4 Outstanding Actresses: It’s 1964 and there’s cognitive commotion!

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Anne Bancroft as a lady who lunches and listens to gossip in The Pumpkin Eater – being held hostage by the intensely neurotic Yootha Joyce a lonely housewife sitting next to her while trapped under the hair dryer of life…
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Woman at hair dressers-“It’s like I told you, my life is an empty place!” Jo-“Well what do you want me to do about it?”

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

Cognition–ˌkägˈniSHən|
(noun)
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
• a result of this; a perception, sensation, notion, or intuition.

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These 4 particular films seem to be part of a trend of films that deal with either women’s brewing emotional turmoil or in the case of Jean Seberg’s Lilith- a creeping organic madness, perhaps from childhood trauma that is not delved into. 

Let’s consider women either in distress or the oft used “hysterical’ trademark that summons every neurotic ill associated with women. With these 4 films it’s the same root problem: Why should society determine what counts as an emotional problem? This is especially true for women, as if she was the engendering source of a specific kind of female mayhem, the creator of the tumult itself… Capable of giving birth, does she also give birth to a certain kind of madness directed inwardly or aimed outward at society and it’s unyielding ethical questions?

It’s not that I think Barbara Barrie is troubled because she falls in love with a black man. It’s that the world is troubled by her decision. Because of her choice -a society inherently cruel punishes her by taking away the one thing she had personal power over, to remove her child from her life. Although, she has a wonderful relationship with Frank both are being judged and condemned.

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The judge who awards custody of her little girl to the biological father even though he is not the better parent. Not too long ago, women could be hospitalized just for being menopausal, based on what their husbands say.

Women were at the mercy of white male society’s judgment. So if a white woman loves and marries a black man in the volatile climate of the civil rights 60s it would absolutely cause turmoil and quite the commotion.

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All these women experience cognitive commotion, but are not necessarily crazy. One Potato Two Potato is about the societal impositions forced upon an inter-racial couple and the strain of a child custody battle forcing her to qualify herself as a good mother. The sentiments of the time, the courts and society in general are dis-empowering Julie through her motherhood.
This inflicts an agonizing torture on Barbara Barrie’s character Julie. Barrie’s performance as well as Bernie Hamilton as a man whose own masculinity is tested, tears me up inside…
A white woman, Julie Cullen falls in love with Frank Richards, a black man, against the will of everyone around them, including his parents who think he should stick with his own kind. Eventually Franks mother and father come around and embrace Julie, and her daughter who considers Martha and William her grandparents.
Julie has a son with Frank…and suddenly is being faced with a white judge deciding on who will gain custody of her little girl from a previous marriage to a man Joe Cullen who abandoned them years ago. Not til he finds out that she is being raised by a black man does he rise to take action and gain custody of his daughter.
This is a courageous story to relate in 1964. Barrie’s anguish is one that is not self inflicted, there is no mental disorder, or neurotic dilemma yet it would challenge anyone who dares to be truthful and follow their heart in a world where many people must hide who they are. A beautiful love story that becomes tainted by the stain of ingrained hatred and ignorance. And causes ruination to a happy family.
Barbara Barrie’s performance as Julie Cullen Richards is nothing short of intuitively astounding.
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Just for funzies I wanted to paint some contrast into the mix, therefore pointing to films that truly deal with women and mental illness. More than cognitive commotion, they’re unstable, non compos mentis, deranged, knife wielding, murderous femmes, traumatized, delusional dames… or all out CRAZY NUTS!!!!!!!!!
And…
I’ll probably write about all these films mentioned–the women on the verge of a nervous breakdown or already on the shoulder of the weary road of life with all four tires flat at some point. I’ll Consider Charles Vidor’s Ladies in Retirement 1941 where Ida Lupino has to take care of her two dotty sisters Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett as the Creed sisters… They’re wonderfully Cukoo!!! I did a little piece on this gem a while back…
Robert Siodmak’s The Dark Mirror 1946 with Olivia de Havilland playing twins Terry & Ruth Collins, Gene Tierney gorgeous yet cunningly homicidal in Leave her To Heaven 1945, Laraine Day is totally unhinged in The Locket 1946, Joan Crawford as Louise Howell has a nightmare filled flashback in Curtis Burnhardt’s Possessed 1947.
“she is shown as alienated and stricken with psychological torture”– {source Marlisa Santos The Dark Mirror; Psychiatry and Film Noir 
Then again in Anatole Litvak’s story actually set in a mental institution with Olivia de Havilland stuck in The Snake Pit 1948, Vivien Leigh is the consummate delusional Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire 1951Marilyn Monroe gives a riveting performance as the deranged babysitter–(oh god kid just be quiet for Nell) in Roy Ward Baker’s Don’t Bother to Knock 1952, Joanne Woodward is in emotional conflict with three different personalities all herself…in The Three Faces of Eve 1957.
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Eleanor Parker gives a stunning portrayal of multiple personality disorder in Hugo Haas’ Lizzie 1957, I’ve written about Liz Taylor almost getting her frontal lobe sucked out at the request of her domineering Aunt -(Katherine Hepburn) just to hide her son’s sordid secret life in Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, Jean Simmons tries to find happiness in a loveless marriage that isn’t her fault in the engrossing Home Before Dark 1958, Ingmar Bergman’s Striking minimalist piece about mental turmoil in his beautifully photographed Through a Glass Darkly 1961, William Castle’s groundbreaking gender bending Homicidal 1961.
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Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve 1957
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Joan Marshall is Homicidal 1961 in William Castle’s answer to Psycho
Carroll Baker is a traumatized rape survivor in Something Wild 1961 and what I found to be a misogynist romp wasting several wonderful actresses who were offered these humiliating roles in The Chapman Report. In particular Clare Bloom who deserved better with her talent -as a nymphomaniac struggling with her sexual desires until she ultimately commits suicide in The Chapman Report 1962 and good old William Castle’s once again with his Strait-Jacket 1964 starring one of the ultimate Grande Dames Joan Crawford this time wielding an axe in addition to her nightmarish flashbacks.

Now… none of the 4 women I am covering here are homicidal or dangerous, all these women are experiencing a psychic struggle with issues that speak from their place in the world as women… who are defining somehow in their own way, what their identity means to them… Well, perhaps Lilith is a bit more volatile in terms of how she wields her sexuality and influences men & women both! But she is a divine innocent albeit-nymphomaniac living in a dreamy world of her own –not a homicidal vamp who devours men and spits them out… She is an innocent without malice. The men do the damage to themselves…

“And her eye has become accustomed to obvious ‘truths’ that actually hide what she is seeking. It is the very shadow of her gaze that must be explored”--Luce Irigaray

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Max von Sydow,, Harriet Andersson and Gunnar Bjormstrand in -(1961)-Through the Glass Darkly directed by Ingmar Bergman
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Gene Tierney as the murderously deranged Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven 1945

Seance on a wet afternoon 1964 previous post HERE

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Kim Stanley gives an unnerving performance as a delusional and dangerous woman who plots to kidnap a child so she can claim her psychic powers then located her…

And of course the two titans of Grande Dame Guignol fêtes courtesy of Robert Aldrich…

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 & Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964

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Roman Polanski’s very post-modern almost Brechtian/Picassoesque ode to insanity starring Catherine Deneuve in his Repulsion 1965 –
There’s always Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) showcasing an unstable female in distress brought on by childhood trauma. Considering Hitch’s lavish colors, and overt psychological embellishments that have created a pulpy romanticized landscape, that at times obfuscates the mental turbulence rather than letting it surface on it’s own. I chose to set this film aside and instead include the more off the beaten path of psychological leaning-‘women’s pictures.’ 1964 seemed to be one hell of a  year for Women in Distress by virtue of the female psychological crisis, once again to reiterate -not the ‘hysteria’ kind, mind you.”
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Tippie Hedren and Louise Latham in Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964)
“From the socially conservative 1950s to the permissive 1970s, this project explores the ways in which insanity in women has been linked to their femininity and the expression or repression of their sexuality. An analysis of films from Hollywood’s post-classical period (The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Lizzie (1957), Lilith (1964), Repulsion (1965),Images (1972) and 3 Women (1977)) demonstrates the societal tendency to label a woman’s behavior as mad when it does not fit within the patriarchal mold of how a woman should behave. In addition to discussing the social changes and diagnostic trends in the mental health
profession that define “appropriate” female behavior, each chapter also traces how the decline of the studio system and rise of the individual filmmaker impacted the films’ ideologies with regard to mental illness and femininity.”

— from FRAMING FEMININITY AS INSANITY: RE PRESENTATIONS OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN WOMEN IN POST-CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD by Kelly Kretschmar

WOMEN ON THE VERGE… OF A BREAKTHROUGH!

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Curt Jurgens carries Samantha Eggar after she has fallen off her horse. There is more going on that Patricia Neal’s blind eye can see

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Patricia Neal and Sammantha Eggar in Psyche 59
Patricia Neal and Samantha Eggar in Psyche 59 (1964)

The Pumpkin Eater 1964

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Ann Bancroft and Peter Finch are a married couple in crisis. Having perpetually popped out a myriad of children she is yet again pregnant. Will this keep him home this time…? The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

One Potato Two Potato 1964

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Barbara Barrie falls in love and marries Bernie Hamilton. Once her ex-husband realizes that his child is being brought up by a black man, times get even tougher for the couple

Lilith 1964

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THE WOMEN!!!

Barbara Barrie

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Patricia Neal

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Anne Bancroft

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Jean Seberg

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LET’S BEGIN WITH…!

Alison Crawford (Patricia Neal)“Love has to stop somewhere along the line otherwise it’s almost like… like committing suicide “

PSYCHE 59 (1964) Alexander Singer (A Cold Wind in August 1961 with Lola Albright and Scott Marlowe) directs the remarkable Patricia Neal as Alison Crawford, a woman struck down with a form of psychosomatic or hysterical blindness. Alison is aware that the affliction is all in her mind since the doctors can’t find anything organically wrong with her sight. Her ‘hysterical blindness’ and memory loss of the events leading up to her accident follows a fall down the stairs while she is pregnant. When she awakens she is unable to see.

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Alison “My Brain won’t accept the images that my eyes make.”

What is happening for Alison is that she is subconsciously blocking out the truth about her husband and her younger, coquettish sister Robin.

She is now living a very quaint life with her husband played by the austere Curd Jürgens (I love him as the devilishly urbane concert pianist Duncan Mowbray Ely in The Mephisto Waltz 1971).

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Aside from her intense husband Eric, Alison’s very sexually charged sister Robin (Samantha Eggar) has now come to live with the couple after a divorce. Robin hovers very close to Eric like a carrion bird waiting to pick the bones of Alison’s troubled marriage. While Alison doesn’t have any cognitive memory of what led up to her fall, it’s obvious to us that she can sense the strong attraction between her husband and younger sister. At one time, her younger sister Robin and Eric and been involved before Alison caught and married him. Robin hasn’t stopped lusting after him. Slowly Alison’s memory comes back as the flashes and images of what she experienced right before she lost her sight literally comes into view.

Singer builds the tension in the air slowly, methodically until it all comes to a head set against the skillfully contained cinematography by Walter Lassally (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner 1962, Zorba the Greek 1964, To Kill a Clown 1972).

IMDb tidbit-Patricia Neal was offered the lead in The Pumpkin Eater, but it was not 100% confirmed she would get the role. She then opted, to her later regret, to make Psyche 59 (1964) instead, since it was an official offer.

Neal gives a restrained yet powerful performance of a woman who is trapped in self imposed darkness by her fear of the truth…

There is very subtle theme of self-brutality that exists for each of the characters, Alison’s self imposed sightlessness, Eric’s indignant stoicism is palpable as he walks through the story like a trapped stray dog, He is agitated by Robin’s presence, because he can not resist her.

Robin, her younger sister who must have been quite young at the time of her relationship with Eric begs the question of appropriate behavior on his part. Robin is constantly asserting a seductive influence on Eric right in front of the disadvantaged Alison.

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She is both a hyper-sexual narcissist and a bit self-destructive at the same time, either way she gets off on playing the seductress torturing Eric, right in front of her sister, dark sunglasses and delicate pout. Although Alison suffers from blindness, she maintains a certain dignity that although as all three characters seem like she is, one of the trapped animals in a psycho-melodramatic forest, we get a sense that she will one day regain her freedom and spread her wings and fly away from it all truth in hand.

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Alison “We must be near the marshes” Robin “We just passed it … Coming to the old windmill soon…its still turning.. nothing’s changed” Alison “There’s a factory there now, Don’t protect me Robby. Don’t make up windmills.”

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Based on the novel by Françoise des Ligneris, with a screenplay by Julian Zimet (who wrote Horror Express 1972 and one of the best atmospheric little horror obscurities The Death Wheelers 1973 formally called Psychomania about a group of British motor cycle thugs and their pretty birds who dabble in the occult. Beryl Reid and George Sanders being one of their relatives, they learn the secret of immortality. But you have to die first to obtain it.)

Psyche 59 is an interesting psychological mood piece, almost post modernly impressionistic with it’s stark and polished black and white photo work. And Patricia Neal who had just won an Oscar for her role as Alma Brown in Hud 1963 and gave a command performance in 1957 as Marcia Jeffries in A Face in the Crowd is just exceptional as Alison who is trying to navigate the dark world surrounding her.

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The film is strange and at times subtly cruel yet Neal’s character relies on our visual journey which becomes quite painful at times yet beautiful as she begins to emerge. In the film Patricia Neal’s relationship with Curd Jürgens has an eerie parallel to real life marriage to writer/spy Roald Dahl, but I don’t want to get into the sensationalized tidbits of public people’s wreckage.

The Film also stars Ian Bannen as Robin’s poor befuddled boyfriend , Elspeth March and Beatrix Lehmann plays Alison’s staunch and science fiction reading grandmother-wish I had one of those!

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Jo Armitage (Anne Bancroft)-“I HAD THEM OF MY OWN FREE WILL…”

THE PUMPKIN EATER (1964) directed by the wonderful Jack Clayton (The Story of Esther Costello 1956, Room at the Top 1959, The Innocents 1961, The Great Gatsby 1974, Something Wicked this Way Comes 1983) Clayton is perhaps one of the most underrated directors. He has always managed to create the perfect atmosphere to fit the story. Usually very powerful imagery yet psychological restrained that summons a loner’s quality for each character. An outsider narrative. Bancroft just emerges like a queen bee, with every facial expression an emotional tale. Much of the story is told by nuance…

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Writer Penelope Mortimer was ‘fond of this quote from Raymond Chandler’: ‘Scarcely anything in literature is worth a damn except what is written between the lines.’ – from Los Angeles Times -Elaine Woo

“The Electrifying Performance That Won Anne Bancroft the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival”

Clayton was also associate producer on The Queen of Spades 1949, one of the truly hidden masterpieces of psychological/supernatural horror. Harold Pinter adapted the screenplay from Penelope Mortimer’s novel. Jack Clayton adds his touch of intricate human behavior amidst the wonderfully shot scenes by cinematographer Oswald Morris adds a sharp eye for realism (Beat the Devil 1953, Look Back in Anger 1959, Lolita 1962, Reflections in a Golden Eye 1967). Some of the frames are like exquisite portraits that seem to capture Jo’s isolation and the separateness she feels from the world. The use of soft and somber grays is just breathtaking and shows off Bancroft’s dark and deep set eyes. The film co-stars one of THE greatest actors Peter Finch who is always compelling to watch although, my recent viewing of his Harry Field in Something to Hide 1972 had me white knuckled at his infuriating submissiveness to the dangers a foot. I’m still trying to figure out if that was the performance he intended, an odd casting choice or if it was a misfire for everyone. Shelley Winters has a small part as his shrewish wife… Of course Shelley was, well… perfectly Shelley! But I digress…back to Anne Bancroft and the allusion to nursery rhymes and pumpkin eaters.

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The film is an almost cold, mocking and heartless examination of the art of marriage, motherhood and fidelity amidst the world of high society bourgeois malaise, melancholy and people wearing all their public disguises. Composer George Delerue  creates a perfectly moody, listless yet beautiful melody.

Bancroft plays Jo Armitage who might be practicing serial maternity in order to control her marriages. She it is also suggested that she suffers from a sexual dysfunction where the sex act is repulsive to her unless it is for the sake of bringing a child into the home. The interesting conflict in this story is the fact that while Jo goes through the motions of getting pregnant and initially playing house, she doesn’t seem to exude a strong sense of motherhood and often seems detached instead of nurturing. Which is an interesting statement for a film to make even in 1964.

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In a flashback, Jo remembers a simpler time when she lived in the Barn with husband Giles (Richard Harris), and first met and instantly fell in love with Jake (Peter Finch), Giles’ friend. It’s where we see the children buzzing around like chickens in the cramped barn space, but the look on both Jo and Jake’s face tell us that they have been hit by the thunderbolt of love!

In The Pumpkin Eater  Anne Bancroft  occupies Jo Armitage with many layers that are unspoken-

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She is a refined lady now on her 3rd marriage to Jake Armitage, a screenwriter. They live in London with six of Jo’s eight children. Jo has sent her two eldest boys away to boarding school. Her father funded this as he thought she had enough children invading her new marriage. She has been married several times and her brood are the offspring of each relationship. With the exception of the youngest being Jake’s child. Jo as I’ve said, has left her second husband Giles played with grit by Richard Johnson. Jo’s marriage to Giles had been a different sort of marriage , a more ruggedly organic kind of lifestyle, living in the large converted barn in the English countryside. Seeming like an ideal way to raise the children until Jo finds herself attracted to Jake. Once she leaves Giles and moves to London, she begins to suspect that Jake is now stepping out with other women.

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“Do you realize what you’re saddling yourself with? A zoo a children’s zoo and their keeper. Are you reconciling yourself to keeping a zoo and it’s keeper?” Talking to his daughter Jake about marrying Jo

The premise of her dilemma is that she seems to negotiate her sexuality by getting pregnant, seeing the act as a means to childbirth and a means to secure a hold on her mate. The walls seem to be closing in on both Jo and Jake, as she must come to terms with her life and the choices she has made. 

Categorized as a ‘woman’s picture’ Jo is at the center of our gaze and the narrative makes it very ambiguous as to whether Jo maintains control over her own body self-consciously, claiming her primacy as a woman or if in fact she is practicing serial maternity as an enslavement.

She quietly watches her children with satisfaction. It’s uncomfortable moments that insinuate themselves into the story, such as her rigid unforgiving father and his critical paternalizing. It was his decision to send her two eldest boys away to boarding school. where eventually they become young gentlemen but virtual strangers to their mother.

As spectator to Jo’s life and the flutter of children she is surrounded by, she often seems conflicted either sad or content, but above all she is trying to find a place for herself in the world-even more than the quirky or selfish characters that satellite around her.

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 You can see the puzzle of Jo’s life in her eyes as she stares out from under the hair dryer…

Bancroft conveys a rather austere yet engaging glimpse into her conflicted heart. While always self-contained, she exudes a vulnerable sadness, a longing that even she cannot seem to grasp at times. It’s obvious she never gained approval by her own rigidly cold father (Cedric Hardwicke). The narrative suggests to us that Jo can only find validation or let’s say control when she is pregnant or surrounded by her children, that it is a psychosis of strategic maternal need to keep her life revolving. And while her husband Jake does appear to love her, he is still a philanderer, and she seems determined to keep him.

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Jo contemplates her dilemma–suspecting that Jake is having several affairs, and she must come to terms with whether her psychiatrist is right that she only uses pregnancy as a means to qualify the act of sex. The film doesn’t delve back into her past to find out why she finds sex so repugnant. Jo ultimately has a break down in Harrard’s. Of course back then, the husband spoke to the doctor instead of Jo speaking directly for herself. He asks if they’ve been having problems. He doesn’t tell him about the extra marital affairs that might be torturing poor Jo. The doctor suggests that she’s perfectly healthy maybe she wants to have a child. Jo overhears Jake say, “Have you counted them! We have enough!”

The couple seem to love each other and yet they also seem miles apart emotionally. At first we see them incredibly drawn to each other, but once Jake’s career takes off and Jo is stuck at home with the children she has birthed, her sense of isolation begins to weigh on her.

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The doctor “So you do like children Mrs Armitage” Jo “Well they don’t do any harm” the doctor “Now let’s see you have…? Jo-“I had them of my own free will…”
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Jake –“Now we’re trapped..” Jo is pregnant again…
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Jake lectures Jo-“there’s a world apart from birth… we don’t want anymore…. how can we have anymore?”

She has a quickie with her ex hubby-Giles (Richard Johnson) for old time sake. She still comes across as in control of her body and her desire. I didn’t experience this film as an exercise in misogyny at all, rather a journey of a women who has been exploring her power from her womb trying to find connection to life. It’s what we women are taught right?

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She finds her self worth by being needed, by the children and her husband. Yet she is very unrealistic as she desires the newness of the next pregnancy, the new marriage, this is exciting. But the work that goes into maintaining the family is a skill she hasn’t quite focused on. She is a shell. A fertile one, but she hasn’t taken the time to be present for her children and separate from her men.

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James Mason plays a lecherous friend who wouldn’t mind getting into bed with Jo, yet he’s furiously possessive of his own younger wife that he thinks is having a fling with Jo’s husband. He’s quite satirically sinister as the hovering beast of prey who wants to cash in on the gossip and suspicion. But Jo has too much self restraint class and dignity. And so she spurns his advances that have an air of revenge to it.

Even if people think Jo is a brood sow. Particularly her father Cedric Hardwicke who doesn’t mince words– She has “too many kids and doesn’t need anymore”. It’s obvious that she hasn’t received a lot of warmth and acceptance from her own father, and a Freudian would most likely venture to say that’s at the root of her serial maternity.

Maggie Smith has a delightful little cameo as Philpot the flighty lodger who also slept with Jo’s husband Jake…

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 “The worlds got more misery than joy in it…. Colored boy….  He’s got the most misery of all!”Martha Richards (Vinnette Carroll)

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Julie-“All my life people have been going away from me. First Joe and now you. I must have done something- it must be my fault. Frank-“It’s not your fault dammit … It just won’t work that’s all. it just won’t work” Julie-“ kindness won’t work … Love won’t work?” Frank-“There’s everything wrong about it” Julie-“Is there?” Frank-“You know what’s between us…  Hate… riots, lynchings , prejudice. I”m black, you’re white. Come on tell me where you wanna go!” Julie-“With you…”

ONE POTATO TWO POTATO (1964) directed by Larry Peerce the film stars three very powerful actors, Barbara Barrie, Bernie Hamilton (Luis Buñuel‘s The Young One 1960) and Richard Mulligan. Barrie plays Julie Cullen Richards a white woman who falls in love and marries a black man -Frank Richards (Bernie Hamilton who is so much more than his lovable forever bellyaching captain Dobey overseeing the slick cop duo Starsky & Hutch and that red stripped tomato). Richard Mulligan plays Julie’s ex-husband the immature, insecure and racist Joe Cullen who at first abandons Julie and his little girl in order to wander the world and make good money. Julie tells Frank how Joe Cullen had blamed her for getting pregnant, in order to trap him. She was left alone with a child and didn’t know what to do. He sent money at first but then the letters stopped coming.

Now after years of his absence he shows up looking for his daughter. When he learns that she is being raised in a black home, he fights for custody of their little girl Ellen.

Julie loves Frank and believes that kindness and love will help them overcome anything. Frank quite aptly says “I don’t have the privilege or the luxury of a white skin.” 

Barbara Barrie enters into the marriage filled with more optimism and an open heart. Ellen loves her grandparents and is very well adjusted and happy growing up on the farm. But once Joe Cullen shows up, life turns upside down for Julie and the threat of losing her little girl is very real.

Initially Frank too is met with resistance from his father and his mother, who sweat their lives away trying to make a better life for their son. Frank father is furious he asks if he’s been “running around with a white women”. Frank tells him that they’re in love and they want to get married. “What difference does it make if she’s black white purple or green?”

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When Julie blames Joe for leaving them years ago, he turns it around and accuses her of ruining the family by marrying a black man and raising their little girl in an improper home.
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The film starts out with Judge Powell’s voice over and use of flashback to show us the evolution of Julie and Frank’s relationship and what lead them to the courtroom. He is earnestly trying to rationalize his ill-conceived decision to award custody of the little girl Ellen to her father Joe Cullen.

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Harry Bellaver from Naked City television series play Judge Powell. Inter-racial marriage was a very sensitive issue back in the early 60s. The film deals with the peripheral damage caused by racism and the outside pressures it puts on two people who genuinely love each other. Julie is a woman legitimately faced with life’s cruelties, the climax will haunt me forever. Part of what accentuates both the gut wrenching scenes and frames filled with incidental joys is due to Laszlo’s incredible eye for intimacy and sense of place.

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Julie Cullen-“That movie, it’s like living in a … it’s like living a different life. You understand?” Frank Richards “In another place and in another time” Julie Cullen “Yes, that’s it exactly”
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Dancing in the park…

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A cop stops the couple and tells Julie to take her ‘john’ someplace else. Assumes that she’s a prostitute. He would not have stopped them if Frank were white.
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Julie -“Now you just tell me please, what am I going to do. What am I going to do. I love you. How can I be afraid of somebody or something I love?” Frank-“Please Julie Please give me a break, Don’t make it so hard for me.” Julie-“Are you afraid of me?do you love me? he shakes his head yes Well, we’re the same then… Were exactly the same…”

In fact the cinematography was filmed by Andrew Laszlo who actually photographed some fine episodes of Naked City, and the marvelous LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS 1970. THE WARRIORS 1979. The wonderful score was composed by the prolific Gerald Fried.

Barbara Barrie has always been the kind of actress that conveys such a genuineness, that it’s hard to believe she’s playing a part. Having already seen her in numerous parts, a few in particular that stand out for me– two superb episodes of Naked City. Barbara Barrie is so truly real that she can pull at your heart strings with one simple delivered piece of dialogue. As the sensitive Sarah Hinson in Oct. 10, 1962’s And By the Sweat of Thy Brow. And one of the best stories, called To Walk Like a Lion  where she plays the nonconformist girl-friend Rosalind Faber. Harry Bellaver who played the lovable Frank Arcaro in the same series is Judge Powell who decides whether or not Julies daughter Ellen from her first marriage should remain with her loving family or be placed in the care of her biological father who abandoned them years ago.

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William –“For the love of god You went to school with white people. You go to work with them what’s it done to you? Put your brains to sleep. Make you forget the facts of life. They’re nice to you. They’re polite to you. But you still only have one place to go and that’s with your own kind. “ his mother adds, “Both of you are gonna be outcasts…”

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The realness of the situation between Barrie and Hamilton’s characters is incredibly poignant and heart breaking, under the weight of the surrounding prejudice and the upheld legal belief that a wandering absent father would still be a better parent than a stable ‘ideal’ family — the decision is still based in hatred. The film also stars Robert Earl Jones as Frank’s father-William. He is the father of actor James Earl Jones. Vinnette Carroll is wonderful as Frank’s mother Martha.

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This is what a family looks like
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judge Powell comes to question Ellen at school. He tells her that William her brother is different than she is. Ellen answers him – She says “Of course he is. he’s a boy…”

Barbara Barrie won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her remarkable portrayal of Julie Cullen Richards –a kind and loving woman who crosses the color-line in the volatile 60s. Barrie does a very serious and reverent job of being sensitive to the taboo subject of inter-racial marriage and bi-racial children.

There are many key scenes that focus on race relations that suggest the the climate of the 60s South and takes a step into the shoes of being black in the South without exuding that sort of white savior complex that makes me ill. While the film remained focused on the aspects of inter-racial marriage and not the harsh and brutal experiences that black people had to survive through during the battle for civil rights.

The film is not only thoughtful about this subject, but it allows so many nuanced performances surrounding different levels of the situation to unfold naturally. I’ve chosen to focus on is Barbara Barrie’s character because she was a very strong and optimistic woman. Filled with courage and the strong belief that love is all it takes to get by. To see her strength and her faith torn down by the existing hate and blind ignorance in the world is just punishing to watch.

How heart-wrenching it is to love her husband and want her family to stay together, and have to stand by and watch an ignorant law destroy not only her life, but instill her daughter Ellen’s perception that she is being sent away. It’s a devastating last scene that I dare anyone not to be silent, angry and devastated by it’s final impact.

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Julie tries to plead with Joe not to take Ellen away. He doesn’t want her growing up in an unfit home and what she’ll learn from black people. Julie-“All she’ll learn is that there are people who love her. My husband gave her what you took away. A father, a family and the only home she’s ever really known. You can’t stand that someone else has succeeded where you failed”
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Joe-“I want to know something. I want to know one thing…. All you talk about is how he loves the child and how he loves you…but you left something out about you… can you love a black man?” Julie-” I can,… and I do! Joe tries to force himself on her… his rage is rooted in his wounded masculinity. He’s not only racist but he’s using the child to hurt Julie.
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Joe seeks council from a minister. He wants permission from God to take custody of Ellen . But the minister tells him that the teachings of the bible show to love thy neighbor as thy would yourself. We were all created equal, And that hes looking for a way out- Joe-. “I”m sorry reverend but all I can think of is my child living amongst black people”

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“Do you know what she wants. Do you think they can cure this fire. She wants to leave the mark of her desire on every living creature in the world…

…If she were Caesar, she’d do it with a sword. If she were a poet, she’d do it with words. But she’s Lilith, so she has to do it with her body.” –Lilith (Jean Seberg)

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“Somehow insanity seems a lot less sinister to watch in a man than a woman.”Dr. Bea Brice (Kim Hunter)

LILITH (1964)  Directed by Robert Rossen (All the King’s Men 1949, The Hustler 1961, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers 1946, and Billy Budd 1962 one of my personal favorites of Rossen’s work next to The Hustler)

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Seberg never looked better than when she wore her hair closely cropped to that fiery yet angelic face…

Jean Seberg  is the mysterious Lilith, a sylph like girl who inhabits the world of a more progressive sanitarium for the wealthy, luring everyone around her into her sensual and mystifying space. Both Vincent Bruce (Warren Beatty) and Stephen Evshevsky (Peter Fonda) fall under her spell.

Diane Baker had briefly been up for the role of Lilith. I think she’s a fine actress but the role truly was sculpted perfectly for the willowy Seberg.

“Somehow insanity seems a lot less sinister to watch in a man than a woman” Dr Bea Brice (Kim Hunter)
Somehow insanity seems a lot less sinister to watch in a man than a woman” Dr Bea Brice (Kim Hunter)

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Directed and written for the screen by Robert Rossen Lilith 1964 was his last film. Based on the novel  by J.R. Salamanca, it tells the story of Vincent Bruce a returning veteran from war who is hired by Dr. Bea Brice  (Kim Hunter) to be trained as an occupational therapist at the sanitarium. The atmosphere is a closed off universe… closed off to reality and while there is freedom to roam amidst beautiful crashing waves and languid trees, there is still a sense of hollowness to the place. An aimless veil that suggests there is no escape.

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Vincent Bruce (Warren Beatty) is about to walk into an enchanted madhouse

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The cinematography is by Eugen Schüfftan  and editing by Aram Avakian. Music composed and conducted by Kenyon Hopkins  adds such an important layer to the moodiness of a closed in world slowly spirally out of control.

I do have one complaint. I wish hairstylist Frederic Jones would have envisioned something more beguiling & suitable for a mad enchantress with Seberg’s hair. It looks rather stuck in the territory or 60s coal mining-east village femme/butch mullet which covers up her pixie like features. After all Lilith dwells in an imaginary world with her own language and in the favor of unseen gods. She should have tendrils of golden locks that wisp just slightly over her wanting lips.

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Vincent himself is a cryptic quiet sort of guy who doesn’t disclose much of himself but instead observes everyone at the Sanitarium especially developing a fixation on Lilith.

Lilith's secret language

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Vincent (Beatty) takes his new work very seriously wanting to help people more directly, and starts to get involved with several of the patients. Of course he is drawn to one in particular. The beautiful and enchanting young girl named Lilith. Peter Fonda plays Stephen Evshevsky a very sensitive soul who is madly in love with Lilith and shrinks and breathes and follows after her with obsessive worship. A lyrical sort of otherworldly boy who’s romanticism of Lilith clearly leads him down a dangerous path. Stephen says something very provocative at one point that makes you think…. maybe he’s right!

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She plays the wooden flute like a siren song to Peter
She plays the wooden flute like a siren song to lure Peter’s gaze to reinforce his fixation

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Stephen Evshevsky: “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”
Jean Seberg either succumbing to a spiteful hair stylist or perhaps wearing a very unattractive mullet wig (I will always love the Otto Preminger Joan of Arc crop) plays the schizophrenic hyper-sexual Lilith who slinks around the sanitarium like a lithe spider queen weaving golden threads in her wake, and captivating anyone caught in her beautiful web. “to leave the mark of her desire on every living creature.” The opening titles even suggest her as predatory by the use of graphic webs with a butterfly caught in it’s design.
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Vincent tells his grandmother that he’s taking the job. There is no emotional connection in the scene. But as Vincent ascends the stairs having lost his appetite, granny tells him that his mother would be happy that he’s doing this kind of work… It is the first hint at Vincent’s back story and allusion to his own mother’s mental illness.
Jessica Walters looks beautiful she's in a horrible marriage to a brutish slob
Vince comes to visit
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The interesting contrast to the narrative are the very few excursions to the outside. The outside world is filled with banal and shallow conventions. How equally sad life is suggested for Vincent when he visits with is his old girlfriend played by Jessica Walter who is tethered to a vulgar & brutish Gene Hackman. (Beatty met Hackman on the set of Lilith and eventually went on to film Bonnie & Clyde 3 years later.)
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And seduce, Lilith does, the brooding, solitary and mysterious lesbian (Anne Meachum Dear Dead Delilah 1972, Garden of Death 1974), the shy intellectual Stephen (Peter Fonda) who idolizes Lilith from afar and Vincent (Warren Beatty) who steps over the boundaries of professionalism and also becomes not only her lover but completely possessive of her. It is hinted at from the beginning that his mother suffered from mental illness, was a similar looking blonde and we see that he has place both the photograph of Lilith next to a framed picture of his mother. Also Vincent’s grandmother tells him that his mother would be very pleased with the work he is doing. Vincent immerses himself too deeply into the confines of the sanitarium and begins to showcase neurosis of his own.
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Jean Seberg as Lilith is a very provocative enigma on one hand an unwary child who speaks to otherworldly creatures in a cryptic language and is filled with affection and innocence yet this intoxicating nymph is in conflict as she harbors a volatile resentment toward an unimaginative and predictable society. She can not maintain a steady relationship with just one partner. She must be free.

Just briefly I have to say something about Eugen Schüfftan the brilliant cinematographer who also worked on The Hustler with Rossen as well as this incredible film. He has created an otherworldly atmosphere surrounding the sanitarium within & without. Schüfftan  is no stranger to filming a haunting and captivating landscape as he lensed Eyes Without a Face in 1960 for Georg Franju and created a very enkindled space in The Hustler with Steve McQueen in 1961.

Eugen Schüfftan‘s photo work in stark contrasts of sinister blacks & hazy creamy whites paint a very eerie hinter world, with faceless people except for the central object of our fixation –the emergence of the mythic Lilith and the few devotees who worship. She is an archetypal female succubus.

Lilith (Hebrew: לִילִית‎ Lîlîṯ) is a Hebrew name for a figure in Jewish mythology, developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud, who is generally thought to be in part derived from a historically far earlier class of female demons a succubus a seducer.

At one point when Lilith, Peter and Vincent get stuck in the rain by the cliffs, Lilith pretends to drop her paint brush down onto the rocks below, near the rushing currents. Peter almost falls in trying to retrieve the paint brush for her. Later Vincent asks her why she let him risk his life. She answered, “Because he’s a fool” Vince asks again, “If he’s a fool then why do you lead him on like that?” Lilith-“Because I’m Mad.”

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Vincent asks her why she let Peter risk his life. She answered, “Because he’s a fool” Vince asks again, “If he’s a fool then why do you lead him on like that?” Lilith-“Because I’m Mad”

The character of Vincent Bruce (Warren Beatty) walks into this almost enchanted world, a stranger himself looking for some kind of direction. The policy at this institution seems to rely on allowing the patients as much free expression within the parameters of the sanitarium. It gives them a sense of stability within the structures of their psychically constructed webs, as the motif was used at the beginning of the film. And then later alluded to by Dr Lavrier (James Patterson who sadly died that same year- Silent Night, Bloody Night 1972) who discusses with the staff how ‘normal’ spiders will spin out structured webs while schizophrenic spiders will weave asymmetrical webs that make no sense–fantastic, asymmetrical and rather nightmarish designs a… most unsettling fact.

Look at her she's lovely It's like she wants to be just like me...Narcissus
“Look at her she’s lovely It’s like she wants to be just like me”... Narcissus as female
My kisses kill her, just like all of them it destroys them to be loves
“My kisses kill her, just like all of them it destroys them to be loved”

Editor Aram Akavian quickly edits to frame Lilith sitting as if a spider in her lair waiting to catch a morsel of man or woman to feed on. She has the look of a luring insatiable creature. Lilith will tell you that you must be able to speak the language of her people –you have to demonstrate great courage and have a great capacity for joy.

As Lilith and Vincent spend more time together, Vincent becomes equally more drawn into her world. As her caretaker he arranges for them to have quiet romps through the woods, which is very conducive to private love making.

But Vincent begins to display signs of a powerfully possessive jealousy, and ownership. He follows her when she goes off with Yvonne Meaghan (Anne Meacham) for their lesbian triste in the barn. He pursues after them and has sex with Lilith right there as if to wipe out Yvonnes touch. He wants to dominate her completely. When the gentle Stephen finishes a beautifully carved cedar box for Lilith’s pastels, Vincent pretends that Lilith has rejected it. He lies to Stephen which leads to his committing suicide believing she had rejected him. Lilith was the only meaning to his life. Vincent obviously becoming more unstable goes to Lilith’s room and wants recognition from her…

Vincent“I did the right thing… you wanted me to that say it… Just say I did the right thing…. tell me that… say you wanted me to do it….”

Lilith- “I don’t kill the things I love. I didn’t kill my brother… He jumped, because he didn’t dare to love me…! I wanted him to…. I wanted him to.”

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She speaks a crpytic language

Lilith isn’t insane she is ‘mad’… Society’s mad woman because her sexuality is ‘desire’ and what is desire is often shunned and then feared. For ages women who are desirable are made to appear dangerous.

That is not to say that she doesn’t have an inappropriate level of sexual dysfunction in her background with her brother, the incident with the small pre-teen boys where she whispers provocatively in their little ears and then kisses them. It’s a telling yet uncomfortable scene. Here is a the instance, on a public street, where Lilith kneels down to chat with two little boys, kisses his fingers, and whispers something presumably shocking into his ear. Vincent yanks her away, offended and possibly even challenged by the attention she is giving someone else.

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Ultimately Vincent begins to unravel himself. While gazing at Lilith and finding himself during that journey he begins to annihilate her. He uses the phrases Bitch several times which leads me to believe he has a lot of unresolved issues with his mother having been absent because of her own mental illness. There is a frame where Vincent’s mother’s photograph in a frame is set next to a photo of Lilith. The two women look similar. Lilith has been a surrogate for his mother. Might explain his violent need to claim her.

Dr Lavrier even explains it early on to Vincent that she exudes a kind of ‘rapture’ which in Shakespearean times meant, innocence or ecstasy or madness…. and that when a man goes off to study this rapture he might become dispossessed by it. While Lilith the spirit of female desire embodies both creation and destruction in a preternatural esoteric world, Vincent the soldier pushes his way into her realm and is the force of destruction in the earthly realm.

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Lilith “Do you think loving me is sinful. Do you think I have a talent for love. If my talent were greater than you think would you stop loving me.?”

Lilith -“IF YOU SHOULD DISCOVER THAT YOUR GOD LOVED OTHERS AS MUCH AS HE LOVED YOU WOULD YOU HATE HIM FOR IT?… I SHOW MY LOVE FOR ALL OF YOU AND YOU DESPISE ME….”

death of lilith

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SPECIAL LITTLE MENTION TO ♥

Special Mention for Arlene Martel  a quirky favorite character actress that has been in everything from Star Trek, The Fugitive, The Outer Limits to Columbo– In The Glass Cage 1964 She gives an outstanding leading actress performance as a very troubled young woman name Ellen Sawyer who has fled her evangelist father in Texas and is now living a measly little life amidst the dregs in California until she shoots her sisters boyfriend. This is a very excellent obscure psycho-noir study that has impressive photography and unconventional characters in particular King Moody who is unreal as a seedy voyeur that oozes pervert all over, dialogue and pretty taboo subject matter. Also given the fact that it stars John Hoyt who also directed– The Glass Cage (1964) is a memorable little gem. My only complaint is the sort of dark slap stick ending that spirals out of control abruptly at the climax to resolve the intense build up.

It also features another as always stand out performance by Elisha Cook Jr.

Arlene Martel in The Glass Cage tries to shake off the advances of King Moody
Arlene Martel in The Glass Cage 1964 tries to shake off the advances of King Moody

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Greasy, low-life Kind Moody tries to assault poor Arlene Martel while she’s the more timid twin Ellen. Great obscure noir with split personality at it’s core.
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Elisha Cook plays Ellen’s evangelist father who traumatized his daughter with sexual abuse, causing her to split off into two personalities.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the commotion here at The Last Drive In -Your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl

5 thoughts on “4 Outstanding Actresses: It’s 1964 and there’s cognitive commotion!

  1. Jo, I’ve never heard of any of these movies before – can you believe it? They all sound really interesting, and with such interesting roles for women. Thanks for broadening my film horizons yet again! :)

    Like

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