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.


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Wow, this has been a horrible start to the new year with yet another passing of a 60s performer. The very popular pretty blonde English lass Susannah York of Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, The Killing of Sister George, and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award) fame has died. During the decade she epitomized the swinging 60s dolly bird in flilms like Kaleidoscope, Sebastian, and Duffy. Please click here to read more about her.


Over the past year, a number of 60s personalities have died, but the one that has most saddened me is Jill Haworth who died in her sleep yesterday. She was one of my most favorite interviews as she graciously invited me into her home in 1999. She was just so saucy and honest holding nothing back. What makes it even sadder for me is that I am reading the new entertaining Sal Mineo bio by Michael Gregg Machaud and Jill is quoted extensively throughout as she had a long romance and friendship with the actor.

Petite blonde Jill Haworth made three movies while under personal contract to Otto Preminger–Exodus (where she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Female Newcomer), The Cardinal, In Harm’s Way–before going freelance. After starring in the British horror movie It! she landed the role of Sally Bowles on Broadway in Cabaret. The musical was a huge hit and Jill remained in the role for 2 1/2 years. To this day I still prefer the original cast album over the movie’s. Especially love Jill’s singing “Don’t Tell Mama.”


Surprisingly, when she returned to Hollywood in 1969 all she could get were TV guest spots and thrillers (including The Haunted House of Horror with Frankie Avalon, Horror on Snape Island, and a TV-movie that gave me the creeps as a kid, Home for the Holidays with Sally Field whom Jill adored). Though Jill never stepped on a Broadway stage again, she did do regional and Off-Broadway theater during the 70s and 80s (There’s a Girl in My Soup, Butterflies Are Free) and then concentrated solely on voice over work. She did one last movie Mergers & Acquisitions in 2000 playing a loopy ex-hippie mother of two competing sons. She stole the movie and was the hit of a screening I saw on top of a hotel in Manhattan one summer night.

Below are some of Jill’s sassiest comments to me:

When asked what she thought of John Wayne from In Harm’s Way.

“He was the meanest, nastiest man with the worst attitude I ever worked with.”

Asked why she stayed in Cabaret so long, she jokingly replied:

“Just to spite Walter Kerr.” (Who in his NY Times review wrote maliciously and unjustly “the musical’s one wrong note is Jill Haworth whose worth no more to the show than her weight in mascara.”)

When asked if she ever had a chance to play Sally in the film version of Cabaret, she said:

“No, they always wanted Liza Minnelli for the movie. She’s still doing the movie!”

When Cabaret was revived on Broadway in 2000 with Natasha Richardson and Alan Cummings, Jill was miffed that she was not invited to the opening. When I said “maybe they couldn’t find you”, she snapped, “I have only been living in the same apartment since 1966!”

Jill never let her stardom go to her head. She was in awe of her Sutton Place neighbor Greta Garbo who walked her dog almost the same time Jill would walk hers. But Jill was too shy to ever say anything. After Cabaret opened, she passed the reclusive star who said, “Good morning Miss Haworth” to which Jill replied, “Good morning Miss Garbo.” Jill told me that was worth more to her than anything.

Finally, I received one of the nicest compliments from her after my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema was released (now available in soft cover). She called to thank me for including her and told me that of all the interviews she had given, the piece I wrote really sounded like her and she appreciated that. Farewell dear Jill. Here’s hoping you went like Elsie…