R.I.P. Mary Ann Mobley

mab

So sorry to hear of the passing of 1960s starlet Mary Ann Mobley. I always wished I got to interview her for my books. I did come close about 15 years ago but after playing phone tag with her assistant and then her, I stupidly gave up out of frustration and a looming deadline. A few years later her husband Gary Collins’ illness preoccupied her and I missed out again.

Sweet as Southern pie, is the way Mary Ann Mobley was described by some of her co-stars. After being crowned Miss America in 1959, Mobley began honing her singing and acting craft on television for a few years. She snagged the lead and made her film debut in the teen musical Get Yourself a College Girl in 1964. A Sam Katzman production, this is a Sixties Starlet lover’s delight as Mobley co-stars with Joan O’Brien, Nancy Sinatra, and Chris Noel.

But it was her performance as the thrill-seeking girlfriend of John Dillinger (Nick Adams) in Young Dillinger (1965) that won her real kudos and made the critics take notice. She shared the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomers with Mia Farrow and Celia Kaye and was voted a Star of Tomorrow, placing higher on the list than Julie Christie. Mobley next co-starred with Elvis Presley in Girl Happy (1965) as a Southern sexpot who loses combo leader Elvis to coed Shelley Fabares; and in Harum Scarum (1965) as an Arab princess who wins the heart of Elvis this time playing a matinee idol. Her vivaciousness made for a charming Elvis leading lady and she always brighten up every scene she was in with her big Southern smile. But she was not all sweetness, and exuded much sex appeal too.

To spy fans, she is remembered as the original Girl from U.N.C.L.E. on an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Unfortunately, when it was picked up as a series, Stefanie Powers replaced her because the producers felt that Mobley was too soft. She also tested for the role of Batgirl on the TV series Batman and lost out to Yvonne Craig. Fox though chose her to play Wayne Maunder’s love interest in the TV western pilot Custer. The pilot was picked up as a series, but Mobley’s character was dropped.

A few more movies followed (but none that offered the acting challenge of Young Dillinger) including the Jerry Lewis comedy Three on a Couch where she, Leslie Parrish and Gila Golan play kookie patients of therapist Janet Leigh. She needs to marry them off before she accepts the marriage proposal of Jerry Lewis who masquerades as the girls’ three different suitors. Her last leading movie role was in the swinging youth film For Singles Only (1968) with John Saxon, Lana Wood, Peter Mark Richman, Chris Noel, Ann Elder, and Duke Hobbie. Mobley and Wood played two friends who move into a “hip” singles complex in Southern California run by Milton Berle. Though advertised as a light-hearted view of the singles set, Wood’s character falls in love with a married man, contemplates suicide, and then gets gang raped on the beach. Mobley meanwhile brushes off the advances of lothario Hobbie while fighting her attraction to tight pants wearing Saxon. The movie is a hoot because it is too square to be cool even for back then. The title song though is quite catchy.

After 1978, Mobley retreated to television and worked steadily until the Nineties. Her easy going charm was perfect for such lightweight fare as Love, American Style; The Love Boat; and Fantasy Island (where she and Carol Lynley tie for most guest appearances) plus a slew of game show (The Match Game and The Hollywood Squares in particular) and TV talk show appearances. The Eighties saw her replacing Dixie Carter on the last season of Diff’rent Strokes; recur as a psychiatrist on Falcon Crest in 1988; and give one of her finest performances as pertinent Southern Belle tour guide of Old South homes on an 1990 episode of Designing Women where she amusingly butts heads with Dixie Carter as Julia Sugerbaker.

 

 

BLOGS

Some great Blog posts:

Hill Place dissects Morgan Fairchild’s cred as “foreign policy expert.”

 

Cinema Retro reviews biker movie The Glory Stompers starring Dennis Hopper, Jody McCrea, and Chris Noel. This is movie high on my must see list (scroll down one past Brannigan review).

 

http://youtu.be/t6vEZWj1Rso

Finally Stephen Bowie’s look back on the cult late sixties countercultureTV series Then Came Bronson starring Michael Parks for the AV Club.

 

Get GET-TV

One of my favorite new TV channels is Get TV. Though it does have commercial breaks, it airs movies in wide screen format and does not edit out any scenes. The channel has access to Columbia Pictures library stock and concentrates on films from the ‘40’s, ‘50’s, and ‘60’s. I recently watched the lush sudsy soap opera Diamond Head (1963). Fun in the sun, as island big shot and hypocrite Charlton Heston freaks out when his headstrong sister Yvette Mimieux becomes engaged to Hawaiian native James Darren (such realistic casting–not). Heston though has a secret Hawaiian mistress France Nuyen who he has knocked up. I also watched some forgotten flicks such as the surprisingly good off-beat teenage exploitation movie Life Begins at 17 (1958) with Mark Damon and Luana Anders; and the dullsville rock musical Two Tickets to Paris (1962) with Joey Dee (resembling a pudgier less attractive Sal Mineo) and Jeri Lynn Frazer (a very poor man’s Deborah Walley).

kissWhat I was most excited to see though was the 1966 spy spoof Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die a.k.a. Se tutte le donne del mond0, directed by Dino Maiuri and Henry Levin. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the Italian-Portuguese co-production had a nice size budget for a Euro Spy Movie and was beautifully shot on location in Brazil. In this entertaining film, the great Michael Connors played an American CIA agent named Kelly in Rio de Janeiro on assignment to investigate mysterious suave industrialist Mr. Ardonian (Raf Vallone whom I always like) who has perfected a satellite that emits ultrasonic waves that can sterilize mankind. In cahoots with the Red Chinese, he plans to target the U.S only but he double crosses them with his determination for worldwide domination to make up for his implied impotence. While monitoring Ardonian, Kelly learns that is has collected a stable of unsuspecting beautiful women including Nicoletta Macchiavelli, Beverly Adams, and Margaret Lee who he freezes and plans to use to repopulate the planet with him. At first Kelly assumes Brit Susan Fleming (the less great Dorothy Provine clad in over-the-top mod fashions) is just another one of Ardonian’s girlfriends. She is aided by a trusting and resourceful chauffeur (Terry-Thomas). They agree to work together to bring him down. Ardonian discovers that Susan is a spy and Kelly saves her from becoming part of his “hibernation harem” before dispatching of the madman.

 httpv://youtu.be/x072zRCR51k

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die is colorful and fast moving fun. Mike Connors makes a very convincing secret agent and no wonder was snagged for Mannix shortly after this. As Susan Fleming, Provine’s forced British accent is off-putting and annoying. Even so, Provine acquits herself quite well as a prim and proper spy who doesn’t use a gun but relies on some outlandish gadgets (including a mascara tube that emits knockout gas and a ring laced with poison) to waylay her enemies. Provine also displays quite a voluptuous figure when she strips down to her jungle shorts outfit though she is outclassed by some of the film’s other shapely beauties amongst them American starlet Beverly Adams (next seen as Lovey Kravezit in The Silencers and 2 additional Matt Helm spy flicks). She appears briefly as Karin who suffers the wrath of Ardonian when she decides to get married to another man. Before the nuptials can take place, she is killed by a poisonous snake concealed in a beautiful frilly white boa given to her as a wedding gift from Ardonian.

The only other thing that annoyed me about this movie was the musical score a mixture of Latin rhythms with sort of standard sixties spy music. This and Provine’s accent aside, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die ranks as one of the better Euro Spy movies that I have seen and for me stands right up there with In Like Flint in the arena of James Bond copycats.

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