RIP Sid Haig: A Career Retrospective

Quick, name an actor who’s played villains opposite everyone from Batman to  James Bond, and Captain Kirk to TJ Hooker. Not to mention sharing screen time with stars like Ann-Margret, Lucille Ball, Lon Chaney Jr, Pam Grier, Nancy Kwan, Lee Marvin, and Anthony Quinn, and working with directors as diverse as Robert Aldrich, Jack Hill, Richard Fleischer, George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino, and Rob Zombie.  There’s only one, and his name was Sid Haig, one of the last links to Old Hollywood and an Exploitation Icon, who sadly passed away yesterday at age 80.

Young Sidney Moesian, born 7/17/39 in Fresno, was bitten by the show biz bug early, dancing onstage as a child and even scoring a regional rock hit with his teenage band The T-Birds:

Sid got his acting education paying his dues at the famed Pasadena Playhouse, alongside roommate Stuart Margolin (THE ROCKFORD FILES, DEATH WISH, etc). His first feature was Jack Hill’s 1964’s SPIDER BABY , which didn’t get released until about four years later, and didn’t really hit it’s stride until being rediscovered during the VHS boom of the 1980’s.

Spider Baby (with Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, and Lon Chaney Jr.)

SPIDER BABY concerns the quirky Merrye family, with Sid as the drooling, psychotic Ralph, brother of homicidal sisters Virginia (Jill Banner) and Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), watched over by caretaker/chauffeur Bruno, played by horror vet Lon Chaney Jr. in what’s arguably his best latter-day performance. Even Mantan Moreland shows up in this blackest of black comedies, The two old pros are fun to watch, but Sid holds his own in a fine (if bizarre!) debut.

Lobby card for “It’s A Bikini World” (with Deborah Walley)

With his long, lanky frame, bald dome, and scruffy beard, Sid Haig was soon typecast mainly as a bad guy, but not always. In the beach flicks BEACH BALL, you can catch him on his beloved drums backing up The Righteous Brothers, and in IT’S A BIKINI WORLD , Sid plays ‘Daddy’, car customizer and owner of teen hangout The Dungeon. But in mainstream films of the era (POINT BLANK, THE HELL WITH HEROES, CHE!) Sid’s definitely not on the side of the angels.

Henchman of King Tut (Victor Buono) on TV’s BATMAN

He kept really busy on television during the 60’s, making his first TV appearance as ‘Augie the Hood’ on a 1962 episode of THE UNTOUCHABLES. He donned the bandages of his former co-star Chaney to play The Mummy in a 1965 LUCY SHOW episode titled “Lucy Meets The Monsters”, during the Classic Horror Revival of that decade (ahh, the good old days!!). He was one of King Tut’s (Victor Buono) henchmen on a BATMAN two-parter, one of the Lawgivers on the STAR TREK episode “Return of the Archons”, and made the rounds of both TV Westerns (LAREDO, THE IRON HORSE, DANIEL BOONE, DEATH VALLEY DAYS, GUNSMOKE) and spy shows like THE MAN FROM UNCLE, the spoof GET SMART, and nine (count ’em) different episodes of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – as nine different bad guys!

Bond villain Sid in “Diamonds Are Forever”

Sid was one of William Smith’s biker gang, who kidnap Ann-Margret in CC & COMPANY (starring NFL quarterback Joe Namath!). He has a small part as a prisoner in director George Lucas’ debut THX 1138, but his next found him in a higher profile film, as one of Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s henchmen in 1971’s DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER , with Sean Connery returning to his iconic role as James Bond. Other more mainstream film roles followed: one of the hobos in EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, ‘The Arab’ in THE DON IS DEAD, a bouncer in BUSTING. But it was in the world of low budget Exploitation movies that Sid really began to make his mark.

With Pam Grier in “The Big Bird Cage”

Jack Hill’s 1971 THE BIG DOLL HOUSE helped kicked off the popular “Women in Prison” genre, with Sid as a sleazebag opposite Pam Grier, Judy Brown, and Roberta Collins. In Hill’s THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972), he’s a revolutionary named Django (!!) and Pam’s his girlfriend Blossom, who leads a prison breakout. BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA (1973) finds Sid as Ruben, enlisted to hunt down escapees Pam and Margaret Markov in this distaff version of THE DEFIANT ONES directed by Eddie Romero. 1974’s SAVAGE SISTERS (aka EBONY, IVORY, AND JADE) casts him as a comic crook alongside Vic Diaz, up against genre stalwarts Gloria Hendry, Cheri Caffaro, and John Ashley in another fun, action-packed Romero epic!

With Pam again 9and Alan Arbus) in “Coffy”

Sid was no stranger to Blaxpolitation either, teaming again with Pam Grier and director Hill for two slam-bang genre entries. In COFFY (1973), he’s once again a henchman,this time to mobster Alan Arbus, with Pam as “the Baddest One-Chick Hit Squad” (according to the lurid movie poster!) out to avenge her brother’s death. FOXY BROWN (1974) has Pam again in vengeance mode, and Sid (you guessed it!) another mean henchman.

Saturday morning sci-fi: JASON OF STAR COMMAND

The oddly endearing Filipino sci-fi flick BEYOND ATLANTIS (1973) casts Sid as one of the treasure hunters who stumble upon a race of half-human, half-amphibians, with a cast that features Patrick Wayne, John Ashley, Filipino vets Vic Diaz and Eddie Garcia, and George (ROBOT MONSTER) Nader. On the small screen, Sid had a recurring role on Norman Lear’s soap opera spoof MARY HARTMAN MARY HARTMAN as Texas, a Fernwood auto factory worker and colleague of Mary’s (Louise Lasser) husband Tom (Greg Mullavey). The Saturday morning kiddie show JASON OF STAR COMMAND, during the height of the original STAR WARS craze, cast him as Dragos, the main villain and antagonist of hero Jason (Craig Littler). (Trivia Note: STAR TREK’s James Doohan was also in the cast during the first season as Jason’s commander!).

A biker bad guy on THE A-TEAM

More TV guest shots followed: THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, GET CHRISTIE LOVE! (the closest thing to a TV version of Blaxploitation!), THE ROCKFORD FILES (with former roomie Stuart Margolin), EMERGENCY!, POLICE STORY, CHARLIE’S ANGELS, HART TO HART, THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, TJ HOOKER, THE A-TEAM, THE FALL GUY, HILL STREET BLUES, MCGYVER. But by 1992, Sid had grown tired of Hollywood and quit acting. In a 2004 interview with KAOS2000 Magazine, he explained: “I just didn’t want to play stupid heavies anymore. They just kept giving me the same parts but just putting different clothes on me… I resented it”. He stayed off the screen for almost ten years, popping up only in Quentin Tarantino’s JACKIE BROWN (1997) as a judge, and starring his old friend Pam Grier in the title role. Believe it or not, Sid worked as a licensed hypnotherapist during these years.

Sid’s comeback began with a cameo as a grinning pirate in the Rob Zombie music video “Feel So Numb”:

This led to Zombie casting Sid in his feature film directorial debut, 2003’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, an homage to all those crazy Grindhouse horror movies of the 70’s (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, etc). Sid is the deranged Captain Spaulding, leader of the murderous Firefly brood (all of whom are named after characters in Marx Brothers movies – but all you film buffs already know that!!). The terror is cranked up to 11, and Sid  Haig was introduced to a new audience, and worshipped as a horror icon! Henchman no longer! Captain Spaulding and his’family’ (Bill Mosley, Sherry Moon Zombie) returned for 2005’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and will be back October 14 for 3 FROM HELL, scaring the crap out of us all at the local multiplex (I know I’ll be there!).

Sid Haig had a long career as a character actor, and I’ve only touched on the highlights of it. He wasn’t a ‘star’, but a solid supporting player who lend his special brand of lunacy to his parts, and fans like myself were delighted when Rob Zombie made him an “overnight horror sensation” after almost 50 years in front of the cameras. Thanks for all the ‘B’ Movie and TV memories, Sid… we won’t forget you!

Wasn’t Born to Follow: RIP Peter Fonda

It’s ironic that on this, the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, one of our biggest counter-culture icons has passed away. When I saw Peter Fonda had died at age 79, my first reaction was, “Gee, I didn’t know he was that old” (while sitting in an audience waiting for a concert by 72 -year-old Dennis DeYoung of Styx fame!). But we don’t really think of our pop culture heroes as ever aging, do we? I mean, c’mon… how could EASY RIDER’s Wyatt (aka Captain America) possibly be 79??

Be that as it may, Peter Fonda was born into Hollywood royalty February 23. 1940. Henry Fonda was already a star before Peter arrived, thanks to classics like YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, JEZEBEL, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK, and THE GRAPES OF WRATH (released a month before Peter’s birth). Henry has often been described as cold and aloof, not showering much in the way of affection on young Peter and his older sister Jane. Their mother, Frances, committed suicide in a psych hospital, where she’d been admitted after the devastating news Henry wanted a divorce, in 1950, when Peter was just ten.

With Sandra Dee in “Tammy and the Doctor”

Despite (or more likely, because of) his father distance, young Peter began studying acting in college, hoping to follow in Henry’s footsteps. He began getting work in the early 60’s doing TV guest shots (NAKED CITY, WAGON TRAIN, THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR) and some movies (TAMMY AND THE DOCTOR, THE VICTORS, THE YOUNG LOVERS), nothing very memorable. He then became involved with the 60’s counter culture movement, getting arrested during the Sunset Strip riots and tripping on acid with The Beatles (the line “I know what it’s like to be dead” from The Fab Four’s “She Said She Said” is attributed to Fonda). As his hair got longer and his trips more frequent, acting work seemed to dry up… until Roger Corman came a-calling!

The Leader of the Pack: 1966’s “The Wild Angels”

Fonda’s two mid-60’s films with Corman solidified his image as a Hollywood rebel. THE WILD ANGELS was the prototype for all those bikersploitation flicks to come, with Fonda as leader of the pack Heavenly Blues, and another  Child of Tinseltown, Nancy Sinatra, as his ol’ lady. The film’s practically plotless, allowing Corman and uncredited script doctor Peter Bogdanovich to indulge in their outlaw biker fantasies, including this now-classic moment:

Next up was THE TRIP , and if you thought WILD ANGELES lacked in the plot department – hoo boy! This psychedelic 60’s ode to LSD was written by Jack Nicholson , and stars Fonda as an uptight director of TV commercials who tunes in, turns on, and drops out. In my 2017 review, I wrote that THE TRIP is “a visual and aural assault on the senses filled with kaleidoscopic imagery, stunning light show effects, and hallucinogenic nightmare sequences… (that) becomes pure film”. It was on this film Fonda met another Hollywood rebel struggling within the system…

…Dennis Hopper, who’d starred in his own AIP outlaw biker flick, THE GLORY STOMPERS . The two hit it off, and decided to make their own movie, their own way, with Fonda producing and Hopper directing.

Fonda and Hopper in 1969’s “Easy Rider”

Envisioned as a modern-day Western road trip, 1969’s EASY RIDER caught the 60’s counterculture zeitgeist perfectly, and became a huge hit. Largely improvised (though screenwriter Terry Southern always denied it), the film’s structure is about as loose as you can get, following Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) as they ride their choppers from LA to New Orleans after a successful cocaine deal to attend Mardi Gras. Their journey across America takes them to an Arizona farm, a hippie commune, and a night in a New Mexican jail, where they meet alcoholic lawyer Jack Nicholson (who copped his first Oscar nom here) before reaching The Big Easy, and that fateful final encounter with the dark side of America on a lonely stretch of highway. EASY RIDER’s look and attitude helped launch the New Hollywood movement, and featured a seminal rock score by artists like The Band, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, and Steppenwolf.

1971’s “The Hired Hand”

The success of EASY RIDER gave Fonda some clout, and his next picture THE HIRED HAND found him directing and starring as an Old West drifter who returns to his wife (Verna Bloom) after seven years. It’s a dark, moody piece that audiences didn’t quite get when first released; seen today, THE HIRED HAND has a lot going for it, including the performances of Fonda, Bloom, and Warren Oates, and some stunning cinematography from Vilmos Zsigmond.

With Brooke Shields in “Wanda Nevada”

After the box office failure of THE HIRED HAND, the bloom was off Fonda’s rose, and he spent most of the 70’s in a series of action flicks: DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, RACE WITH THE DEVIL, KILLER FORCE, the sci-fi sequel FUTUREWORLD, FIGHTING MAD, OUTLAW BLUES, HIGH-BALLIN’ . Most are good, solid drive-in fare, but Peter’s really not given much to do. He returned to the director’s chair with 1979’s WANDA NEVADA, starring as a gambler who wins 13-year-old Brooke Shields in a card game, and the two hunt for hidden gold in the Grand Canyon. Critics of the day savaged the movie, but I’ve always liked it, and would recommend it to those interested in Fonda’s work. Plus, dad Henry Fonda has a cameo as a grizzled old prospector; it’s your only chance to see Fonda pere and fils share a screen moment together!

With Vanessa Zinn in “Ulee’s Gold”

To paraphrase Dylan, the times they were a-changin’, and Peter Fonda’s 80’s output isn’t all that interesting, except his cameo as a biker in Burt Reynolds’ THE CANNONBALL RUN, and his turn as a cult leader in Ted Kotcheff’s SPLIT IMAGE. But he made a major comeback with 1997’s ULEE’S GOLD, as a Florida bee (not ‘B’) keeper whose drug addicted daughter-in-law brings chaos into his well structured life. There’s a lot of the real-life Henry Fonda in Peter’s reticent Ulee Jackson, and he received an Oscar nomination for his performance, losing to old pal Jack Nicholson for AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

Most of the next twenty years found Peter Fonda doing supporting parts or brief cameos. The Sixties had come and gone, that free-spirited era existing only in nostalgic memory. But as long as the music and movies of the times are with us, as long as there’s a biker cruising down the highway on his (or her) Harley, the spirit of those times, and of Peter Fonda, will always be with us. Rest in peace, Captain America.

Once I Had A Secret Love: RIP Doris Day

You wouldn’t think from reading most of the content I publish – Western actioners, horror flicks, film noir, exploitation trash – that I’d be a big Doris Day fan. But the first film I can remember seeing on the Big Screen is THAT TOUCH OF MINK, with Doris and Cary Grant, and I’ve been in love ever since. Talent is talent, and the iconic singer/actress, who died earlier today at age 97, had it in bucketloads. Doris’s career spanned nearly 50 years, from the Big Band Era to Cable TV, and was “America’s Sweetheart” for most of her adult life (not to mention “The World’s Oldest Living Virgin” due to her squeaky-clean screen image!).

Cincinnati-born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, born in 1922, wanted to be a professional dancer, but a severe car accident in 1937 curtailed that dream. Instead she turned to singing, and became a local sensation, eventually landing a gig with Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Brown’s orchestra, carried by Day’s stylish phrasing, rose to the top of the pop charts in 1945 with a song that resonated deeply with GI’s returning home from World War II and became a jazz standard, “Sentimental Journey”:

After spending two years as the featured singer on Bob Hope’s radio show (where she honed her comedic skills), Doris was signed by Warner Brothers and made her film debut in 1948’s ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS, an amusing bit of musical romantic fluff that starred Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore, and Oscar Levant, in which she introduced the Oscar-nominated song, “It’s Magic”:

Doris was a hit with movie fans, and a series of musicals followed: MY DREAM IS YOURS, TEA FOR TWO, LULLABY OF BROADWAY, ON MOONLIGHT BAY, APRIL IN PARIS, BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON. She began getting some dramatic roles as well, as in  1950’s YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN, which found her as the love interest for alcoholic trumpeter Kirk Douglas. STORM WARNING (1951) found Doris enmeshed in a Southern town dominated by racism and the KKK, along with Ginger Rogers and Ronald Reagan. I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (1951) was a box-office smash, based on the life of famed early 20th Century songwriter Gus Kahn (played by Danny Thomas).

One of my personal favorite Day movies is CALAMITY JANE (1953), a rollicking musical set in the Wild West. Doris is the uncouth, rowdy legend Jane, while Howard Keel plays the object of her affections, Wild Bill Hickok. Doris gets to play broadly, mugging it up and having a grand old time, and introduces another #1 hit, the Oscar-winning “Secret Love”:

Her next two films are classics. LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955) is the musical biography of famed torch singer Ruth Etting, whose involvement with gangster Moe “The Gimp” Snyder (James Cagney) shocked the nation. Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) was a remake of the director’s 1934 film about an American couple abroad (Doris and James Stewart) embroiled in international intrigue and the kidnapping of their child. Both these films were hits, and Doris was now one of America’s top 10 box office draws (an honor she held ten times, including eight consecutive years, from 1959-1966).

Most fans remember her screen teamings with Rock Hudson in a series of ‘sex comedies’,beginning with 1959’s PILLOW TALK. This adult-oriented farce has Doris sharing a telephone party line with swinging playboy Rock, and the battle of the sexes that ensues. Tony Randall added to the fun as Rock’s pal, and the three reunited for 1961’s LOVER COME BACK, with Doris and Rock as rival Madison Ave ad execs. Last (and my favorite of the bunch) was 1964’s SEND ME NO FLOWERS, which has Rock as Doris’s hypochondriac hubby, who thinks he’s dying. The two stars remained lifelong friends, and Doris stood by Rock’s side as he was slowly slipping away due to complications from AIDS.

The times (and tastes) were a-changing during the 1960’s, and Doris moved to television, starring for 5 seasons on THE DORIS DAY SHOW. The sitcom went through numerous cast and setting changes during it’s run, never falling out of the top 40, but by this time Doris Day was symbolic of an earlier, more gentler era. She basically retired from show business, appearing in a few specials and talk show appearances, and hosted her own chat show, DORIS DAY’S BEST FRIENDS, on cable in the mid-80’s. Mostly, she was involved with her Doris Day Animal Foundation, and was an advocate to ‘reduce pain and suffering’ for animals worldwide. Doris Day’s passing today marks the end of an era, as Hollywood’s surviving Golden Age members are shrinking in numbers. It  may not be hip or cool to be a Doris Day fan, but if so, then I guess I’m not so hip and cool after all. God bless you, Miss Day, and thanks for the memories.

Rest in peace, Doris Day

1922-2019

 

 

RIP Jan-Michael Vincent: A Pictorial Tribute

Jan-Michael Vincent has passed away at age 74. Though the actor suffered many trials and tribulations in his personal life, there’s no doubt his onscreen presence connected with audiences of the 70’s and 80’s. In his honor, we present ten shots from the film and TV career of Jan-Michael Vincent:

Tribes (TV-Movie 1970; D: Joseph Sargent)
Going Home (1971; D: Herbert B. Leonard)
The Mechanic (1972; D: Michael Winner)
The World’s Greatest Athlete (1973; D: Robert Scheerer)
White Line Fever (1975; D: Jonathan Kaplan)
Damnation Alley (1977; D: Jack Smight)
Big Wednesday (1978; D: John Milius)
Defiance (1980; D: John Flynn)
The Winds of War (TV-Miniseries 1983; D: Dan Curtis)
Airwolf (TV Series, 1984-87)

Rest in peace, Jan-Michael Vincent (1944-2019)

(I’m A) King “B”: RIP Dick Miller

Dick Miller in ‘Rock All Night’

If you’re a Roger Corman fan, you know Dick Miller . If you enjoy the films of Joe Dante, you know Dick Miller. Hell, if you’ve watched movies for the past sixty years, you know Dick Miller, maybe not by name, but certainly by sight. Dick Miller, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90, was one of those character actors who elevated everything he did, even the schlockiest of schlock. He’s in some of my favorite films, never a big star but always a welcome presence, and the ultimate Familiar Face.

Miller was born in the Bronx on Christmas Day 1928 and caught the show biz bug early. By age 8 he was working as a “boy singer” in the Catskills, and as a teen he worked in various stock companies, doing everything from acting to painting scenery. After a hitch in the Navy, the young man continued to work on the stage, also going to college and (are you ready for this?) earning his PhD in psychology!

Miller made his screen debut in Roger Corman’s ‘Apache Woman’

Heading out to Hollywood to write screenplays, he met an ambitious young director by the name of Roger Corman, who told Miller he was looking for actors, not writers. Miller responded, “So I’m an actor”, and Corman cast him in APACHE WOMAN, along with his friend, struggling actor Jonathan Haze. Miller was cast as an Indian, but was called back to also play a cowboy shooting at the Indians, and can be seen as both in the film! This is the movie where Miller once jested he ended up shooting himself!

Walter Paisley and one of his kooky creations in ‘A Bucket of Blood’

Dick Miller didn’t appear in all of Roger Corman’s low-budget epics; it only seems like it! Miller appeared for Corman twenty times, and starred in 1957’s ROCK ALL NIGHT and WAR OF THE SATTELITES. But his biggest (and best) role for Rapid Roger was in 1959’s A BUCKET OF BLOOD , a hip comedy-horror about sad sack wanna-be sculptor Walter Paisley, who discovers an ingenious way to break into the art world. A BUCKET OF BLOOD is Miller’s tour de force, and Miller was so fond of the nebbish Walter he used the name in five other film and TV appearances.

As Murray Futterman in Joe Dante’s ‘Gremlins’

Director Joe Dante was also a Dick Miller fan, and cast the actor in sixteen films, beginning with his first, the loopy satire HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD. Miller plays Candice Rialson’s agent, named… Walter Paisley! Miller’s most famous part for Dante was as Zach Galligan’s neighbor Murray Futterman in GREMLINS and GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH. He also made nine movies with Jonathan Kaplan, including NIGHT CALL NURSES, THE STUDENT TEACHERS, TRUCK TURNER, HEART LIKE A WHEEL, PROJECT X, and UNLAWFUL ENTRY. A list of his total credits would take all night, so I’ll just mention a few notables: DEATH RACE 2000, ROCK’N’ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, SWING SHIFT, THE TERMINATOR, and CHOPPING MALL.

Miller toasting a friend in ‘Hollywood Boulevard’

Miller was no stranger to TV either, appearing in everything from M SQUAD to THE UNTOUCHABLES, BONANZA to GUNSMOKE, DRAGNET to POLICE SQUAD!, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE to FREDDIE’S NIGHTMARES. He had a semi-regular role as bartender Lou Mackie on FAME from 1984-87. In 2014, a documentary on his life and work called (appropriately) THAT GUY DICK MILLER was released. Dick Miller was loved and respected by his peers, and even though he mainly appeared in ‘B’ movies, he always gave an ‘A’ performance, giving us our money’s worth. That’s why Corman, Dante, and so many others constantly hired Dick Miller to play in their films. He always delivered the goods, and he’ll be missed by film fans everywhere.

In Memoriam 2018: Film & Television – Performers

(The Grim Reaper was pretty busy this year, so busy this remembrance of film and television personalities will be broken into two parts)

At the end of every year, Cracked Rear Viewer salutes those both in front of and behind the cameras who are no longer with us. The biggest name was undoubtedly Burt Reynolds, who passed away at age 82. Burt was one of 70’s cinema’s hottest stars, from his breakthrough role in DELIVERANCE to rough’n’tumble films WHITE LIGHTNING and THE LONGEST YARD to his ‘yahoo’ classics SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and THE CANNONBALL RUN. Reynolds hit a career slump during the 80’s, but came back strong as a character actor in such 90’s films as BOOGIE NIGHTS (receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination) and MYSTERY, ALASKA. He was no stranger to the small screen, either; early in his career, he was a regular on RIVERBOAT, GUNSMOKE, and DAN AUGUST, later starring in the 90’s sitcom EVENING SHADE. Burt’s warm personality and unforgettable, infectious laugh will certainly be missed.

Tab Hunter & Dorothy Malone in “Battle Cry” (1955)

Burt wasn’t the only big name who left the stage. Oscar winning actress Dorothy Malone (93) first got noticed in Howard Hawks’ THE BIG SLEEP , sharing a brief scene with Humphrey Bogart, and went on to fame in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, WRITTEN ON THE WIND, TOO MUCH TOO SOON , BEACH PARTY , and the TV version of PEYTON PLACE (as the prime-time soap’s star Constance McKenzie). Tab Hunter (86), Dorothy’s BATTLE CRY co-star, was one of the biggest matinee idols of the 1950’s, whose credits include Joe Hardy in DAMN YANKEES, TRACK OF THE CAT, GUNMAN’S WALK, and the early beach movie RIDE THE WILD SURF. Tab scored a #1 hit song, “Young Love”, and later starred in John Waters’ POLYESTER and Paul Bartel’s LUST IN THE DUST opposite the immortal Divine.

For a generation of filmgoers, Margot Kidder (69) was THE Lois Lane, costarring with Christopher Reeve in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and it’s sequels. Margot was much more than the Man of Steel’s main squeeze, starring in genre films SISTERS, BLACK CHRISTMAS, THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, and more mainstream fare like THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER, 92 IN THE SHADE, and WILLIE AND PHIL. John Gavin (86) played Janet Leigh’s lover in PSYCHO, Lana Turner’s lover in IMITATION OF LIFE, and Julius Caesar in SPARTACUS,  but his biggest role came when President Ronald Reagan appointed Gavin as Ambassador to Mexico. Gloria Jean (92) was a Universal starlet of the 40’s whose sweet soprano graced such films as THE UNDERPUP, IF I HAD MY WAY, A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN, and NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK (starring the irrepressible W.C. Fields); she was teamed with Donald O’Connor for a series of teen-oriented pocket musicals with titles like GET HEP TO LOVE, IT COMES UP LOVE, and MR. BIG. Patricia Morison (103) was never a big star in movies, but did fine work in films of the classic era: PERSONS IN HIDING (as a Bonnie Parker-type), THE MAGNIFICENT FRAUD, BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON, HITLER’S MADMAN , THE FALLEN SPARROW, CALLING DR. DEATH, LADY ON A TRAIN , DRESSED TO KILL. Patricia left Hollywood behind in the late 40’s and achieved stardom on Broadway in KISS ME KATE and THE KING AND I.

Big Clint Walker (90) was popular in both television (CHEYENNE, KILLDOZER) and films (YELLOWSTONE KELLY, THE DIRTY DOZEN ), as was actor Bradford Dillman (87, COMPULSION, FRANCIS OF ASSISI, countless episodic TV and TV-Movies). Multi-talented Harry Anderson (65) was a comedian, magician, and sitcom star (NIGHT COURT, DAVE’S WORLD) who also acted in the Stephen King miniseries IT. Comedian Jerry Van Dyke (86) appeared with John Wayne in MCCLINTOCK!, on his brother Dick’s weekly series, and sitcoms MY MOTHER THE CAR and COACH. Ken Berry (85) kept fans laughing in F TROOP, MAYBERRY RFD, and MAMA’S FAMILY. John Mahoney (77) was in TIN MEN, MOONSTRUCK, EIGHT MEN OUT, IN THE LINE OF FIRE, but is best remembered as Kelsey Grammer’s cranky dad for nine seasons on FRASIER. Nanette Fabray (97) won a Tony for LOVE LIFE, three Emmys for CAESAR’S HOUR, and costarred with Fred Astaire in THE BAND WAGON. David Ogden Stiers (75) amused viewers as stuffy Major Charles Emerson Winchester on M*A*S*H.

Actress/writer Delores Taylor (85) worked with husband Tom Laughlin in the BILLY JACK films . Sondra Locke (74) received an Oscar nomination for THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, and costarred in a series of 70’s films with then-boyfriend Clint Eastwood (THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, THE GAUNTLET , EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, SUDDEN IMPACT). Susan Anspach (75) gained fame in FIVE EASY PIECES, BLUME IN LOVE, PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, and THE BIG FIX. Former Marine R. Lee Ermey (74) had a long career after debuting in Stanley Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET. Verne Troyer (49) made audiences laugh as Mini-Me in the AUSTIN POWERS movies. Jerry Maren (98) helped pave the way for Troyer and others; he was THE WIZARD OF OZ’s last surviving Munchkin. Maria Rohm (72) appeared in Jess Franco’s BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, 99 WOMEN, JUSTINE, VENUS IN FURS, and COUNT DRACULA. French star Stephane Audran (85) was known for Claude Chabrol’s LES BICHES and LE BOUCHER, BABETTE’S FEAST, and Luis Bunuel’s THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE. Mary Carlisle (104) started way back in the 1930’s; her films include COLLEGE HUMOR and DR. RHYTHM opposite Bing Crosby, KENTUCKY KERNALS with Wheeler & Woolsey, and the “old, dark house” comedy ONE FRIGHTENED NIGHT.

Barbara Harris in “Freaky Friday” (above), Michele Carey in “El Dorado” (below)

Barbara Harris (83) played in A THOUSAND CLOWNS, NASHVILLE, Hitchcock’s final film FAMILY PLOT, and the original FREAKY FRIDAY with Jodie Foster. Michele Carey (75) starred opposite The Duke (EL DORADO), The King (Elvis in LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE), and The Chairman of the Board (Frank Sinatra in DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE). James Karen (94) was in everything from FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER to THE CHINA SYNDROME, POLTEGEIST, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Soon-Tek Oh (85) was in such diverse fare as THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN , MISSING IN ACTION 2, and voiced the title character’s father in MULAN. Tim O’Connor (90) had ongoing roles in the series PEYTON PLACE and BUCK ROGERS. Jean Porter (95) played an autograph hound in THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION, rode the range with Roy Rogers in SAN FERNANDO VALLEY, and was part of the havoc in ABBOTT & COSTELLO IN HOLLYWOOD. Ann Gillis (90) played Becky Thatcher in 1938’s THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER, the title role in LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE, and voiced Faline in Disney’s BAMBI.

Zany Marty Allen
Mary Hatcher in “Variety Girl”

Other performers and personalities who’ve left screens large and small: actors Lassie Lou Ahern (97, Our Gang member), funnyman Marty Allen (90), Gary Beach (70, THE PRODUCERS), Patricia Benoit (91, MR. PEEPERS), Scotty Bloch (93), Phillip Bosco (88), Olivia Cole (75, ROOTS, BACKSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE), Bill Daily (91, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW), Hugh Dane (75, THE OFFICE’s Hank), Peter Donat (90), Frank Doubleday (73, ASSAULT ON PRECICNT 13, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK), Robert Dowdell (85, Lt. Cmdr. Morton on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA ), Fenella Fielding (90, the CARRY ON movies), Sean Garrison (80), Eddie Foy III (83), Eunice Gayson (90, DR. NO , FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE , REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN), Pamela Gidley (52, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, CHERRY 2000), James Greene (91, PARKS & RECREATION), Kenneth Haigh (86, CLEOPATRA, MAN AT THE TOP), Mary Hatcher (88, VARIETY GIRL, HOLIDAY IN HAVANA), Alf Humphreys (64, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, FIRST BLOOD), Ricky Jay (72), Diane Jergens (83), David Landsberg (73), Louise Latham (95), Deanna Lund (81, LAND OF THE GIANTS )…

CIRCA 1963: Pop singer Rick Nelson and his wife Kristin Nelson pose for a portrait in circa 1963. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Katherine MacGregor (93, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE), Vanessa Marquez (49, ER, STAND AND DELIVER), Robert Mandan (86, SOAP), Wayne Maunder (80, CUSTER , THE SEVEN MINUTES), Jan Maxwell (61), Peggy McCay (90), Allyn Ann McLerie (91), Laurie Mitchell (90, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE ), Donald Moffat (87), Alan O’Neill (47, SONS OF ANARCHY’s Hugh), Yosuke Natsuki (81, YOJIMBO, GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER), Kristin Nelson (72, OZZIE & HARRIET, ADAM-12, wife of Ricky Nelson, mother of Matthew and Gunnar, sister of Mark Harmon), Daniel Pilon (77), Jacqueline Pearce (74, THE REPTILE), Roger Perry (85), William Phipps (96, FIVE)…

Charlotte Rae and “The Facts of Life” girls

Charlotte Rae (92, THE FACTS OF LIFE), Meg Randall (91), Siegfried Rauch (85, PATTON, THE BIG RED ONE), Donnelly Rhodes (80, SOAP), Mark Salling (35, GLEE’s Puck), Connie Sawyer (105, “The Oldest Working Actress in Hollywood”), Carole Shelley (79, THE ODD COUPLE), Diana Sowle (88, WILLY WONKA), Naomi Stevens (92, THE APARTMENT, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS), Kin Sugai (92, GODZILLA ), Ken Swofford (85), Greta Thyssen (90, several Three Stooges shorts, JOURNEY TO THE 7TH PLANET), Charles Weldon (78), Scott Wilson (76, IN COLD BLOOD, THE WALKING DEAD), Robert Wolders (81), Peter Wyngarde (90, JASON KING, FLASH GORDON), Celeste Yarnell (74, EVE), Louis Zorich (93).

Death does not discriminate: porn queen Jennifer Welles (top), preacher Billy Graham (bottom)

Former child stars Donna Butterworth (62, PARADISE HAWAIIAN STYLE, THE FAMILY JEWELS), Joseph Wayne Miller (36, HEAVYWEIGHTS), John Paul Steuer (33, GRACE UNDER FIRE), original Mouseketeer Doreen Tracy (74); voice actors Douglas Rain (90, 2001’s HAL), Simon Shelton (52, TELETUBBIES’ Tinky Winky), Doug Young (98, Hanna-Barbera’s Ding-A-Ling Wolf, Doggie Daddy); porn stars Jerry Butler (58), Johnny Keyes (82, BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR), Jennifer Welles (81). Evangelist Billy Graham (99) first appeared in America’s living rooms in 1951; his Crusades can still be watched today on TBN and his website. Jim Hendricks (68) hosted CAPTAIN USA’s GROOVIE MOVIES in the early days of cable. Chuck McCann (83) hosted Laurel & Hardy comedies on local New York television before branching out as a voice and onscreen actor; longtime fans haven’t forgotten his series of commercials for Right Guard (“Hi, guy!”). Robin Leach (76) took us on weekly tours inside the LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH & FAMOUS. Will Jordan (91) made a career out of imitating Ed Sullivan, while Will Vinton’s (70) Claymation marvels introduced us to The California Raisins. Finally, there’s Alan Abel (91), a prankster who perpetrated hoaxes on the media for decades, and made the mockumentary IS THERE SEX AFTER DEATH? Hey, Alan, let us know…

Next: Film & Television – Behind the Cameras 

Confessions of a TV Addict #12: An Appreciation of Ken Berry


I’ve always said if Ken Berry had been born a bit earlier, he would have taken up the mantle of song-and-dance masters Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in films. But Berry, who died this past weekend at age 85, came up at a time when Hollywood musicals were, if not dying, definitely on life support. Berry had his greatest success in the world of TV sitcoms, though he did find opportunities to display his dancing skills in variety shows of the era.

Moline, IL born Ken won a talent contest at age 15 and toured with popular Big Band leader Horace Heidt’s Youth Opportunity Program. Joining the Army after high school, he was assigned to Special Services to entertain the troops. His sergeant encouraged Ken to head to Hollywood after his hitch was over. The sergeant’s name: Leonard Nimoy ! Ken begun his professional show biz career as a Universal contract player, though he didn’t get in any films. Instead, he wound up working in Vegas as part of Abbott & Costello’s revue. Small television parts followed: a stint as Woody the bellhop on THE ANN SOUTHERN SHOW, comic relief Dr. Kapish on DR. KILDARE. A pair of episodes on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW as choreographer Tony Daniels allowed Ken to show off those song-and-dance skills, but it looked like he’d be forever relegated to second string before a fateful call in 1965 changed his life.

That call was for the role of Captain Wilton Parmenter on F TROOP (1965-67), casting Ken as the bumbling, klutzy, accidental Medal of Honor winner who’s sent to command Fort Courage in the wild and wooly West. Berry’s dance training came in handy as Parmenter, who was forever stumbling about – he could take a pratfall with the best of ’em! F TROOP is slapstick farce at it’s best, definitely not politically correct, and still one of my favorite sitcoms. Veterans Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch costarred as Sgt. O’Rourke and Cpl. Agarn, a pair of hustlers grateful to have the clueless Captain around so they can continue their money-generating O’Rourke Enterprises. 16-year-old (at the time) Melody Patterson played Berry’s love interest, the feisty cowgirl Wrangler Jane, who was definitely the aggressor in their relationship. Frank De Kova was Chief Wild Eagle, leader of the friendly Hewkawi tribe (as in “Where the Heck Are We”), co-conspirator in O’Rourke’s schemes.

The spoofs ran wild and the series featured a host of familiar TV guests: Milton Berle , Jack Elam , Bernard Fox, Harvey Korman , Paul Lynde, Julie Newmar, Don Rickles (as Wild Eagle’s renegade son, Bald Eagle!). Even Vincent Price showed up as an ersatz bloodsucker in the horror lampoon “V is for Vampire”! Ken Berry more than held his own amid all the anachronistic jokes (a rock band in the Wild West?), catchphrases, sight gags, loony supporting cast (including Western vet Bob Steele as Trooper Duffy, last survivor of the Alamo!), and the manic antics of Storch as the dimwitted Agarn. His Captain Parmenter was the Krazy Glue that held the whole thing together.

Next up , Ken moved from the Wild West to a much more sedate setting: Mayberry. Berry’s character, widowed farmer Sam Jones, had been introduced in the final season of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW , and was poised to star in the spinoff, MAYBERRY RFD. Griffith had tired of the weekly sitcom grind after eight years, but didn’t want to give up his cash cow completely. In contrast to the bumbling Parmenter, Sam Jones was the moral center of this new show. Mayberry denizens Jack Dodson (Howard), George Lindsey (Goober), and Paul Hartman (Emmett) provided continuity, as did Frances Bavier’s Aunt Bee for the first season, replaced by Alice Ghostley as Sam’s Cousin Alice. MAYBERRY RFD ran three seasons and was still in the ratings Top 20 when it was cancelled along with several other ‘country’-themed programs ( THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, GREEN ACRES, HEE HAW ) in 1971 during CBS’s “rural purge”, as the network sought a younger, more urban demographic.

Ken survived the “purge” and became a frequent guest on variety shows, even hosting his own brief summer replacement series THE KEN BERRY WOW SHOW in 1972 (featuring a young comic named Steve Martin). He made nineteen appearances on Carol Burnett’s hit series, and made the rounds of THE LOVE BOAT and FANTASY ISLAND. He returned to weekly TV in Burnett’s own spinoff show MAMA’S FAMILY (1983-4; 86-90), based on the popular skits about the Bible-belt Harper family. Vicki Lawrence reprised her role as sassy matriarch Thelma Harper, and Ken was cast as her somewhat dopey son Vinton, whose “tramp” wife Naomi (Dorothy Lyman) was the constant butt of Mama’s wrath. The series ran for a year on NBC, then was revived in syndication, where it achieved it’s greatest popularity.

Berry never made the leap to feature film star, though he did headline a pair of 70’s Disney family comedies, HERBIE RIDES AGAIN and THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE. While never achieving superstar status, Ken Berry was a reliable performer, a likeable presence who always gave his all in whatever the part called for. Even though his first true show biz love was as a song-and-dance man, starring in three hit sitcoms over three decades is certainly nothing to sneeze at! F TROOP alone would have cemented his legacy among sitcom aficionados. Thanks for the laughs and Godspeed, Captain Parmenter.

Familiar Faces #9: Stooges, Chorus Lines, and Ethelreda Leopold!

She may not have been as prolific as Hollywood’s “Queen of the Extras” Bess Flowers, but once you’ve discovered Ethelreda Leopold, you’ll find the blonde beauty popping up everywhere, mainly in uncredited roles. Three Stooges fans certainly know of her work, as she appeared in eleven of their Columbia shorts, but there’s a whole lot more Ethelreda out there in classic film land!

Ethelreda (3rd from right) in 1934’s “Dames”

The girl with the unique name (‘Ethelreda’ is from Olde English, meaning ‘of noble strength’) was born in Chicago on July 7, 1914. She was working as a teenage model, and doing very well, when she was discovered by a Warner Brothers talent scout and brought out to Hollywood. Ethelreda made her debut as one of the chorus girls in Busby Berkeley’s 1934 extravaganza DAMES, and became one of Busby’s busiest girls. She can be seen in the chorus in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935, STAGE STRUCK, VARSITY SHOW, HOLLYWOOD HOTEL, SWEETHEARTS, and GOLD DIGGERS OF PARIS.

The Busby Berkeley Girls in “Gold Diggers of 1935”

The latter film found Ethelreda voted “Most Popular” Berkeley Girl (out of 109!), and the studio sent her on a promotional tour that included a stop in New York, where the writer H. Allen Smith made a nervous attempt to take her measurements (it’s a funny story and can be found by following this link!).

Grooming the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

Ethelreda can be spotted in many classic films of the day, mostly uncredited: MY MAN GODFREY, MARKED WOMAN, THE WIZARD OF OZ (helping groom   Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion!), DANCING CO-ED, THE RAGE OF PARIS, CITY FOR CONQUEST, HE STAYED FOR BREAKFAST, ANGELS OVER BROADWAY, BALL OF FIRE, SABOTEUR , WORDS AND MUSIC, ALL ABOUT EVE, and many more. She had a bigger role (billed as ‘Ethel’ Leopold) in the 1938 exploitation film RACE SUICIDE, dealing with an illegal abortion racket and produced by Willis Kent, who made a bunch of these type of things (THE PACE THAT KILLS, THE ROAD TO RUIN, SMASHING THE VICE TRUST, CONFESSIONS OF A VICE BARON, and the immortal COCAINE FIENDS!).

Taking dictation in Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” (1940)

Besides choruses and background beauty, Ethelreda made her mark in comedy, working with all the great comedians, including Abbott & Costello Charlie Chaplin (THE GREAT DICTATOR), Andy Clyde, W.C. Fields (YOU CAN’T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN), Bob Hope , Harry Langdon, Laurel & Hardy The Marx Brothers (A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA), Olsen & Johnson (HELLZAPOPPIN’, CRAZY HOUSE), and The Ritz Brothers . But it’s her work with The Three Stooges she’s fondly remembered for by Knuckleheads everywhere! Her first was 1936’s A PAIN IN THE PULLMAN, where she’s one of the chorus girls on a train kept awake by The Stooges’ madcap antics.

With Curly Howard in “Wee Wee Monsieur” (1938)

In HALF SHOT SHOOTERS (’36) she’s just a (pretty) face in the crowd, and  GOOFS AND SADDLES (1937) finds Ethelreda as a saloon girl out West, encountering Wild Bill Hiccup (Moe), Just Plain Bill (Larry), and Buffalo Billious (Curly). In BACK TO THE WOODS (’37) she’s a Colonial maiden, WEE WEE MONSIEUR (1938) casts her as a harem girl, CALLING ALL CURS (1939) a nurse to the boy’s wacky veterinarians, NUTTY BUT NICE (1940) as a waitress, ALL THE WORLD’S A STOOGE (1941) a party guest (with the boys hired to dress and act like children – not a stretch!), MATRI-PHONY (1942) she’s Miss Syracuse in Ancient Rome.

Let the pies fly! “In the Sweet Pie and Pie” (1941)

Her two biggest Stooge appearences are among the team’s best shorts. IN THE SWEET PIE AND PIE (1941) has Ethereda as Baska, who along with her sisters Tiska (Dorothy Appleby) and Taska (Mary Ainslee) get married to three condemned convicts in order to claim an inheritance. The plan backfires when the boys are pardoned, and the girls do whatever it takes to get divorced – namely insisting they become high society gentlemen! The craziness culminates in a wild pie fight (The Stooges’ first!) and Ethelreda here was more than willing to take one for the team – a pie, that is! G.I. WANNA HOME (1946) finds The Stooges returning from WWII to their sweeties Bessie (Doris Houck), Tessie (Judy Malcolm), and Jessie (Ethelreda) and attempting to build a home for them all to live in, with the expected disastrous results!

A more mature but still beautiful Ethelreda Leopold

After a 1953 appearance on TV’s THE ABBOTT & COSTELLO SHOW, Ethelreda disappeared from screens both large and small. She seems to have slipped into a life a domesticity with husband Joseph Pine, a hotel executive, and son Victor. It wasn’t until ten years later that she returned to acting – with a vengeance! Ethelreda’s list of TV credits reads like a Television Hall of Fame: HAZEL, BONANZA, BATMAN , THE MONKEES , THAT GIRL, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW , IT TAKES A THIEF, BEWITCHED, MARY TYLER MOORE , THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (4 episodes), RHODA, THE A-TEAM, HART TO HART, DYNASTY (6 episodes). Older but still attractive, Ethelreda graced many a film during this time as well: THE KILLERS (Ronald Reagan’s last movie), TWO ON A GUILLOTINE , HARUM SCARUM, MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS, THE OSCAR, I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS, HELLFIGHTERS, MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN . Wherever there was a need for a sophisticated older woman, Ethelreda was there!

Ethelreda meets Al & Peg Bundy on “Married With Children”

Her last acting credit was an episode of MARRIED WITH CHILDREN in 1989, with Al Bundy and his lowbrow brood having a night out at a swanky restaurant! A year later, Ethelreda made a personal appearance as guest of honor at a Three Stooges Convention in Philadelphia, where she was a big hit with fandom and treated like a star. She died of pneumonia in 1998, but her legacy lives on; just watch any classic movie or TV show, and there’s a good chance Ethelreda Leopold will pop up! I don’t even think IMDB has all her complete credits listed, so keep a sharp eye out for that beautiful young blonde or elegant older woman in the background. Now that you know about Ethelreda, happy hunting!

From 1940’s “Angels Over Broadway”

 

Familiar Faces #8: In Search of Angelique Pettyjohn

I first became aware of the gorgeous Angelique Pettyjohn, like most fans, through her appearance as Shahna in the STAR TREK episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. The statuesque, green-haired beauty fascinated me as much as she did Captain Kirk, churning my then-adolescent hormones into a frenzy! Since then, I’ve been obsessed with the lovely Miss Pettyjohn, and have made it my mission to discover All Things Angelique!

Angelique Pettyjohn was not her given name, of course, nor was it her only screen name. She was born Dorothy Lee Perrins in the City of Angels on March 11, 1943, and studied dance as a young girl. According to IMDB, her first film appearance was the “Blonde in U.S. sex insert” in Argentine director Armando Bo’s PUT OUT OR SHUT UP in 1959, which would’ve made her 16 years old at the time. She’s also credited as a juror in 1961’s THE PHANTOM PLANET, a low-budget sci-fi film notable for featuring former silent star Francis X. Bushman as an alien and the debuting Richard Kiel as a monster. Having never seen these two films, I can’t confirm if that’s indeed Angelique in them.

The cleverly disguised Agent Charlie Watkins on “Get Smart” (with star Don Adams)

Angelique’s first break came in the spy-spoof sitcom GET SMART, starring comedian Don Adams as the inept Maxwell Smart, CONTROL Agent 86. Angelique makes two appearances as Agent Charlie Watkins, a male master of disguise who’s really good  – so good that he looks like the beautiful Angelique! The actress has the part of Charlie in two episodes, “Smart Fit the Battle of Jericho” (disguised as a cigarette girl) and “Pussycats Galore” (as a waitress at the Pussycat Club). Though the parts are brief, they got Angelique noticed, yet stardom still eluded her.

Playing in Elvis’s band in 1967’s “Clambake”

Bit parts and uncredited roles followed: big films like HOTEL, A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN, ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO, WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT?, and THE ODD COUPLE, smaller ones such as THE COOL ONES and FOR SINGLES ONLY. She’s seen to good advantage in the Elvis Presley musical CLAMBAKE, but around this time, Angelique also began taking jobs in softcore porn: Michael Findley’s THE TOUCH OF HER FLESH, Joseph Sarno’s THE LOVE REBELLION, William Rose’s PROFESSOR LUST.

Angelique as Shahna and William Shatner as Capt. Kirk in the STAR TREK episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”

Angelique guested in episodes of THE GREEN HORNET, MR. TERRIFIC, THE FELONY SQUAD, BATMAN , and THE GIRL FROM UNCLE before landing the part that would gain her sci-fi immortality: Shahna the Thrall in the STAR TREK Season 2 episode, “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. Captain Kirk (William Shatner ), Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig) are hijacked by alien gamblers who spend their time betting on to-the-death gladiator matches. Forced to wear “collars of obedience”, each is assigned a trainer to prepare them for combat, and Kirk is assigned to the green-haired Shahna, who naturally falls for him (because all women do!). This was Angelique’s biggest part to date, and would be her claim to fame in the future.

In AIP’s bike-sploitation epic “Hell’s Belles”

She lost the part of Nova in 1968’s PLANET OF THE APES to Linda Hamilton, but next up for Angelique were co-starring roles in two drive-in classics. 1969’s MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND found her in a Filipino-lensed horror thriller opposite ‘Beach Party’ alum John Ashley being terrorized by a green-skinned monster, and she plays a biker chick in HELLS’ BELLES alongside bike-sploitation vets Jeremy Slate (THE MINI-SKIRT MOB, HELL’S ANGELS ’69) and Adam Roarke (THE SAVAGE SEVEN, HELL’S ANGELS ON WHEELS). That same year saw the release of CONFESSIONS OF TOM HARRIS, codirected by John Derek and David Nelson (Ozzie & Harriet’s son) in a story about an alcoholic ex-serviceman who breaks arms for the mob before coming to Jesus and helping drunks. Don Murray, Linda Evans (Derek’s then-wife), and former Warner Bros star David Brian are also in the film, which has gained a bit of a cult status.

Angelique in her days performing at Las Vegas’s Silver Slipper

But nothing came of these, and she was back to bits (HEAVEN WITH A GUN, THE LOVE GOD?) and dreck like THE CURIOUS FEMALE, UP YOUR TEDDY BEAR, and WIT’S END (also known as G.I. EXECUTIONER, and directed by Joel M. Reed of BLOODSUCKING FREAKS infamy). In the early 70’s, Angelique moved to Las Vegas and became a stripper and showgirl, dancing at The Silver Slipper and The Aladdin. She’d developed a problem with drugs and alcohol, and by the early 80’s was performing in Triple X fare like TITILLATION, BODY TALK, and STALAG 69 under the pseudonyms Heaven St. John and Angel St. John.

The “family friendly” version of her popular poster

What saved Angelique from a life of porn, drugs, and obscurity was the STAR TREK revival that burst forth after the release of 1979’s STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE and its sequels. Trekkies and their conventions were everywhere, and anyone remotely connected to the original series was automatically embraced by fandom. Angelique began making appearances at these conventions, where she was welcomed with open arms – a star at last, at least in Trekkies’ eyes! She sold photos of herself dressed as Shahna in two versions, one of which was in the nude, and fanboys ate them up like Tribbles gobbling quadrotriticle grain!

As the whip-crackin’ Whiplash in 1984’s “The Lost Empire”

Angelique returned to films mostly made by former fans who knew of her work on STAR TREK and the exploitation field. She’s in Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, Jim Wynorski’s THE LOST EMPIRE (as the leather-clad Whiplash!), Fred Olen Ray’s BIOHAZARD, Mike Jittlov’s THE WIZARD OF SPEED AND TIME, and her last film, SORORITY GIRLS AND THE CREATURE FROM HELL (under the name Ashley St. John). Returning to the Vegas stage as a burlesque queen in 1989, Angelique was a popular attraction until her diagnosis with cervical cancer, which took her in 1992. There’s a rumor circulating around the Internet that Angelique bore a child by Elvis while working on BLUE HAWAII (one Philip Stanic, now known as Elvis Presley, Jr. and working as an Elvis impersonator), and was paid off to give him up for adoption. But since Angelique isn’t even in BLUE HAWAII (at least according to IMDB), it’s probably a bunch of baloney. Best we forget stuff like this and fondly remember Angelique Pettyjohn for what she was, a Hollywood hopeful whose one brief, shining moment as STAR TREK’s Shahna made her a star in the hearts of Trekkies everywhere:

 

 

Just A Good Ol’ Boy: RIP Burt Reynolds

I had just got back from a long afternoon walk on this gorgeous day when, after checking for incoming texts and calls, I checked my Facebook feed and discovered Burt Reynolds had passed away at age 82. Coincidentally, I have a post on Burt’s THE LONGEST YARD scheduled for Saturday, but rather than just move it up, I’ve decided to write this small tribute. Burt Reynolds has earned it. He was arguably the biggest box-office attraction of the 1970’s, number one from 1978-82, and his charismatic, wiseass persona made him a hit with audiences, if not with the critics. But what did they know… Burt Reynolds was The People’s Star.

Born in 1936, Burt’s family moved to Florida when he was ten, his father taking a job as Police Chief of Riviera Beach. Burt may not have been a straight-A student, but he excelled in sports, playing fullback for Palm Beach High. That led to a scholarship at Florida State, but injuries took him off the gridiron in his sophomore year. Transferring to a junior college, Burt caught the acting bug and was soon doing summer stock and regional theater. He started doing television, and became a regular on the Western series RIVERBOAT (1959-61), until he butted heads with star Darren McGavin and was replaced by Noah Beery Jr.

As Quint Asper (with Ken Curtis as Festus) on ‘Gunsmoke’

Undeterred, Burt made the rounds of TV guest shots: JOHNNY RINGO, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, ZANE GREY THEATER, THE TWILIGHT ZONE. He caught a big break playing Quint Asper, the half-breed blacksmith (Burt himself was, like me, part Cherokee) for three seasons on GUNSMOKE, TV’s biggest Western at the time. Burt would return to the small screen for a half-season as TV detectives HAWK (1966) and DAN AUGUST (1970-71), but movies were beckoning.

Starring as ‘Sam Whiskey’

Making his film debut in ANGEL BABY (1961), Burt’s GUNSMOKE notoriety got him cast as the lead in the low-budget spy drama OPERATION CIA (1965) and the Spaghetti Western NAVAJO JOE (1966). He played in a pair of 1969 Westerns, 100 RIFLES (with another ex-football player, Jim Brown, and the sexy Raquel Welch) and the title role of SAM WHISKEY, which allowed him to show off his humorous side alongside Angie Dickinson, Ossie Davis (who became a lifelong friend), and Clint Walker.

In John Boorman’s 1972 ‘Deliverance’

Some minor movies followed (SHARK!, SKULLDUGGERY), but in 1972 he landed the role of Lewis Medlock in director John Boorman’s DELIVERANCE. This harrowing tale of survival shocked audiences for its brutality, especially during the rape of Ned Beatty (“Squeal like a pig”), but it gave Burt a chance to prove he could act. Also in 1972, he famously posed nude for COSMOPOLITAN Magazine…,

earning him a large score of female fans for life!

The blockbuster hit ‘Smokey and the Bandit’

By now Burt was a big name, and he starred in a series of action films, with titles like SHAMUS (1973), WHITE LIGHTNING (’73), THE LONGEST YARD (’74), WW AND THE DIXIE DANCEKINGS (’75), HUSTLE (’75). He made his directorial debut with 1976’s GATOR, a sequel to WHITE LIGHTNING where he returned to the role of Gator McKluskey. He scored his biggest hit with 1977’s SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, a rip-roaring action-comedy helmed by his pal, stunt coordinator Hal Needham. Burt plays Bandit, using his Trans-Am as a blocker for trucker Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed) on a 28 hour run from Texas to Atlanta, pursued by Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). Along the way he picks up Junior Justice’s (Mike Henry) runaway bride (Sally Field, with whom Burt would have a long offscreen relationship). SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT was released at the height of the CB/Trucker craze, and was the second highest grossing film of the year (the first: STAR WARS). It led to two sequels, and inspired the TV show THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.

With TV wife Marilu Henner on ‘Evening Shade’

There were more hits to come (SEMI-TOUGH, STARTING OVER, THE CANNONBALL RUN, SHARKEY’S MACHINE), but by the mid-80’s, Burt’s box office clout was fading. He returned to television for the sitcom EVENING SHADE (1990-94) as Wood Newton, ex-NFL quarterback turned high school football coach in small town Arkansas. The cast was high-wattage (Marilu Henner, Hal Holbrook, Charles Durning, Elizabeth Ashley, and old pal Ossie Davis), and the show ranked consistently in the top 20, but skyrocketing costs caused its cancellation. Burt was coasting along, taking character parts and playing himself on TV guest shots, when an offer in 1997 changed everything.

Jack Horner (Burt) directs Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) in 1997’s ‘Boogie Nights’

Paul Thomas Anderson’s BOOGIE NIGHTS was the saga of the rise and fall of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg), porn star of the 70’s and 80’s. Burt plays director Jack Horner, and received his one and only Academy Award nomination (he lost to Robin Williams for GOOD WILL HUNTING). After years of playing good ol’ boys and action heroes, he was now a respected character actor. But that likeable persona was always there, the twinkle in the eyes, self-deprecating sense of humor, and infectious laugh that audiences fell in love with.

A Burt Reynolds Movie, like John Wayne and Vincent Price, became a genre unto itself, which isn’t a bad thing if you’re an actor. He may be gone, but his movies are still here to do what they were designed to do… entertain. And they still do.