tours around the country to promote the beach films.  Despite the fact that she rarely uttered a line of dialog, she became one of AIP’s most popular starlets.

In Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) she has an amusing bit during the film’s opening song as she smashes an ice cream cone into the face of surfer boy Mike Nader (“Right blanket, wrong miss,” sing Frankie and Annette) before she fades into the background.  Ski Party (1965) gave Hughes billing on its poster ads but she does not appear in any of the ski scenes filmed in Sun Valley.

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) features an entertaining segment with Hughes (actually speaking a line), Patti Chandler, Marianne Gaba, and the other beach girls who through song try to persuade adman Mickey Rooney that they had what it takes to be “the girl next door” in his motorcycle ad campaign.  When they cavort and sing, “We’re the chicks who know all the tricks—hey, what about us?” you could not help but agree.

In Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), Hughes played Robot No. 6 programmed by Vincent Price as the evil Dr. Goldfoot to marry then kill a wealthy surgeon in Denmark.  The last of the AIP beach movies, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), features Hughes wearing an unflattering thick red headband throughout the movie but her hot body is prominently on display as she dances and shakes poolside.

Hughes next put on some clothes for her final two movies at AIP.  In Fireball 500 (1966), she was one of the many fawning fans of racecar driver Fabian.  The gals trail him wherever he goes and where his name on the butt of their shorts.  In another AIP racecar movie, Thunder Alley (1967) starring Fabian and Annette Funicello, Hughes pops up dancing at the local club where the drivers hang out and unwind.  In between, she was cast as one of the Slaymates in the Matt Helm spy spoof, Murderers’ Row (1966).  Though draped in widow’s weeds, Hughes is easily recognizable from the other girls due to her golden flaxen-hair.  Later she is seen scantily clad as Miss September as she and the other Slaymates surround Martin’s enormous bath tub.

Hughes final film was the swinging London-set musical Double Trouble (1967) starring Elvis Presley where she was hired as a Watusi dancer.  Hughes then became part of that hip late sixties music scene and had romances with Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Roger Daltrey.  While a member of The Yardbirds, Beck composed the song “Psycho Daisies” to prove his devotion to Hughes.

Hughes last professional show business gig was as one of the four “Operation Entertainment Girls” along with Sivi Aberg, Thordis Brandt, and Eileen O’Neill on the 1968 TV variety series Operation: Entertainment who performed each week with guest stars entertaining the troops around the U.S. and the world.

She sadly passed away from Cancer in 2007, shortly after reuniting with beach girls Salli Sachse, Patti Chandler, and Linda Opie for a special Vanity Fair photo tribute to the beach party movies.

 

 

 

MIKE NADER TRIBUTE

Sixties actor Mike Nader just celebrated a birthday so I thought I would pay tribute to the former surfer who stayed afloat in Hollywood long after the tide washed away the Beach Party movies. Tall, slim, athletic, with dark haunting features Mike immediately took to acting and the camera took to him.  Nader was just a part of the beach crowd in Beach Party (1964) and the first few sequels.  He graduated to featured player status with roles in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), Ski Party (1965) and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), and on TV opposite Sally Field in the sitcom Gidget.

Michael Nader was born in St. Louis, Missouri on February 18, 1945.  When he was a small child his family relocated to Beverly Hills, California.  He attended Vista Grammar School and Beverly Hills High School where he became friendly with Ed Garner.  However, Nader was not part of that Beverly Hills crowd of mansions and Porsches.  His family lived in an apartment and he drove an old Woodie.  At school, his rebellious demeanor was forever getting him into trouble.  Surfing was his only escape.  He remarked in TV Guide, “You got a pair of trunks, the ocean, a board under you—and no regulations.”  Nader began hanging out with that legendary Malibu surfer crowd that included Mickey Dora and Johnny Fain.

Mike Nader was apart of the group of friends that Ed Garner introduced to director William Asher to surf double and populate the background in Beach Party (1963).  Asher immediately took to the young surfer and gave him lots of screen time.  Though he didn’t have many lines, Nader had a charisma that came across on the screen and made him a standout from the rest of the crowd. Nader remained part of the contingent of surfer boys in Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964) and Pajama Party (1964) but he began studying acting with guidance from Harvey Lembeck.

He finally broke free from the surfer boy pack in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965).  With John Ashley playing Frankie Avalon’s rival, this left the best friend role vacant.  Nader was then cast as boyish Butch, loyal buddy to Frankie and boyfriend of the amorous Animal played by Playboy Playmate Donna Michelle. However, his bromance moment with surfer Johnny Fain feeding him weiners during Donna Loren’s moment singing about unrequited love stands out.

In Ski Party (1965) Mike played college guy addle-brained Bobby, who with Steven Rogers as his pal, try to make time with Bobbi Shaw’s Swedish ski instructor.  Yah! Yah! In How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) he was once again the boyfriend of Animal, now played by yet another Playboy Playmate Marianne Gaba, though his character was named Mike. With Frankie away on naval reserve duty, Mike’s loyalty switched to Frankie’s best friend, Johnny. In all his movies, Mike knew how to shake his cute booty and was always featured front and center during the dancing sequences.

In the fall of 1965, Nader played the recurring role of Peter Stone on the Gidget series starring Sally Field from 1965-66.  After finishing out his contract with AIP by playing Joey in the action film Fireball 500 (1966) with Frankie and Annette trading their surfboards for stock cars, Nader headed for New York.  He was accepted into Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio and for the next ten years he studied and performed in Off-Broadway plays.  To earn money he waited tables and as with other beach party veterans such as Aron Kincaid and Salli Sachse he began modeling.

In 1976 Nader was cast as Kevin Thompson, a proposed love interest for the soap’s resident suffering antagonist and lush Dr. Susan Stewart (Marie Masters) in the daytime drama As the World Turns.  He described the character as “a mysterious unknown entity.”  When his contract ended in 1978 (his character, after helping Susan sober up, was killed off), Nader abandoned New York for Hawaii to surf and to reevaluate his life.

Instead of returning to the Big Apple, he decided to move back to Los Angeles in 1981.  He landed the role of handsome Greek Alexi Theophilus in the short-lived 1983 primetime soap Bare Essence starring General Hospital cast-off Genie Francis (ex-Laura) proving that daytime popularity does not guarantee primetime success.  He then beat out Dino Martin and Jon-Erik Hexum, among others, for the role of sexy and suave Dex Dexter who stole the heart of Joan Collins’ Alexis Carrington Colby on Dynasty from 1983-89.  Nader commented in Hollywood Drama-Logue, “I didn’t have the look they wanted.  I was the only one with a dark Mediterranean look.  But Joan and I clicked with the spirit they wanted.”  His love scenes with Collins smoldered across the small screens of America.  The role made Mike Nader an international TV star.  He was voted one of the sexiest men of the decade and was chosen to play Susan Lucci’s leading man in the TV-movie Lady Mobster (1988).

After Dynasty ended, Nader appeared in a few forgettable TV movies including Nick Knight (1989) and The Flash (1990), and the miniseries Lucky/Chances (1990).  In 1991 he joined All My Children as the mysterious count Dimitri Marick paired with Lucci’s Erica Kane and had another long run playing the part until 1999 when his role was written out.  However, the fans were outraged and flooded the network with complaints.  The soap rehired Nader in 2000 only to fire him a year later due to his arrest for possession of and selling cocaine at a social club.  The charges were reduced to misdemeanor possession and Nader entered a treatment program admitting to his drug and alcohol abuse.  Despite his taking responsibility for his actions, the producers of All My Children still refused to take him back after a nine-month recovery period.  Nader remarked to the New York Post, “And I was shocked because, you know, it hurts.”  He filed a lawsuit but it was thrown out of court. He returned to an online reboot of All My Children in 2013 reprising his role. Unfortunately, the show was officially declared dead after short one season. This was Nader’s last known acting role.

Mike Nader is featured prominently in my book Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969.

 

NOVA SPEAKS! LINDA HARRISON REMEMBERS PLANET OF THE APES

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the original Planet of the Apes, I am re-sharing a revised interview with the original Nova Linda Harrison that ran in Filmfax magazine.

Linda Harrison will always be remembered as the beauty among the beasts. She left an indelible impression on 1960s moviegoers as the mute Nova, opposite Charlton Heston’s lost astronaut, Taylor, in the classic sci-fi films, Planet of the Apes (1968) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). With her long, dark hair and big, brown eyes, Linda had the perfect qualities to bring Nova to life on the big screen. “Nova means new,” reminded Linda Harrison. “I felt very comfortable playing her. I didn’t even have to audition. Dick told me I had the look they wanted.” Dick was Richard Zanuck, then head of 20th Century-Fox. It was on the studio lot that Linda met Zanuck, whom she married in 1969.

Beauty pageants led to an introduction to a young agent named Mike Medavoy who helped Linda get signed by 20th Century-Fox. The studio was restarting its acting school program for its contract players. At the time, the acting roster included Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Selleck, Christina Ferrare, Lara Lindsay, and Corinna Tsopei. After playing small roles in the unfunny Jerry Lewis comedy Way…Way Out (1966) and the better received comedy The Guide for the Married Man (1967) with Walter Matthau and Robert Morse, Zanuck then handed the brunette beauty the role she would become world famous for that of Nova in Planet of the Apes.

Before she was given Nova, Linda was part of the make-up creations by John Chambers who would go on to win a special Academy Award for his ingenious work. “I was used as a model for the make-up. That is what contract players did back then. You were being paid a weekly salary so sometimes you had to do things like this. The studio heads wanted to see if the makeup was doable. At that point they hadn’t green lighted Planet of the Apes yet. I had to lay back and be perfectly still as they put this plaster mold on my face. You had to know how to control your body. The whole process took about three hours.”

Lucky for Linda and Charlton Heston, they didn’t have to go through this process daily unlike co-stars Hunter and McDowall. Recalling the cast, Harrison remembered, “He [Heston] had a quiet quality about him. Charlton was gentle and was always looking after me. He taught me how to favor the camera. As an actor, I was someone he kind of took under his wing, which was good for the film. Sometimes, simple things like that transfer to the screen, and are very dramatic.”

“Roddy and Kim were great people and fabulous troopers. I’m not just saying that; they were pros. They had a difficult time with all that makeup. And they had to report to the set at 3:00 am!”

Director Franklin J. Schaffner (who would go on to win a Best Director Academy Award for Patton) was chosen to direct and per Linda had his own vision for the movie. “He was a very interesting man—very quiet. I remember Dick and I would have dinner with the assistant director on the movie. He and Dick were best friends. He would tell us nobody knows what the next shot will be, because Schaffner keeps it in his back pocket. He would only tell his cameraman, Leon Shamroy. But that lent itself to this kind of picture. It gave the actors a very interesting edge, not knowing what to expect next. I think his directly style worked very effectively.”

One of the film’s many standout scenes and one that remained vivid in Linda’s mind was when the audience first sees the marauding gorillas on horseback hunting the humans in the forest backed by Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting Oscar-nominated score. It was a very complicated action piece per Linda. “We had the humans running one way, some apes beating the bushes, and some others on horseback. I’m sure this scene was dangerous, but I wasn’t aware of it. I had total trust in the people in charge. This was shot in Malibu on the 20th Century-Fox ranch. They also built Ape City there. I remember it was always extremely hot. Even though I was scantily clad, my costume was made from real bark, with a rubber backing. I still felt the heat.”

After hurling through space for over 2,000 years, four astronauts land on a planet where humans are mute primitives, and apes are their masters. Of the space travelers, only Taylor (Charlton Heston) survives their first encounter with the apes, but he is shot in the throat by the marauding human hunting gorillas on horseback. He is taken to Ape City (along with other humans including an intense beauty he dubs “Nova”) where he tries to convince a sympathetic psychologist Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) and her archeologist finance Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) of his intelligence. When he regains his speech, he proves his superiority, but is thwarted by Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) who has always been aware of man’s intellect as well as being the harbinger of death. The film climaxes in the Forbidden Zone with Taylor proving that apes evolved from humans only to have Zaius cover up the proof. Zaius allows Taylor to go off with Nova deeper into the Forbidden Zone only to discover the horrible truth: the planet of the apes is actually Earth, whose civilization was destroyed by mankind. Taylor is on his knees in the sand yelling, “You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you to hell! The camera peers up to reveal a wrecked Statute of Liberty in the film’s final shot.

For more on Linda Harrison’s career in Beneath the Planet of the Apes and off the Planet of the Apes, pick up a copy of my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema.