Enduring Empowerment : Women Who didn’t Give a Damn! …in Silent & Classic film!

THE SILENT YEARS: When we started not giving a damn on screen!

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THE GODLESS GIRL (1929) CHAIR SMASH courtesy of our favorite genius gif generator- Fritzi of Movies Silently

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In celebration of our upcoming Anti Damsel Blogathon on August 15 & 16, I had this idea to provide a list of bold, brilliant and beautiful women!

There was to be no indecent exposure of the ankles and no SCHWOOSHING!  Not in this Blogathon baby!

From the heyday of Silent film and the advent of talking pictures, to the late ‘20s to 1934 Pre-Code Hollywood, films were rife with provocative and suggestive images, where women were kicking up a storm on screen… The end of the code during the early 60s dared to offer social commentary about race, class, gender and sexuality! That’s our party!

In particular, these bold women and the screen roles they adopted have become legendary. They sparked catchy dialogue, inspired fashion trends, or just plain inspired us… All together there are 111 of SOME of the most determined, empowered and uniquely fortified femmes of classic film…!

First of course I consulted the maven of all things splendid, shimmery and SILENT for her take on silent film actresses and the parts that made them come alive on the immortal screen…. Fritzi at Movies Silently has summoned up these fabulous femmes….

Rischka Wildcat
1) Rischka (Pola Negri) in The Wildcat (1921) Ernst Lubitsch’s hyperactive Dr. Seussian comedy is worth seeing for the sets alone but the best part is Pola Negri’s Rischka, a young bandit queen who is terrorizing the mountains. She meets the local Lothario during a robbery and by the end of the scene she has stolen his heart. And his pants.
Countess A Woman of the World
2) The Countess (Pola Negri) in A Woman of the World (1925) Anyone who thought going to Hollywood would tame Pola Negri’s wild side had another thing coming. In this film, she plays a countess whose skull tattoo causes an uproar in Anytown, USA. The film also features a romance between Negri and the stuffy local prosecutor, who soon finds himself on the receiving end of her bullwhip. Not a metaphor.
Miss Lulu Bett
3) Lulu (Lois Wilson) in Miss Lulu Bett (1921) Independent women weren’t always given to violence and thievery. In the case of Lulu, she is a single woman trapped in two Victorian social conventions: spinster and poor relation. During the course of the film, she rejects both titles, learns her own self-worth and empowers herself to enter into a healthy relationship with the local schoolmaster. Tasty feminism!
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4) Zaida (Bebe Daniels) in She’s a Sheik (1927) Silent movie audiences enjoyed reversals of gender tropes. The Rudolph Valentino vehicle The Sheik (1921) had been a smash hit and had spawned many rip-offs and parodies. (kidnapping = love = box office!) In this case, a warrior princess falls for a French officer and decides the most sensible course of action is to abduct him for the purpose of marriage. Sadly, this comedy seems to be one of many silent films that is missing and presumed lost.
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5) Eve (Leatrice Joy) in Eve’s Leaves (1926) Another gender reversal comedy, Eve’s Leaves features twenties fashion icon Leatrice Joy as a tomboy sailor who finds the perfect man while ashore on business. She ends up saving the day– and her favorite dude in distress– through quick thinking, a knowledge of knots and a mean right hook.
Ossi The Doll
6) Ossi (Ossi Oswalda) in The Doll (1919) Ernst Lubitsch featured another feisty heroine in this surreal comedy. Our hero wishes to dodge marriage but cannot gain his inheritance without a bride. A plan! He will buy a lifelike doll from a famous toymaker and marry that. What he doesn’t know is that the doll was broken, the toymaker’s daughter has taken its place and she means to teach the reluctant bridegroom a lesson. Oswalda’s mischievous antics are a delight.
Molly Sparrows
7) Molly (Mary Pickford) in Sparrows (1926) Mary Pickford was America’s Sweetheart during the silent era and audiences adored her fearless heroines. Molly is one of her boldest. She’s an orphan raised in a Southern swamp who must rescue a kidnapped infant. The epic final race across the swamps– complete with alligators– is still harrowing to behold.
Helen Lass of the Lumberlands
8) Helen (Helen Holmes) in A Lass of the Lumberlands (1916) Helen Holmes was an action star who specialized in train-related stunts and adventure. In this 1916 serial, she saves the day on numerous occasions and even saves her love interest from peril on the train tracks. (It should be mentioned that the Victorian “woman tied to the train tracks” cliche was incredibly rare and usually treated with ridicule in silent films.) This is another movie that is missing and presumed lost.
Musidora Judex
9) Diana Monti (Musidora) in Judex (1916) Not all the empowered women in classic film were heroines. In the case of Musidora, her most famous roles were as criminals. She was the deadly thief/hit-woman Irma Vep in Les Vampires and then took on the titular caped crusader in Judex. Smart, stealthy and likely to slip a stiletto between the ribs… in short, a woman not to be trifled with.
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10) Helen (Miriam Nesbitt) in The Ambassador’s Daughter (1913) This short film from Thomas Edison’s motion picture studio features espionage and a quick-thinking heroine. She tracks down spies at the embassy, follows her suspect and manages to steal back the documents that he purloined from her father. Not at all bad for a film made seven years before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.
Cornelia The Bat
11) Cornelia Van Gorder (Emily Fitzroy) in The Bat (1926) It’s a dark and stormy night and a murderous costumed villain means to recover stolen loot in an isolated mansion. What is an elderly woman to do? Take up her trusty pistol and investigate, of course! She also wields a dry wit and keeps cool under pressure. The Bat doesn’t stand a chance
Catherine The Eagle
12) Catherine the Great (Louise Dresser) in The Eagle (1925) As mentioned above, Rudolph Valentino specialized in aggressive wooing but he finds the shoe on the other foot in this Russian romance. Louise Dresser is a kick as the assertive czarina who knows what she likes and goes for it.

Now to unleash the gust of gals from my tornadic mind filled with favorite actresses and the characters that have retained an undying sacred vow to heroine worship… In their private lives, their public persona and the mythological stardom that has & still captivates generations of  fans, the roles they brought to life and the lasting influence that refuses to go away…!

Because they have their own unique rhythm to the way they moved through the world… a certain kind of mesmerizing allure, and/or they just didn’t give a hoot, a damn… nor a flying fig!

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“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud”-Coco Chanel

Stars like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford managed to keep re-inventing themselves. They became spirited women with an inner reserve of strength and a passion for following their desires!

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Barbara Stanwyck posing with boxing gloves!

The following actresses and their immortal characters are in no particular order…!

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13. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) Double Indemnity (1944) set fire to the screen as one of the most seductive femme fatales— a dame who made sunglasses and ankle bracelets a provocative weapon. She had murder on her mind and was just brazen enough to concoct an insurance scam that will pay off on her husbands murder in Double Indemnity (1944). Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is the insurance guy who comes around and winds up falling under her dangerous spell… Walter Neff: ”You’ll be here too?” Phyllis: “ I guess so, I usually am.” Neff: “Same chair, same perfume, same ankle?” Phyllis:  “I wonder if I know what you mean?” Neff: “I wonder if you wonder?”
Bacall Slim To Have and Have not
14. Marie “Slim” Browning in To Have and Have Not (1944) Lauren Bacall walked into our cinematic consciousness at age 19 when Howard Hawks cast her as Marie “Slim” Browning in To Have and Have Not (1944). A night club singer, (who does a smoking rendition of Hogie Carmichael’s ‘How little We Know”) She’s got a smooth talking deep voiced sultry beauty, possesses a razor sharp wit to crack wise with, telling it like it is and the sexiest brand of confidence and cool. Slim has the allure of a femme fatale, the depth of a soul mate and the reliability of a confidant and a fearless sense of adventure. Playing across Bogart as the jaded Captain Harry Morgan who with alcoholic shipmate Eddie (Walter Brennan ) run a boating operation on the island of Martinique. Broke they take a job transporting a fugitive running from the Nazis. Though Morgan doesn’t want to get involved, Slim is a sympathizer for the resistance, and he falls in love with her, while she makes no bones about wanting him too with all the sexual innuendo to heat things up! Slim: “You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.”
Bette as Margo Channing in All About Eve
15. Margo Channing (Bette Davis) All About Eve (1950) In all Bette Davis’ films like (Jezebel (1938) Dark Victory (1939) The Letter (1940) Now, Voyager (1942)), she shattered the stereotypes of the helpless female woman in peril. Davis had an unwavering strength, fearlessly taking on the Hollywood system and embracing fully the moody roles that weren’t always ‘attractive.’  Davis made her comeback in 1950, perhaps melding a bit of her own story as an aging star in All About Eve. Margo must fend off a predatory aspiring actress (Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington) who insinuates herself into Margo’s territory. Davis’ manifests the persona of ambition and betrayal which have become epic… “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” 
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16. Margaret DeLorca / Edith Phillips (Bette Davis) plays the good twin/bad twin paradigm in Dead Ringer (1964). Edith, is struggling working class gal who owns a nightclub, and Margaret is her vein and opportunistic twin who stole her beau Frank away and married into a wealthy lifestyle. On the night of his funeral, Edith shoots Margaret in a fit of vengeful pique, then assumes her identity with ironic results. Davis again proves even though she commits murder, she can manifest a pathos like no one else… Margaret DeLorca: You really hate me, don’t you? You’ve never forgiven me in all these years.”  Edith Phillips: “Why should I? Tell me why I should.”  Margaret DeLorca: “Well, we’re sisters!”  Edith Phillips: “So we are… and to hell with you!”
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17. Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) is a forgotten alcoholic former child star living in a faded Hollywood mansion with her invalid sister Blanche (Joan Crawford), herself an aging Hollywood star. They punish each other with vicious mind games, temper tantrums and repressed feelings of revenge and jealousy.  Jane is a tragic tortured soul who’s life becomes ‘ugly’ because she’s been shunned and imprisoned by a fatal secret in which sister Blanche holds the key. What makes Jane such an empowered figure are the very things that have driven her mad. Jane’s itching for a comeback and is ready to dance and sing her way back into everyone’s heart! Jane has a child-like innocence that gives her that ambition and pure drive to see herself back on the stage. She believes it. While other people might laugh at her behind her back, Jane’s repressed rage also leaves room for joy. She’s an empowered aging actress who refuses to give up the spot light… Good for you Jane, now put down that hammer and feed Blanche something edible… Davis delivering yet another legendary line… Blanche: “You wouldn’t be able to do these awful things to me if I weren’t still in this chair.” Jane: But you *are*, Blanche! You *are* in that chair!”
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18. Alma Brown (Patricia Neal), in Hud (1963): Playing against the unashamed bad boy Hud Bannon (Paul Newman), Alma is a world-weary housekeeper who drips with a quiet stoic sensuality and a slow wandering voice that speaks of her rugged womanly charm. The philandering Hud is drawn to Alma, but she’s too much woman for him in the end… Hud Bannon: “I’ll do anything to make you trade him.” Alma Brown: “No thanks. I’ve done my time with one cold-blooded bastard, I’m not looking for another.”
Ball of Fire (1941) Directed by Howard Hawks Shown: Henry Travers, Oscar Homolka, Gary Cooper, Leonid Kinskey, Aubrey Mather, S.Z. Sakall, Richard Haydn, Tully Marshall, Barbara Stanwyck
19. Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanny) in Ball of Fire (1941) she is just that, a sexy ball of fire and a wise-cracking night club singer who has to hide out from the mob because her testimony could put her mobster boyfriend Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews) away for murder! Some nerdy professors (including Gary Cooper) want to exploit her to study slang and learn what it’s like to speak like real folk and does she turn their world upside down. Sugarpuss O’Shea: [needing help with a stubborn zipper] “You know, I had this happen one night in the middle of my act. I couldn’t get a thing off. Was I embarrassed!“
Killer Jo Walk on the Wild Side
20. Jo Courtney (Barbara Stanwyck) in Walk on The Wild Side (1962). Jo runs the New Orleans bordello called The Doll House with an iron hand— when anyone steps out of line she knows how to handle them. Stanwyck had the guts to play a lesbian in 1962, madly in love with Hallie Gerard (Capucine). Stanwyck’s Jo Courtney is elegant, self-restrained and as imposing as Hera in tailored suits. Having to be strong in a man’s world, her strong instinct for survival and the audacious will to hold onto Hallie brings her world to a violent conclusion…  “Oh you know me better than that Hallie. Sometimes I’ve waited years for what I wanted.”    
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21. Marie Garson (Ida Lupino) in High Sierra (1941) Roy “Mad Dog” Earle has been pardoned from a long prison term. Marie, a rough around the edges taxi dancer, finds herself resisting her attraction to this brutal gangster, forming a very complicated dynamic with a second mobster who wants to pull off a high stakes robbery. Marie is a force of nature that bristles from every nerve she purely musters in this tale of doom-fated bad boys, but more importantly here… A woman can raise a rifle with the best of them! Marie Garson “Yeah, I get it. Ya always sort hope ya can get out, it keeps ya going.”
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22. Lilli Marlowe (Ida Lupino) in Private Hell 36 (1954) This rare noir gem is written by the versatile powerhouse Ida Lupino who also plays Lilli Marlowe. Lilli has expensive tastes. After getting caught up in an investigation of a bank heist, she falls in love with the blue collar cop Cal Bruner (Steve Cochran). Cal has secretly stashed away the missing money from that bank heist, and then begins to suffer from a guilty conscience.  Lilli’s slick repartee is marvelous as Cal and his reluctant partner Jack Farnham (then husband Howard Duff) focus on her, hoping she’ll help them in their investigation. Lilli’s tough, she’s made it on her own and isn’t about to compromise now… Cal may be falling apart but Lilli knows what she wants and she always seems to keep it together! Lilli Marlowe: “Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed I’d meet a drunken slob in a bar who’d give me fifty bucks and we’d live happily ever after.”
Tallulah Lifeboat
23. Constance Porter (Tallulah Bankhead) in Lifeboat 1944. It’s WWII and Connie is a smart-talking international journalist who’s stranded in the middle of the Atlantic ocean with an ensemble of paranoid and desperate survivors. Eventually her fur coat comes off, her diamond bracelet and expensive camera gets tossed in the sea. But she doesn’t give a damn, she can take the punishment and still attract the hunky and shirtless (yum) John Kodiak… survival’s just a state of mind… and she does it with vigor and class and a cool calm! Connie Porter: “Dying together’s even more personal than living together.” 
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24. Berenice Sadie Brown (Ethel Waters) The Member of the Wedding 1952. Berenice doesn’t take any crap. She’s in charge of the brooding, temperamental tomboy Franky Addams (Julie Harris) who feels like an outsider. Berenice’s kitchen is a place of wisdom as she tries to bestow some life lessons, to a child who is a wild and longing little soul… Berenice is the only steady source of nurturing and a strong pair of shoulders to lean on… Thank god Franky/Harris didn’t start having her droning inner monologues until The Haunting (1963). Frances ‘Frankie’ Addams: [throws the knife into the kitchen door] “I’m the world’s greatest knife thrower.”  Berenice Sadie Brown: [when Frankie threatens her with a knife] “Lay it down, Satan!” 
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25. The Bride (Elsa Lanchester) Bride of Frankenstein (1935) The Bride might be one of the first screen woman to rabidly defy an arranged/deranged marriage. She’s iconic,  memorable and filled with glorious hiss!.. because The Bride may have come into this world in an unorthodox way, but she’ll be damned if any man is going to tell her who to love! James Whale isn’t the only one who brought about life in this campy horror masterpiece… Elsa Lanchester manifested The Bride with a keen sense of fearsome independence. No matter whether the Monster demands a Mate, The Bride isn’t ready and willing. Lanchester always took daring roles that were larger than life because she had a way of dancing around the edges of Hollywood convention. Charming, hilarious and downright adorable even with the wicked lightning struck hair and stitches and deathly pale skin! the bride-“Hiss…Scream….”
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26. Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) in His Gal Friday (1940) Hildy is a hard-bitten reporter for New York City’s The Morning Post. She’s just gotten back from Reno to a get a divorce from her louse of a husband who happens to also be her boss Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Hildy’s anxious to break ties with her manipulative ex-husband who just isn’t ready to let her leave the job or their marriage so she can marry straight-laced Bruce (Ralph Bellamy)… and he’ll do so by any means. But she’s nobody’s fool… and if she stays it’s because she’s made up her mind to embrace Walter’s crazy antics… Hildy Johnson: [to Walter on the phone] “Now, get this, you double-crossing chimpanzee: There ain’t going to be any interview and there ain’t going to be any story. And that certified check of yours is leaving with me in twenty minutes. I wouldn’t cover the burning of Rome for you if they were just lighting it up. If I ever lay my two eyes on you again, I’m gonna walk right up to you and hammer on that monkeyed skull of yours ’til it rings like a Chinese gong!” 
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27. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Boulevard (1950) There’s just no one quite like Norma Desmond. It’s 1950’s decadent Hollywood, the heyday of the Silent Era long gone… and a true screen icon, a sympathetic soul, fights her way to a comeback. brought to life by Gloria Swanson. Swanson, who knew very well what it was like to be a screen goddess railing against fading away, creates an atmosphere of fevered madness. She’s a woman whose desires are punished by an industry and the men who hold the reigns. But Norma doesn’t give a damn she’ll always be ready for that eternal close-up… Yet another memorable phrase is turned and a legend both on and off screen is reborn. Joe Gillis: “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”  Norma Desmond: “I *am* big. It’s the *pictures* that got small.” 
Vivien Leigh in The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone
28. Karen Stone -(Vivien Leigh) in The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961) Karen Stone has the misfortune of being a 50 year old actress. There’s no place in theatre for an old woman of 50. On the way to Italy with her husband who is much older than she, he dies of a heart attack on the plane. Karen decides to settle in Rome and live a quiet life of solitude in her magnificent villa. Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales (Lotte Lenya) is an opportunistic Madame who employs charming young gigolos to wine, dine, and bleed dry wealthy older women. She introduces Paolo di Leo (Warren Beatty) to Karen in hopes that it will bring about a showering of riches from this great American lady. Karen has no use for her old theatre friends, the status, and the game of staying on top. She enjoys the serenity of her life at the villa. Yet she is shadowed by a young Italian street hustler’s mysterious gaze. At first Karen is reserved and cautious but soon she allows Paolo to court her, and the two eventually begin an affair. Karen is aware Paolo is using her for her money, but her passion has been released. She is using him as well. But when his mood begins to sour and he turns away, Karen finds him with a younger wealthy upcoming starlet that he is already sizing up as his next meal ticket… The fling ends but Karen has taken back the power of attraction and sexual desire, and turns the usual stigmatizing dichotomy on it’s head, for while it was okay when she was a younger woman married to a much older man,  she takes a younger male lover Karen Stone: “You see… I don’t leave my diamonds in the soap dish… and when the time comes when nobody desires me… for myself… I’d rather not be… desired… at all.” 
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29. Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner) in Night of the Iguana (1964). Maxine is a the personification of the loner. She is sexually, morally and socially independent from opinion. When Ava was cast as the “earthy widow” the director said her “feline sexuality” was perfect for one of Tennessee Williams’ “hot-blooded ladies.” Maxine runs a quiet out-of-the-way tourist oasis in Mexico. When a bus load of provincial middle aged ladies break down, Maxine has to host Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall) a repressed lesbian, her gaggle of ladies who lunch, and Sue Lyon, a Lolita who is chasing Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) a defrocked alcoholic priest, that Maxine would like to become better acquainted with. Once Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) and her elderly grandfather arrive, the atmosphere seems to shift and Shannon is confronted with questions of life and love. Everyone at the hotel has demons and the rich and languid air seems to effect everyone… Maxine waits patiently for Lawrence to realize that they could have a passionate life together if he’d stop torturing himself… Gardner’s scene dancing in the ocean with the two young men is daring and provocative and purely Ava Garnder- Judith Fellowes: [Yelling at Shannon] “You thought you outwitted me, didn’t you, having your paramour here cancel my call.”  Maxine Faulk: “Miss Fellowes, honey, if paramour means what I think it does you’re gambling with your front teeth.”
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 Ava Gardner | Maxine Faulk in Night of the Iguana 1964
HAROLD AND MAUDE, Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, 1971
30. Maude (Ruth Gordon) in Harold and Maude (1971) There is no one quite like Ruth Gordon. She’s a sage, a pixie filled with a dreamy light that shines so bright from within. You can’t help but believe that she was as effervescent off screen as she was on screen.  Maude has a transcendent world view and a personal dogma to live life to the fullest and not waste time with extraneous matters. She believes everyone should be themselves and never mind what other people think… What else can you say about a character that vocalizes as much wisdom as any of the great and insightful spiritual leaders? Maude and Ruth both have a tenacity, vivacity and perspicacity…  Maude: “Harold, *everyone* has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.”  — Maude: “I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They’re so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be?”  Harold: “I don’t know. One of these, maybe.”  Maude: “Why do you say that?”  Harold: “Because they’re all alike.”  Maude: “Oooh, but they’re *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who are *this*”

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31. Ma Kate Barker (Shelley Winters) in Bloody Mama 1970: You know that Roger Corman was going to get the BEST woman who didn’t give a damn to play Ma Barker, the machine gun wielding matriarch of a notorious gang of bank robbers. She’ll do anything for her boys… Four boys only a mother could love. She’d kill for them! Ma Barker was irreverent and as mean as a bear backed into a beehive. A bold and brazen nature that delves into a whole other level of ‘no fucks given.’  Holding up a bank with her machine gun in hand “Alright everybody now reach for the nightgown of the lord, REACH!” 
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32. Pepe (Grayson Hall) in Satan in High Heels (1962). Pepe is the owner of a posh burlesque house in mod-yet-gritty 60s New York City. Pepe is an incessant smoker and savvy, domineering woman who brings the story about a new ‘singer’ Stacey Kane (Meg Myles) who joins the club, to a boil— even as she stays as cool as the center seed of a cucumber. Pepe tilts her head sizing up all the various patrons who inhabit her club with just the right mix of aloof and self-possession as she puffs on her cigarette. She’s always ready with the quick lash of her tongue like a world-weary drag queen.  “Bear up, darling, I love your eyelashes.” — “You’ll EAT and DRINK what I SAY until you lose five pounds IN THE PLACES WHERE!”
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33. Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne), The Awful Truth (1937) Before the ink on the divorce papers is dry Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne) torture each other and sabotage any chances of either of them getting re-married. Both Lucy and Jerry carry on monologues to themselves throwing out quick witted repartee, so that we can see both sides of the story. One evening, when Jerry is flirting with the idea of marrying into a high society family, Lucy impersonates his sister, playing at it like a cheap bimbo. At one point she does a fabulous drunken Hoochie dance, wiggling around with a provocative sway falling into her ex-husbands arms in a way that should definitely put a dent in Jerry’s plans. Lucy is hell bent on driving Jerry crazy, yet becomes flustered herself when the tables are turned on her as she tries to carry on with her new fiancé (Ralph Bellamy). Jerry Warriner: “In a half an hour, we’ll no longer be Mr. and Mrs. Funny, isn’t it.”  Lucy Warriner: “Yes, it’s funny that everything’s the way it is on account of the way you feel.”  Jerry Warriner: “Huh?”  Lucy Warriner: “Well, I mean, if you didn’t feel that way you do, things wouldn’t be the way they are, would they? I mean, things could be the same if things were different.”  Jerry Warriner: “But things are the way you made them.”  Lucy Warriner: “Oh, no. No, things are the way you think I made them. I didn’t make them that way at all. Things are just the same as they always were, only, you’re the same as you were, too, so I guess things will never be the same again.”
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34. Catherine ‘Cay’ Higgins (Ruth Roman) in Tomorrow is Another Day (1951). Catherine is a tough dance hall girl who isn’t afraid to get herself dirty. She goes on the lam for the sake of self preservation when her new love interest Bill Clark (Steve Cochran) is wrongfully accused of killing her abusive pimp… and geez he’s just gotten out of prison after a long stretch. Cay is ballsy, extremely earthy, and exudes an inner strength that is so authentic it’s hard not to believe she could take one on the chin and still keep going. She embodies an indestructible sort of sex appeal, powerfully passionate and self-assertive woman you’d want to be with you if you’re ever on the lam… Catherine ‘Cay’ Higgins: “You worked a whole day just to dance a minute at Dream Land?  Bill Clark: It was worth it.”
Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr in Pitfall 1948
35. Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott) Pitfall (1948) Mona is a sultry dewy blonde fashion model with a low simmering voice in the greatest tradition of the noir femme fatale. Forbes falls for her, and they begin to see each other, though she unwittingly starts the affair without knowing he’s married. It’s a recipe for disaster because ex-cop turned private dick J B MacDonald (Raymond Burr) is psychotically obsessed with Mona and will set things up so Forbes goes down. Mona is a tough cookie, who unfortunately keeps attracting the wrong men. But she can take on any challenge because she’s got that noir frame of mind. She’s a doll who can make up her own mind and can hold a gun in her hand as easily as if it were a cigarette. Mona “You’re a little man with a briefcase. You go to work every morning and you do as you’re told.”
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36. Lady Torrence (Anna Magnani ) in The Fugitive Kind (1960) Lady is an earthy woman who’s passions run like a raging river & her emotions and truths flow freely on the surface clear and forceful. She is a shop owner in Louisiana who is stoically existing in a brutal marriage to her cruel and vindictive husband Jabe (Victor Jory) who’s bed-ridden and dying of cancer. Lady dreams of building a confectionary in the back of the store. Along comes Marlon Brando as Valentine “Snakeskin’ Xavier, a guitar playing roamer who takes a job in the shop. Lady’s jaded loneliness and Valentine’s raw animal magnetism combust and the two begin a love affair. And Lady suddenly sees possibility again and her re-awakened passion empowers her to live her dreams. Lady-“Let’s get this straight, you don’t interest me no more than the air you stand in.”
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37.  Egle (Anna Magnani) … And the Wild Wild Women (1959) Egle is the toughest inmate at this Italian prison for women. When Lina (Giulietta Masina) is convicted on a wrong felony charge, Egle takes her under her hardened wing and tutors her in the ways of crime. Egle is an instigator, she’s volatile and inflammatory and stirs up quite a riot at times. She’s got no fear. She is a tougher-than-nails, armpit-washing dame who just could care less about anyone else’s comfort or freedom. She’s a woman who has built up a tough exterior long enough that she truly is made of steel. The only thing that may betray that strength is at times the past sorrow or suffering that swims in her deep dark eyes.
The Rose Tattoo
38. Serafina Delle Rose (Anna Magnani) in The Rose Tattoo (1955) As the tagline states ‘Seething with realism and frankness!” You can’t get any other kind of performance from Magnani, her passionate soul is right up front, on her face and in her movements like a wild animal she moves so freely. Serafina is perpetual grieving widow filled with fire, playing against another actor (Burt Lancaster) whose bigger-than-life presence comes her way to bring about a lighthearted romance… Serafina is a seamstress in a small New Orleans town. She lives with the memory of her dead husband as if he were a saint. She mourns and wears black to show she is still committed to her man, even after he’s been killed by police while smuggling drugs for the mafia hidden in the bananas in his truck. With the presence of the local Strega or witch (Serafina gives deference to these things illustrating that she is of an older world of ancient feminine magic and empowerment), and her wandering goat, the town of fish wives & gossips who point, stare, judge, wail and cackle with their unkind insults put Serafina it forces her to fight for every last bit of dignity. Serafina gives deference to these things illustrating that she is of an older world of ancient feminine magic and empowerment. Once she learns her dead husband Rosario Delle Rose (who had a rose tattoo on his chest) was having an affair, the spell that leaves her imprisoned by mourning, breaks and awakens her will to celebrate life once again. She is stubborn, & passionate, and she has a strength that commands the birds out of the trees.  Serafina “We are Sicilians. We don’t leave girls with the boys they’re not engaged to!” Jack “Mrs Delle Rose this is the United States.” Serafina “But we are Sicilians, and we are not cold-blooded!”
Virginia Woolf Liz
39. Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) Martha who is the archetypal Xanthippe and George (Richard Burton) are a middle-aged couple marinated in alcohol, using verbal assaults, brutal tirades, and orgies of humiliation as a form of connecting to one and other. All the characters spew biting blasphemous satire and are each neurotic in their own ways. But Martha is a woman who spits out exactly what she wants to say and doesn’t hold back. It’s an experiment in at home couple’s therapy served with cocktails, as they invite Nick and Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) to join the  humiliating emotional release. In the opening of the film Martha arrives home and does a nod to Bette Davis while also condemning her own personal space and the state of her marriage, as she says “What a dump.” “I swear to GOD George, if you even existed I’d divorce you.”– Martha: “You’re all flops. I’m the Earth Mother, and you are all flops.”
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40. Gloria Wandrous  (Elizabeth Taylor) in Butterfield 8 (1960) Gloria is a fashionable Manhattan beauty who’s part model, part call-girl–and all man-trap. She grew up during the Depression and couldn’t escape the sexual advances of her uncle. New York City was for her a great escape. Gloria becomes an independent, sexually free woman who wants to get paid for her time. She hits the bottle a lot, because she has those dark troubling memories from her past that make her want to drown her thoughts. She winds up meeting a wealthy business executive who’s married, Weston Liggett, (Laurence Harvey) instantly he becomes entranced by her. She’s thrown off course and headed toward a fateful end, because she sees a kindred soul in the disillusioned Liggett who isn’t happy in his marriage. Their passion breathes new life into both lonely people. Though we can admire her sexual liberation, in cinema, women in the 60s ultimately had to be punished for their willful freedom, though it’s a double standard of course. Liz Taylor is another screen goddess who never shied away from bold & provocative roles. Gloria Wandrous: “Command performances leave me quite cold. I’ve had more fun in the back seat of a ’39 Ford than I could ever have in the vault of the Chase Manhattan Bank.”
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41. Severine Sevigny (Catherine Deneuve) in Belle du Jour (1967) A whole new world opens up to Severine, a repressed housewife married to a doctor, when she decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute. While she can not seem to find any pleasure or intimacy with her husband, she blossoms in the brothel run by Madame Anais (Geneviève Page) and adopts a persona that can experiment with her secret desires of being dominated, her sexual appetites flourish during the day, when often she runs into more rough clients. But, sexual freedom has a price and ultimately, a relationship with a volatile and possessive john (Pierre Clémenti) could prove to be dangerous. Severine breaks free of the confines of convention, like marriage, and explores a provocative even deviant kind of sexual behavior. She allows herself to go further and explore the most secret desires by indulging them, it is quite adventurous and risky and Deneuve masters it with a transcendent elegance. Madame Anais: “I have an idea. Would you like to be called “Belle de Jour?”  Séverine Serizy: “Belle de Jour?”  Madame Anais: “Since you only come in the afternoons.”  Séverine Serizy: “If you wish.” 
Moreau Bride Wore Black
42. Julie Kohler (Jeanne Moreau) in The Bride Wore Black (1968) Julie Kohler is on a mission of revenge for the men who accidentally shot her husband on their wedding day outside the church. It was a short marriage… Julie finds a maniacal almost macabre sort of presentation to her theater of revenge, she moves through the film with the ease of a scorpion. But there’s dark humor and irony  (in François Truffaut’s homage to Hitchcock) running through the narrative. Like a good mystery thriller it utilizes very classic iconographic motifs. Julie is a captivating figure of sadness and passion put out at the height of it’s flame. Once passion for her late husband, and now passion for revenge. It’s playful and sexy and Moreau is utterly brilliant as the resourceful Julie Kolher who creates a satirically dire & elaborate, slightly Grande Guignol adventure of a vengeful woman on a crusade to exact poetic justice where the system has failed. Coral: “Permit me to make an impossible wish?” Julie Kohler: “Why impossible?” Coral: “Because I’m a rather pessimist.” Julie Kohler: “I’ve heard it said: “There are no optimists or pessimists. There are only happy idiots or unhappy ones”. .Julie-“It’s not a mission. It’s work. It’s something I must do” Priest–“Give it up”
 Julie–“That’s impossible, I must continue til it’s over”
Priest–“Have you have no remorse in your heart?… don’t you fear for your soul?”
Julie-“NO… no remorse, nor fear.”
Priest-“you know you’ll be caught in the end”
Julie-“The justice of men is powerless to punish, I’m already dead. I stopped living the moment David died. I’ll join David after I’ve had my revenge.”
Brigitte Helm Alraune
43. Alraune ten Brink -Brigitte Helm as Alraune 1928. A daughter of destiny! Created by Professor Jakob ten Brinken (Paul Wegener) Alraune is a variation on the Shelley story about man and his womb envy- which impels him to create a human-oid figure from unorthodox methods. A creation who does not possess a soul. He dared to violate nature when he experiments with the seed (sperm) of a hanged man and the egg of a prostitute. Much like James Whale’s Frankenstein who sought the secrets of life, Alraune is essentially a dangerous female who’s origin is seeded from this socially constructed ‘deviance’ of the hanged criminal and the whore (the film proposes that a whore is evil- I do not) Mixing the essence of sin with the magical mandrake root by alchemist ten Brinken he is seeking the answer to the question of an individual’s humanity and whether it be a product of nature or nurture. Alraune stumbles onto the truth about her origin when she reads the scientist’s diary… What could be more powerful than a woman who isn’t born with the sense of socially ordered morality imposed or innate. Is she not the perfect femme fatale without a conscience, yet… A woman who knows she is doomed to a life without a soul, she runs away with her creators love-sick nephew, leaving Professor ten Brinken, father figure and keeper- alone.
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44. Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) in Night of the Hunter (1955) “I’ve never been in style, so I can never go out of style.” Lillian Gish. There are certain images that will remain with you long after seeing masterpieces like Night of the Hunter. Aside from Harry Powell and Mitchum’s frightening portrayal of an opportunistic sociopath, beyond the horror of what he is, the film is like a childhood fairy tale. It’s a cautionary tale about the boogeyman but it’s also a story about the resilient spirit and far reaching imagination of children. And those who are the guardian angels of the world. One of the most calming and fortifying images- is that of Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) protecting the children from harm, holding the rifle and keeping watch like a wonderful fairy god mother elected by fate to guard those little ones with her powerful brand of love… There’s just something about Gish’s graceful light that emanates from within and the character she manifests in the righteous Rachel Cooper…. Rachel Cooper: “It’s a hard world for little things.”
Lucille Ball in The Dark Corner
45. Kathleen Stewart- (Lucille Ball) in The Dark Corner (1956) Kathleen Stewart is the always faithful and trustworthy secretary of private investigator Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens) She’s the right amount of snarky and just a sexy bundle of smarts… Bradford Galt: “You know, I think I’ll fire you and get me a Tahitian secretary.”  Kathleen Stewart: “You won’t like them; those grass skirts are a fire hazard.”  Kathleen just won’t quit her boss. She knows he’s in trouble and wants to help him face it head on. She keeps pushing Galt to open up that steel safe “heart”, of his and let her help. Once she’s in on the intrigue, she’s right there with him, putting her secretarial skills aside and getting into the fray with her love interest/boss. She shows no fear or hesitation, doesn’t look down on Galt’s past, and is quite a versatile sidekick who really helps him out of a dangerous set up! She’s that other sort of  film noir heroine Not quite the ‘good girl’ nor a femme fatale. A strong sassy woman who doesn’t shy away from danger and when she’s in… She’s in it ‘for keeps.’ And say… isn’t that empowering!. Kathleen tells it like it is, sure she dotes on the down and out guy and is the strong shoulder to lean on, whenever things get frenzied or rough. Doesn’t make her a sap, it makes her a good friend and companion! Kathleen: “I haven’t worked for you very long, Mr. Galt, but I know when you’re pitching a curve at me, and I always carry a catcher’s mitt.”  Bradford Galt: “No offense. A guy’s got to score, doesn’t he?”  Kathleen: “Not in my league. I don’t play for score, I play for keeps “
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46. Lady Lu (Mae West) in She Done Him Wrong (1933) In the Gay Nineties, Lady Lu is a voluptuous nightclub owner/singer (she sings-A Guy What Takes His Time) who has men falling all over themselves. One is her ex lover who just escaped from prison, and a few waiting in the wings. Lu is interested in the handsome Captain Cummings (Cary Grant) who runs the temperance league across the way. Lady Lu loves to be bathed in and dazzled by diamonds, lots of diamonds. But Lu is also determined to seduce missionary Cary Grant… who is more interested in her soul than in her body-Marvelous Mae tells him- “Maybe I ain’t got no soul.” Mae had a hand in creating the woman who didn’t give a damn! She gave us the immortal line… “Come up’n see me sometime. I’m home every evenin’–“Lady Lou: “Listen, when women go wrong, men go right after them.”  Captain Cummings: “Well, surely you don’t mind my holding your hand?”  Lady Lou: “It ain’t heavy – I can hold it myself.” 
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47.  Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) in Diabolique (1955) Simone Signoret is a torrent of sensuality (Room at the Top 1959, Ship of Fools 1965) Christina Delassalle (Véra Clouzot) plays the wife of a sadistic husband Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse) the controlling headmaster at their boarding school for boys. Nicole is the mistress of the cruel Michel, who has formed a special bond with Christina. Nicole incites the timid and weakly woman to kill the bastard by drowning him in a bathtub and then dumping his body in the school’s unused and mucky swimming pool. Nicole is determined and forceful in her mission to rid Christine of this abusive beast and the two women go through with the plan.  Nicole Horner: [to Christina] “I won’t have any regrets.”  In short, the pool is drained, the body isn’t there. And then there are numerous eerie sightings of the dead man which eventually drives the murderesses into a panic…  Is Nicole in on an even more nefarious scheme to drive Christina crazy? For now, the main focus is how Nicole summons a thuggish type of power that is riveting.  What’s remarkable about the film, aside from Clouzot’s incredible construction of a perfectly unwinding suspense tale, Signoret’s performance exudes grit and an unrelenting audaciousness. Nicole.  Christina Delassalle: “Don’t you believe in Hell?”  Nicole Horner: “Not since I was seven.” 
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48 Mia Farrow is Rosemary Woodhouse in Rosemary’s Baby 1968
Ruth and Mia
48. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) in Rosemary’s Baby 1968. Rosemary has a fearless defiance in an ordinary world that becomes an unsafe space and a deep well of paranoia. Beyond guarding her body and motherhood against all intruders, Rosemary has an open mind, a delicate brand of kindness although troubled by a catholic upbringing that haunts her, she is still ‘too good’ and too independent to taint. And she winds up taking life and the life of her baby on her own terms. No one could have manifested the spirit of Rosemary Woodhouse like Mia Farrow. It’s an indomitable image of striking resiliency. A heroine who braves an entire secretive cult of devil worshipers entrenched in the high society of NYC. That takes a lot of guts people!… Ruth Gordon as well personifies a meddling old New York busybody who just happens to be a modern day witch. Minnie Castavet also does what she wants -as she is empowered with her quirky style and her beliefs, as wicked as they may be…And her wardrobe is bold, kitschy and fabulous! Rosemary Woodhouse: “Pain, begone, I will have no more of thee!”
Geraldine Page
49. Alexandra Del Lago (Geraldine Page) in Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) Alexandra Del Lago is a decadent, soaked in boozed, and fading film star who is picked up by drifter by Chance Wayne (Paul Newman) for a tumble in the sheets. He’s been trying to break into the film biz for years, and hoping that Alexandra can help him get a screen test. He also wants to be reunited with his old flame Heavenly Finley (Shirley Knight). Chance Wayne: “I had my picture on the cover of Life magazine!… And at the same time I was… employing my other talent, lovemaking.”  Alexandra Del Lago: “That may be the only talent you were ever truly meant for.” The roles that Geraldine Page would often take were filled with an intellect that transcends the strong female archetype. As Alexandra, she has a unique sort of cynical romanticism that exudes, a bit of alienation, a touch of longing and a penetrating intensity. She might be a washed up film star but she’s also a philosopher with a grasp of vocalizing the ironies and tragedies of life. She wants to drown her sorrows in liquor so she can escape from the pain of her life, and the uncertainty the future holds. But within that internal tumult is the soul of a great lady. Narcissistic, world-weary and a spirit stoked by those heart-aches.
Anna Lucasta (1958) | Pers: Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr | Dir: Arnold Laven | Ref: ANN040AE | Photo Credit: [ United Artists / The Kobal Collection ] | Editorial use only related to cinema, television and personalities. Not for cover use, advertising or fictional works without specific prior agreement
50. Anna Lucasta (Eartha Kitt) (1958) Young Anna is rejected by her sanctimonious father Joe played to the hilt by Rex Ingram. While the rest of the family wants Anna to come home, her self-righteous father can’t resist demonizing his daughter, with an underlying incestuous desire that he is battling.  Anna takes the cliched road of the fallen woman and becomes a good time gal who meets Danny (Sammy Davis Jr.) a cab driving sailor who is as smooth as silk and as fiery as molten lead. Though there is an underlying sadness because of the estrangement with her father, Anna possesses a strong sense of self, and exudes a fiery passion that cannot be denied… She isn’t a bad girl, she had to find her own way and again, it often leads to taking control of who you love and how you love. She and Sammy have a smoking hot chemistry on screen, and Kitt is just powerful as a woman who made that road her own…  Danny- “Tell her who Papa is” (speaking about the little carved wooden Haitian idol he’s given her) Lester – “That’s the model of Agwé the Haitian god of the sea. Seems he’s good to sailors” Anna- “Looks like Papa and me’s got something in common…”
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51. Carol Richman (Ella Raines) in Phantom Lady 1944 Carol Richman risks her life to try to find the elusive woman who can prove her boss (Alan Curtis) didn’t murder his wife. The unhappy guy spends a fateful evening with a woman he has picked up in a bar. He doesn’t know her name but she wears an unusual hat, which might be a clue for Carol to try and track down. Carol’s got so much guts, she puts herself in harms way so many times but she’s fearless just the same. Even when she meets the super creepy jazz drummer Cliff Milburn, who obviously is manic and might just be a sadist in bed, (if his drumming is any indication.) Plus there’s always the deranged sculptor Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone) who seems to be a menacing force.  Cliff Milburn (Elisha Cook Jr) “You Like Jive?” Carol ‘Kansas’ Richman “You bet, I’m a hep kitten” 
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52. Pam Grier is Coffy 1973  Okay okay tho I’m sneaking in past the 1970 cut off… I’m a woman who doesn’t give a damn and nodding to one of the greatest 70’s icon… Pam Grier set the pace for strong female heroines that laid the groundwork for all the others to follow… so she gets a nod from me! She plays a nurse who becomes a vigilante in order to get justice against the inner-city drug dealers who are responsible for her sister’s overdose… Coffy sets the bar high for strong female characters who wouldn’t back down, and who possessed a strength that is meteoric and a force to be reckoned with. Beautiful, resourceful, intelligent -a strikingly irrepressible image that will remain in the cultural consciousness for an eternity. Arturo Vitroni: “Crawl, n*gger!” Coffy: [pulls out gun] “You want me to crawl, white mother fucker?” Arturo Vitroni: “What’re you doing? Put that down.” Coffy: “You want to spit on me and make me crawl? I’m gonna piss on your grave tomorrow.”
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53. Charlie (Teresa Wright), in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Charlie is tired of small-town life with her parents and annoying younger sister. She’s a girl starved for new adventures, longing for something exciting to happen, to stir up her life. Careful what you wish for… She’s overwhelmed with joy when her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) decides to pay the family a visit. But something isn’t quite right with her idol, he begins to exhibit a strange sort of underlying hostility and troubling secret nature… Her mother’s (Patricia Collinge) younger brother is actually a sadistic serial killer who preys on rich widows by marrying them, then strangling them! He’s so charming and charismatic that women can’t help being drawn to him. But young Charlie begins to see through his facade. Why would he cut out the news headline in the paper about a murderer who kills rich women? It all begins to take shape, and unfortunately Uncle Charlie can’t afford to have his favorite niece spill the beans.  What’s remarkable about young Charlie is that for a girl who fantasizes and indulges herself in things of a more romantic nature, she’s pretty darn brave in the self preservation department since no one else in the family believes her suspicions that he’s The Merry Widow killer. And she might just have to go rogue and wind up killing him in self-defense… Young Charlie: “Go away, I’m warning you. Go away or I’ll kill you myself. See… that’s the way I feel about you.”
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Constance Towers & Virginia Gray
Constance Towers The Naked Kiss
54. Kelly (Constance Towers) in The Naked Kiss (1964) The opening of the film is one of the most audacious entrances in early exploitation cinema,as Kelly confronts her pimp who has shaved off her hair and stolen her money. Kelly brutally pummels the rat with her handbag. Stripped of her hair she looks like a mannequin signifying her as the ‘object’ She is introduced to us from the opening of the narrative as a fighter. Kelly manages to fit in to the quaint new town of Granville she’s made her home until the perverse true nature of Granville’s benefactor is exposed. Grant (Michael Dante) possesses a dark secret that Kelly stumbles onto and ultimately explodes in scandal. The story is a mine field of social criticisms and hypocrisy that allow Kelly to rise above her persecution by the local cop Griff (Anthony Eisley) who isn’t adverse to taking Kelly to bed himself or frequenting Madame Candy’s (Virginia Gray) high class “cat house’ yet he’s above reproach. Griff tells Kelly it’s a clean town and he doesn’t want her operating there. But Kelly wants out of the business. She’s great with disabled children at the hospital and just wants a fresh start. Until she exposes the truly deviant secret about Grant and winds up accused of his murder. Kelly initially walks the fine line of being the ‘whore’ of the story, the one who needs redemption only to have the narrative flip it around and more importantly it’s the town that must be redeemed because of it is jaundiced complacency from the long kept secrets of the wealthy Patriarchal family that own and run it. Kelly is a powerful protagonist, because she kicks down the door of hypocrisy and judgement. Kelly also shatters the limitations that are placed on women. There’s exists a displaced female rage that started to become articulated later on with ‘f’eminist parable’ films during the late 60s and 70s. In the end she no longer is labeled or objectified or persecuted. She is embraced as a savior. Kelly’s got a reserve of strength and a great sense of self. To me she ends up being a heroine who rather than redeems herself becomes the catalyst for cleansing the ‘white middle-class’ town of it’s hypocrisy… Kelly (talking to Capt. Griff Anthony Eisley)“I washed my face clean the morning I woke up in your bedroom!”
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55. Velma (Agnes Moorehead) in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) Velma is Charlotte’s trusted companion. She shows a lot of gumption when Cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland) shows up trying to gaslight poor Charlotte who’s suffered enough at the grotesque and tawdry way she lost her fiancee, and how she lived under the oppressive thumb of her father (Victor Buono). Velma wasn’t nary shy a bit to face off with Cousin Miriam, that intimidating gold-digging she-devil in Park Avenue clothes. (From de Havilland’s own wardrobe) Velma always says it like it is, and tries to be a trusted friend to Charlotte even when the whole town shuns her as a crazy axe murderess. We all need friends who would either help you hide the body, or at least defend you against an accusing mob… either way. I’m pretty sure Velma could have taken Miriam if she didn’t have Joseph Cotton’s help on her side… And we can’t forget Mary Astor’s firebrand performance as Jewel Mayhew… Jewel Mayhew: “Well, right here on the public street, in the light of day, let me tell you, Miriam Deering, that murder starts in the heart, and its first weapon is a vicious tongue.”– Velma Cruther talking to Cousin Miriam: “O you’re finally showin’ the right side of your face. Well, I seen it all along. That’s some kinda drug you been givin’ her. Isn’t it? It’s what’s been making her act like she’s been. Well, Ah’m goin’ into town and Ah’m tellin them what you been up to.”

Continue reading “Enduring Empowerment : Women Who didn’t Give a Damn! …in Silent & Classic film!”

Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Cul-de-Sac
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
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Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

THE DARK PAGES NEWSLETTER  a condensed article was featured in The Dark Pages: You can click on the link for all back issues or to sign up for upcoming issues to this wonderful newsletter for all your noir needs!

Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

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There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
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Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
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Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

The Women of Alfred Hitchock’s Hour (1962-1965)

This review is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association.

Click here CLASSIC TV ASSOCIATION BLOGSPOT 

to check out this blogathon’s complete schedule!

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THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR

Concerto Sinostro- The Alfred Hitchcock Hour- Seven Exceptional Episodes

Alfred Hitchcock the television years: 8 indelible episodes!

There were 93 EPISODES in the series.

Alfred Hitchcock and Crow

“GOOD EVENING…

Hitchcock:To be quite honest, I am not interested in content at all. I don’t give a damn what the film is about. I am more interested in how to handle the material to create an emotion in an audience.”

As a child of the 60s, as soon as the emblematic theme song and opening credits started to play, I would feel chills running up my spine. I remember the reruns were still broadcast late at night, I understood that each story had something foul afoot, a shadow of the uncanny loomed over my tiny shoulders and the room filled up with a sinister quiver. Even with it’s smart-alecky delivery and Hitchcock’s well placed tongue-in-cheek humor to offset some of the more gruesome aspects of the show, I couldn’t wait til 10pm and the idea of watching a dreadfully good mystery even for such a young impressionable mind as my own! The timpani as intermezzo between each thrilling scene to raise the goose bumps and keep the heart pounding!

Alfred Hitchcock transported his brand of cheeky suspense narratives from the big screen to the advent of the intimate living-room television experience of the 60s where tv stations were fertile with playhouse theater melodramas, stage play-esque stories featuring some of the most emotive and original character actors who’s careers were vibrant with possibility.

Using some of the most well known mystery writers, seriously cutting edge and unorthodox directors, and the best actors who could bring forth the most nuanced performances from the riveting scripts.

The show premiered on Thursday, September 20, 1962 from 10pm-11pm on CBS. It ran opposite Alcoa Premier Theater on ABC and The Andy Williams Show on NBC. from 1963 -1964 it moved to Friday nites and then from 1964-1965 it found it’s slot on Monday nites opposite Ben Casey on ABC.

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour ranks among the top fifty longest-running series in television history!

Robert Bloch talks about his years working with Hitch, starting out on the program in 1959. He was summoned to Shamley Productions office and offered an assignment to write a script based on Frank Mace’s story “The Cukoo Clock.” Bloch began adapting his own published stories along side the other writers on staff. Bloch’s work was only dramatized by other writers when his commitment with the competing anthology show wasn’t calling for his time. That show was Boris Karloff’s Thriller. Bloch recalls producer and part of the creative team Joan Harrison as a remarkable lady who went from secretary to screenwriter to independent producer with a unique vision.

Norman Lloyd had a certain style of speech and mannerism which might designate him an Englishman when in fact–he was born in Jersey City, New Jersey! Starting out as an unbelievably talented actor who worked several times with Hitchcock in film. Lloyd played Fry in Hitch’s Saboteur 1942, & Mr. Garmes in Spellbound 1945. 

Lloyd had been blacklisted and hadn’t been able to work in television for four or five years.

“Around 1955 they got Hitchcock to say he’d do television which was a big thing. And in ’57 the order for the half hour show was amplified, with a new series called Suspicion. I think Suspicion had many shows. Hour shows. And MCA took ten of them. New York took ten and so forth. And with the ten he was adding on they used to do 39 half hour shows a series. It was his producer Joan Harrison, is how I really learned how to be a producer. Divine. She was beautiful, exquisitely dressed, in perfect taste for the set. She was divine. She was a writer for him, and she was now his producer. And they needed someone else to come in an help her because of the quantity of the work not for the half hours, but now the hour. So she and Hitch decided, they wanted me to do it. Cause I also knew Joan very well. And so they presented my name… however… And this was told to me by Alan Miller who headed television at MCA, he came back, Alan Miller from the network and says ‘there seems to be a problem about Lloyd’ and Hitch said, ‘I want him!’ that was the end of the blacklist!” -Norman Lloyd

Norman Lloyd

Hitch was a world-figure. He was a man of great humor, had a very definite view of the world. He saw the world a certain way and we have as a result what is known as the Hitchcock film. It became the Hitchcock story, so to speak, almost like an Edgar Allen Poe story.” Directors try to imitate him but they never get the mixture right. Only Hitch had the mixture of the romance, the suspense, the humor, the twists” -Norman Lloyd

Joan Harrison started out as Hitchcock’s secretary, began reading scripts, writing synopses, and actually contributing to the scripts. She followed Hitchcock to Hollywood in 1939 working as his assistant and then was hired by MGM in 1941 as a scriptwriter. In 1943 she became a producer for Universal Studios. To her film credits, she produced some of the most compelling film noir/ mysteries. One of my personal favorites, Phantom Lady 1944 and then… The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry 1945, Nocturne 1946 They Won’t Believe Me 1947, Ride the Pink Horse 1947, Eye Witness 1950, and Circle of Danger 1951.

Director Robert Siodmak, Joan Harrison, Ella Raines and Franchot Tone on the set of Phantom Lady
Director Robert Siodmak, producer Joan Harrison, Ella Raines and Franchot Tone on the set of Phantom Lady 1944

Executive Producers on the showNorman Lloyd and Joan Harrison are partly what made the series so enigmatic. Producers included Herbert Coleman, Robert Douglas, David Friedkin, Gordon Hessler, Roland Kibbee and David Lowell Rich.

The cinematographers who worked on various episodes included Stanley Cortez, Benjamin Kline, Lionel Linden, William Margulies, Richard Rawlings, John L. Russell and John F. Warren. With art direction by John J Lloyd and Martin Obzina.

The magnificent musical contributions were offered by Hitchcock veteran Bernard Herrmann and a personal favorite of mine, Lyn Murray, whose stirring melodies recycle themselves in several of the most poignant episodes. The brilliant and prolific Pete Rugolo can be heard as well as Stanley Wilson.

Florence Bush was the hairstylist for the show, and she was very active during the 60s! You’ll spot her name listed in the credits on so many television programs of that era. Including Leave it to Beaver and Hitchcock’s film Psycho!

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THE DIRECTORS- Bernard Girard, John Brahm, Alan Crosland Jr., Alf Kjellin, Norman Lloyd, Sydney Pollack, Jerry Hopper, Joseph Pevney, Leonard Horn, Jack Smight, Charles F. Haas, David Lowell Rich, James Sheldon, Herschel Daugherty, Robert Douglas, Joseph Newman, Harvey Hart, Laslo Benedek, William Whitney, Leo Penn, Harry Morgan, Philip Leacock, Lewis Teague, Arnold Laven, David Friedkin, James H. Brown, Alex March, Herbert Coleman, William Friedkin and Alfred Hitchcock…

THE WRITERS Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Henry Slesar, Cornell Woolrich, Richard Matheson, Gilbert Ralston, Clark Howard, Richard Deming, Morton S. Fine, David Friedkin, Lewis Davidson, Larry M Harris, James Bridges, Selwyn Jepson, Andrew Benedict, Anthony Terpiloff, Avram Davidson, Alfred Hayes, James Holding, Helen Nielsen, Arthur A Ross, Stanley Abbott, Lee Kalcheim, Ethel Lina White, Oscar Millard, James Yaffe, Andre Maurois, Clyde Ware, Davis Grubb, Nigel Elliston, John Wyndham, Harlan Ellison, Robert Branson, C.B Gilford, Francis Gwaltney, Harold Swanton, Margaret Manners, William Fay, S.B. Hough, Emily Neff, Barré Lyndon, Jack Ritchie, Alvin Sargent, Hugh Wheeler, Veronica Parker Jones, Boris Sobelman, Joel Murcott, Margaret Millar, Richard Levinson, William Link, Thomas H Cannon Jr., Randall Hood, Gabrielle Upton, Robert Westerby, Miriam Allen DeFord, William D Gordon, John Collier, James Parish, Kenneth Fearing, Robert Gould, Robert Arthur, William Fay, George Bellak, Robert Twohy, Leigh Brackett, Frederick Dannay, Manfred Lee, Mann Rubin, Douglas Warner, Henry Kane, Alec Coppel, Amber Dean, Lou Rambeau, Edith Pargeter, Charles Beaumont, Francis Didelot, Celia Fremlin, Roland Kibbee, Lukas Heller, Elizabeth Hely, Rebecca West, Richard Fielder, Nicholas Blake, Lee Erwin, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Julian Symons, John Bingham, V.S.Pritchett, John D MacDonald, John Garden, Andrew Garve, Marc Brandell, Patricia Highsmith, Samuel Rogers, Oliver H. P. Garrett

Robert Bloch writer
Writer Robert Bloch- was a contributor to many of the shows spine chilling narratives!

Hitchcock first managed to develop an anthology series that drew from his magazine and radio stories of the macabre, suspenseful, crime drama and cheeky thriller, often lensed with a noir style. This show was of course Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Eventually in order to compete with the growing market of 50 minute teleplays, like Playhouse 90, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, The Twilight Zone etc, Hitchcock changed his format to meet an hours worth of programming, still employing Hitch’s classic introductory droll prologue. And where Karloff’s Thriller painted the stories with a more macabre brush stroke, Hitchcock’s anthology show presented these criminal acts in two parts in a most ironic and irreverent manner…

According to John McCarty, Hitchcock made the shift from half hour show to the hour format without much issue. “When we had a half-hour show, we could do short stories…{…} Now, in an hour, we have to go to novels.” His staff read through thousands of crime novels to find the right script. Yet frequently it became necessary to utilize a short story and expand it, in order to fill out the hour.

While Boris Karloff’s Thriller was pervasive with it’s stories of the macabre and the uncanny, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone with it’s more sociological morality with a heavy science fiction spin, Alfred Hitchcock maintained an ironic lens on very suspense/crime oriented material that kept the focus on human nature as perilous. He always provided the same sort of ‘twist’ at the end as in it’s pithy precedent Alfred Hitchcock Presents!

While Alfred Hitchcock Presents might have provided a shorter more enlivened ride to the turn of plot because it had to deliver the lightning in a more synoptic amount of time, the hour format allowed for more psychological background, with room to build the character study of the players involved.

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Alfred Hitchcock is still the larger-than-life, Aesopsian voice of modern crime-infused with foul deeds springing from human nature and the darker sides of the mortal mind and how far it can reach when working under a compulsion, obsession or pathology. His vision created some of the most compelling little dramas for a ’60s audience to digest, still relevant after all these years.

Hitchcock’s brand of humor was dry and witty, ironic and fablist. Drawing from some of the finest mystery writers of the day, his little tour-de force dramatizations showcased some of the best examples of theatre and acting even on the small screen. His first show which gave us a 25 minute sequence that the series featured premiered on October 2, 1955 after Alfred Hitchcock had been directing mesmerizing films for over three decades!

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“GOOD EVENING…..”

The iconic opening title sequence for the show has become unforgettably imposed in our psyches and in popular culture, as the simplistic yet mirthful intro possesses the camera fading upon an easily recognizable caricature of Hitchcock’s porcine yet endearing profile. Set against one of the most memorable musical themes written by Charles Gounod’s– the piece is called Funeral March of a Marionette. A type of adult nursery song that tickles the funny bone’s comparable curious bone… the one that gets triggered when there’s a marvelous mystery afoot! The theme– suggested by Hitchcock’s musical collaborator, the brilliant Bernard Hermann.

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As if it couldn’t get any more smashingly wicked and alluring, Hitchcock himself takes shape behind the silhouette from the right of screen, then in grand theatrical style walks center stage to eclipse the drawing. He commences with his nightly, “Good evening…” and we are in for an irresistibly gripping treat!

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The opening set of each episode, Hitchcock is given props against an empty stage. At times he himself becomes the prop, or main focal point where he imparts either sage elucidation, comical warning or sardonic advice. A witty prelude to the evening’s tale or just a frivolous bit of shenanigans to put one in the mood for the evening’s program. As he drolly introduces the night’s story, his monologues were conceived of by James B Allardice. Many of his missives took shots at the sponsors, spoofing the popular American fixation on commercials and commercialism.

Always at the end of the show, Hitchcock would re-appear to lead the audience out of the evening’s events. To either enlighten them on the aftermath of a story, the scenes they did not see, and to reassure us that the criminals featured did get their comeuppance. To tie up any loose ends within the question of morality’s swift hand.

Originally 25 minutes per episode, the series was expanded to 50 minutes in 1962. The show was then renamed The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Hitchcock directed 17 of the 268 filmed episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Hitchcock did direct one of the hour long episodes called “I Saw the Whole Thing” starring John Forsyth who is accused of hit and run, while several witnesses swear they saw him leave the scene of the accident.

Alfred Hitchock Being A Big Goof (1)

Here is how the show was syndicated back in the 60s:

  • Sunday at 9:30-10 p.m. on CBS: October 2, 1955—September 1960
  • Tuesday at 8:30-9 p.m. on NBC: September 1960—September 1962
  • Thursday at 10-11 p.m. on CBS: September—December 1962
  • Friday at 9:30-10:30 p.m.on CBS: January— September 1963
  • Friday at 10-11 p.m. on CBS: September 1963—September 1964
  • Monday at 10-11 p.m. on NBC: October 1964—September 1965

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, lasted three seasons from September 1962 to June 1965, There were 93 episodes in total. Alfred Hitchcock Presents had a total of 268 episodes.

Hitchcock directed two episodes of Presents that were nominated for Emmy Awards–“The Case of Mr. Pelham (1955) and one of the most popular stories with it’s fabulous dark humor, “Lamb to the Slaughter” (1958) starring Barbara Bel Geddes.

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The episode that won an Emmy Award was one of my particular favorites as it is both poignant and eerie, “The Glass Eye” (1957) starring Jessica Tandy, Tom Conway and Billy Barty. Robert Stevens won for his direction.

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Cinematographer John L. Russell’s incredible shots of Jessica Tandy in The Glass Eye

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“An Unlocked Window” (1965) is one of the most starkly intense and transgressive in nature of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and won an Edgar Award for James Bridges writing in 1966. The episode stars Dana Wynter and Louise Latham, both wonderful unsung actresses!

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Dana Wynter and T.C. Jones in An Unlocked Window–nurses in peril oh my!
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Louise Latham in An Unlocked Window

THE ACTRESSES— Martha Hyer, Vera Miles, Patricia Breslin, Angie Dickinson, Carol Lynley, Carmen Phillips, Isobel Elsom, Charity Grace, Susan Oliver, Kathleen Nolan, Peggy McCay, Adele Mara, Lola Albright, Dee Hartford, Gena Rowlands, Jayne Mansfield, Dina Merrill, Patricia Collinge, Jan Sterling, Elizabeth Allen, Anne Francis, Ruth Roman, Gladys Cooper, Inger Stevens, Zohra Lampert, Diana Hyland, Joan Fontaine, Irene Tedrow, Sarah Marshall, Nancy Kelly, Betty Field, Katherine Squire, Martine Bartlett, Phyllis Thaxter, Natalie Trundy, Linda Christian, Laraine Day, Anna Lee, Lois Nettleton, Madlyn Rhue, Patricia Donahue, Diana Dors, Claire Griswold, Mary LaRoche, Virginia Gregg, Anne Baxter, Jacqueline Scott, Sondra Blake, Ruth McDevitt, Katharine Ross, Patricia Barry, Jane Withers, Joyce Jameson, Teresa Wright, Linda Lawson, Jean Hale, Mildred Dunnock, Felicia Farr, Kim Hunter, Collin Wilcox, Jane Darwell, Jocelyn Brando, Joan Hackett, Gloria Swanson, Lynn Loring, Pat Crowley, Juanita Moore, Naomi Stevens, Marjorie Bennett, Jessica Walter, Gia Scala, Joanna Moore, Kathie Browne, Ethel Griffies, Sharon Farrell, Nancy Kovack, Barbara Barrie, Doris Lloyd, Lillian Gish, Maggie McNamara, Josie Lloyd, Tisha Sterling, Ann Sothern, Patricia Medina, Elsa Lanchester, Jeannette Nolan, Ellen Corby, Julie London, Margaret Leighton, Lilia Skala, Olive Deering, Kathryn Hays, Dana Wynter, Louise Latham, Sally Kellerman, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Fay Bainter, Jane Wyatt, June Lockhart, Colleen Dewhurst

MY SELECTED EPISODES THAT FEATURE THE HITCHCOCK LADIES OF THE EVENING!….

DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU (9/27/62) VERA MILES as Daphne

Vera MIles Jeffrey Hunter Don't Look Behind YOu
Vera Miles as Daphne and devilishly handsome Jeff Hunter in Don’t Look Behind You
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Fear grips the campus and Vera Miles… Abraham Sofaer watches Daphne go out into the dangerous night woods

Directed by John Brahm, written by Barré Lyndon (The War of the Worlds 1953) Based on Samuel Rogers novel co-stars Jeffrey Hunter, Abraham Sofaer, Dick Sargent, Alf Kjellin, Mary Scott, Madge Kennedy.

A small college campus is gripped by fear when a maniac is on the loose. Two young female students are slaughtered while walking home through the surrounding nefarious night time woods. All eyes are on several members of the faculty, though the police have no clues to go on. Alf Kjellin plays Edwin Volck an intense pianist/composer who seems very tightly wound, especially around women. Handsome Jeffrey Hunter is Harold the psychology professor who dabbles in abnormal behavior. Harold convinces his fiancée Daphne (the lovely Vera Miles) to act as bait to lure the killer out. Vera Miles is always possessed of a smart and inquisitive sensuality. In this episode she’s perfect as an academic who doesn’t shy from the idea of hunting a serial killer.

Harold-“Daphne, I know this man’s secret. I’ve studied these people, I know how they think!”

Daphne-“It’s frightening sometimes… how you know people.”

CAPTIVE AUDIENCE (10/18/62) ANGIE DICKINSON as Janet West

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Actors Ed Nelson and Arnold Moss listen to the recordings sent by the plagued Warren Barrow. Is he a murderer?
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Angie Dickinson is the seductress and James Mason the tormented man

This episode is directed by actor turned director Alf Kjellin, based on the teleplay by Richard Levinson and William Link of Columbo! from a story by John Bingham.

James Mason plays mystery writer Warren Barrow a pseudonym he uses to contact his publisher with a series of tape recordings describing what is either the outline for his latest murder mystery or the details of an actual murder he himself is planning to commit. Barrow describes a relationship with an alluring woman named Janet West (the sexy Angie Dickinson) who wants Warren to kill her husband so they can be together. Ed Nelson plays another writer Tom Keller whom the publisher Victor Hartman (Arnold Moss) asks to review the tapes with him in order to help determine whether the impending murder is real or fictional. Angie Dickinson is so perfect as Janet West, the femme fatale Warren Barrow can’t resist.

Janet West- “You know there’s one part of the Bible I know by heart. I saw unto the sun, that the race is not too swift nor the battle too strong, but time and chance happen to them all. Means you can be as clever as you like but you gotta have luck. You gotta work for it and grab it when it comes. I was very poor when I was young. Very poor…”

FINAL VOW (10/25/62) CAROL LYNLEY as Sister Pamela

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“Oh sister not tears again… you’ve cried a whole river these past weeks”-Sister Jem

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Directed by Norman Lloyd, story and teleplay by mystery writer Henry Slesar (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Two on a Guillotine 1965, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 1966, Batman 1966, Run For Your Life ’66-67 Circle of Fear 1972, McMillan & Wife 1974, Tales of the Unexpected 1981-1984) co-starring Clu Gulager  Isobel Elsom Carmine Phillips, Charity Grace.

Carol Lynley is Sister Pamela who on the eve of taking her final vows has a crisis of faith. Sister Pamela fears that she might just be hiding from the world. The Reverend Mother (Isobel Elsom) sends Pamela and Sister Jem (Charity Grace) on a mission to collect a valuable statue of Saint Francis that is being donated to the convent by reformed gangster William Downey (R.G. Armstrong).

On the way back to the convent, the lovely young novice is fooled by slick hoodlum/loser Jimmy Bresson (Clu Galager who is terrific at being smarmy) who stalks train stations stealing bags. Pamela is filled with guilt having let down her dying mentor Sister Lydia (Sara Taft) She leaves the order and submerges herself in the sleazy jungle where Jimmy works and socializes in order to find the statue and redeem herself. Lynley is another underrated actress who delivers an extremely poignant performance as a girl at the crossroads of her life. She has an endearing innocent beauty that is genuine and charismatic.

Sister Pamela-“Sorry Sister Jem, I have only myself to blame.”

Sister Jem-“You’re not thinking of… what we spoke of the other day?”

Sister Pamela-“I haven’t been thinking of anything Sister. I’ve tried not to think.”

Sister Jem-“Have you prayed?”

Sister Pamela-“Sister… I’ve prayed for humility and obedience. But there was no answer in my heart Sister Jem… only silence!

ANNABEL (11/1/62) SUSAN OLIVER as Annabel Delaney

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“you’ve been pretending so long… you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t”-Annabel

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Annabel-“David, what is my picture doing here? David who lives here?”

Directed by Paul Henreid, written by Robert Bloch, novel by Patricia Highsmith (she wrote the original story for Hitchcock’s Strangers On a Train 1951) costarring Dean Stockwell, Kathleen Nolan, Gary Cockrell, Hank Brandt, Bert Remsen.

Dense browed Dean Stockwell plays research chemist David Kelsey who is hopelessly in love and obsessively fixated on Annabel (the wonderful Susan Oliver). But Annabel is married Gerald Delaney (Hank Brandt) Kelsey assumes a phony identity William Newmaster and pursues Annabel with a blind devotion that is downright creepy. He purchases a beautiful home that he has filled like a shrine to his great love, a place tucked away in the country where they can sojourn in their own private world. Trouble is Annabel isn’t in on the romance. But David isn’t taking no for an answer. Added to the web of obsessive love is the fact that Linda Brennan (Kathleen Nolan) is as fixated on David as he is on Annabel. What a mess!

BONFIRE (12/13/62)DINA MERRILL as Nora & PATRICIA COLLINGE as Naomi Freshwater

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Directed by Joseph Pevney teleplay William D Gordon and Alfred Hayes based on a story by V.S.Pritchett as published in The New Yorker and co-starring Peter Falk in one of his most impressive roles as the psychotic revivalist Robert Evans.

Falk plays a fire and brimstone fanatic who yearns for his own church and will kill in order to achieve his life’s dream. First he woos Patricia Collinge (The Little Foxes 1941, Shadow of a Doubt 1943, The Nuns Story 1959) as the wealthy Naomi Freshwater, murdering her one night in order to take over her large house he claims she promised to him in order to help him build his tabernacle. The scene is quite disturbing and fierce. a well done scene that predates many psycho-sexual narratives to follow.

When her niece, the world traveling Laura (Dina Merrill) comes to get her aunts things in order, Robert begins to romance her with the same bombastic fervor as he did her aunt Naomi. As Robert discloses his past to Laura, she discovers that he might have killed his first wife as well and that he has visions of his calling to be a great evangelist. Evans is a deranged ego-maniacal woman hater who mistakes his visions of glory for the need to be in control!

Robbie-“Sure the whole world is filled with problems Miss Naomi. We’ve all got to puzzle over what we’re supposed to think. None of us. There’s nobody that’s gotta puzzle over what we’re supposed to do!”

Naomi-“Oh that’s so clear to me Robbie, you know what to do and you do it… I feel so free! No more aches and pains.”

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Robert- “Burn it… burn it. Take your whole past and burn it out there in that fire pit. Start a new life with me” Laura- “I don’t have your faith in new lives Robert.” Robert-“But I told you once… I’ve got the faith.”

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED (1/11/63)ANN FRANCIS as Eve Raydon & RUTH ROMAN as Addie

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Mrs Raydon (Gladys Cooper) ” I think he’s dead you’ve always wanted this to happen. You’ve done this to him. You’ve killed him!”

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Directed by Jack Smight with a teleplay by Henry Slesar, based on the story by Mary Belloc Lowndes who wrote the novelette The Lodger, which was the inspiration for Hitchcock’s first suspense film in 1927 and of course the version with Jack Palance in 1953 called The Man in the Attic. 

One of my favorite episodes due to the presence of Ann Francis as Eve Raydon and Ruth Roman as her companion Adelaide ‘Addie’ Strain. Eve is framed as a jezebel by her nasty vicious old mother in law.The storyline has a definite undertone of lesbian desire, akin to Lillian Hellman’s A Children’s Hour. Eve is married to a stuffed shirt named Howard ( Gene Lyonsthe commissioner -Ironside) who resents Addie’s presence and is still tied to his mommy’s (the great Gladys Cooper Rebecca 1940, Now, Voyager 1942, The Song of Bernadette 1943) apron strings. Howard fires Addie who has been hanging around Eve in the position as ‘maid’ who also happens to have a little boy name Gilly who breaks a valuable antique sending Howard into a rage and prompting him to fire her. Addie who is desperate to stay with her mistress, poisons Howard’s night time glass of milk by spiking it with some K9 liniment. But Eve is accused of the murder instead and her intolerable mother-in-law is all too happy to see her pay for the crime. co-starring Michael Strong as defense attorney Malloy, Stephen Dunn as Jack Wentworth, Tim O’Connor as Prosecutor Halstead.

Addy talks to Eve about Howard finally firing her-“He means it this time… things could have been so different!”

Addy Strain to Molloy- “I can’t believe that all this is happening it’s all that woman’s fault. That awful old woman… Mrs Raydon. She hates Eve. She’s always hated her. She hates Eve just because she married her son. That’s why she accused Eve of killing him.”

A TANGLED WEB (1/25/63)ZOHRA LAMPERT as Marie

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I heard you David. You're going to marry the maid. At least this afternoon you're going to marry the maid. My wedding present to you will be my absence%22
Gertrude Flynn as Ethel Chesterman “I heard you David. You’re going to marry the maid. At least this afternoon you’re going to marry the maid. My wedding present to you will be my absence.”

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Marie-“Your eyes shine in the dark David. I think you are part Cat”. David –“A tiger a leopard ready to pounce.” Marie-“I’m going to have to get a wonderful cage to put you in.” David-“Nobody is going to put me in a cage!! Marie-“Stop David you’re hurting me…”

Directed by Alf Kjellin, with a teleplay by writer/director James Bridges (When Michael Calls 1972, The China Syndrome 1979) based on a story by Nicholas Blake.

Zohra Lampert plays Marie a naÏve french maid who runs off with the wealthy son David (Robert Redford) who is actually a compulsive cat burgler/jewel thief. David’s wealthy mother throws a few coins at them to buy a toaster, goes to Europe and changes the locks on the door. And so for money David runs to his partner in crime Karl.And so begins a queer struggle with David’s odd accomplice, a flamboyant wig designer Karl Gault played to the hilt by Barry Morse.

David cannot change the way he is, although he is truly in love with Marie he only knows how to steal and scheme. Karl falls in love with Marie creating the immortal triangle. In order to get his rival out of the way, Karl creates an elaborate ruse in order to trap David in a robbery gone wrong and have him arrested for the murder of a guard. Co-starring Gertrude Flynn as David’s mother Ethel Chesterman.

Marie-“Your eyes shine in the dark David… I think you are part cat.”

THE PARAGON (2/8/63) JOAN FONTAINE as Alice Pemberton

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John-“Alice have you ever read any fairy tales? There’s one about a princess. She was very beautiful. She lived in a beautiful castle. Had a beautiful garden. But her fairy godmother warned her not to do one thing. There was a particular flower in that garden that she wasn’t to pick. If she did… she’d lose everything. Her beauty, her castle… everything. Alice “I don’t get the point”. John –“Alice princess… don’t touch that flower please” Alice- “oh please don’t be silly they only write fairy stories to keep children out of mischief.”

Directed by Jack Smight with a teleplay by Alfred Hayes and a story by Rebecca West. The Paragon allows screen legend Joan Fontaine to give what I feel is perhaps one of the most extraordinary performances of her career. As the infuriating perfectionist who meddles in everyone’s lives Alice Pemberton married to the beaten down John Pemberton played by the always wonderful Gary Merrill.

John loves his wife but is beginning to feel the strain from years of Alice’s intruding and dictating moral codes and her ideals to anyone within reach even the maid Ethel played with fabulous scorn by Irene Tedrow. All her friends and relatives cringe at the sight of Alice, for they know she will inject some sort of righteous advice and admonition. Alice is like a child who cannot see the damage she has done, or how she hurts the people around her. She believes that she is helping to improve themselves, though she alienates herself instead. John urges with a tender yet firm clue that she must stop her behavior before it’s too late. Even relating a fairy tale to her with a warning… Alice is very much like a character in a fable who does not heed the warnings or the signs that she is tempting the shadows to converge upon her!

THE LONELY HOURS (3/8/63)NANCY KELLY as Mrs. J. A. Williams / Vera Brandon & GENA ROWLANDS as Louise Henderson

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Vera-“Michael and I are leaving now Mrs Henderson, I’m taking him home with me. Oh I am sorry for you because I think in your own way, you’ve grown really fond of my baby. But you see Michael is my child. I’ve known that from the very beginning….”

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Directed by Jack Smight with a teleplay by William D Gordon based on a story by Celia Fremlin.

Louise (Gena Rowlands) is a busy mother of two precocious young girls Jennifer Gillespie (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? young Jane) and a small infant boy. She rents the room upstairs to the mysterious Vera Bradley (Nancy Kelly) who is supposedly working on her thesis paper, but in fact has her eyes on Louise’s baby boy. She secrets him off each day to another room she is renting, that she has decorated for the little guy. She also calls him Michael. The child looks more like Vera as he has dark curly hair and both Louise and her husband are blonde. Is Vera there to steal the boy and claim him as her own? This is an extremely taut and well acted little story. The performances by both Kelly and Rowlands are stellar. The interplay between the two women brought me to tears, it was so poignantly played without being melodramatic or contrived. A truly heart wrenching experience, especially for fans of these fine actresses as well as one of the most effectively dramatic of all the episodes. Also watch for an appearance by the wonderful Juanita Moore as Mrs. McFarland and Joyce Van Patten as best friend Grace.

THE STAR JUROR (3/15/63) BETTY FIELD as Jenny Davies

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Dean Jagger tries to quiet Jennifer West after he tries to steal more than a kiss from the town hussy Alice.
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Betty Field plays George’s flakey nagging wife.
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Slamming the fridge door and shuffling her feet.Jenny confronts George’s peculiar behavior on the jury Jenny – “Would the star juror care to give me some justification for his behavior. George- “what behavior?”  Jenny-“ What behavior! The behavior that has brought down ridicule and scandal over our heads!” George-“ What you talkin’ bout Jenny? Jenny- “Have you gone deaf and blind?… Unplug your ears… open your eyes! George Davies the most respected highly thought of citizen in this town protecting this infidel, this murderer… No wonder you get indigestion.”

Directed by Herschel Daugherty with a teleplay by James Bridges and story by Francis Didelot

Although this is very much Dean Jagger’s vehicle, Betty Field who is a wonderful actress stands out as the blowsy, whiney wife to George Davies, who becomes so aroused by the town hussy Alice (Jennifer West) while out at the lake during a picnic. When she rebuffs his advances he strangles her and allows her boyfriend JJ Fenton (Will Hutchins) to take the rap for her murder. JJ has been known to knock Alice around, and soon the town is out for his blood. But the guilt of what he has done, drives George to try and defend JJ to exasperating results. This is a quirky dark comedic episode that just seems to want to be kind to George. The show also co-stars Martine Bartlett as Flossie and the wonderful Crahan Denton as Sheriff Walter Watson who just won’t take George’s confessions serious.

THE LONG SILENCE (3/22/63)- PHYLLIS THAXTER as Nora Cory Manson

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Nora’s inner monologue- “In heaven’s name Jean, don’t leave us here alone.”

Directed by Robert Douglas with a teleplay by William D. Gordon & Charles Beaumont based on a story by Hilda Lawrence.

Michael Rennie plays a con man Ralph Manson who marries Nora, (Phyllis Thaxter) for her money. When he screws up an elaborate scheme to embezzle funds from the bank, trying to pin it on her eldest son, he accidentally kills the boy. While trying to make it look like the young man hangs himself, Nora stumbles unto this horrific deed she winds up taking a fall down the stairs that paralyzes her and leaves her in an apparent catatonic state. Which is good for Ralph, as he needs this witness to be silent. But Nora, might not stay silent for long… The well crafted suspense yarn utilizes Nora’s inner monologue to help guide us through the tense narrative cues. This is such a tautly played suspense piece as Nora is conscious of her husbands murderous nature, and his desperation to keep Nora quiet. It;s only a matter of time before he finds of way of making it look like she dies of natural causes. Enter the pretty Natalie Trundy as her attending nurse Jean Dekker who senses something is wrong and stays close by! This one’s a nail biter!

THE DARK POOL(5/3/63) LOIS NETTLETON as Dianne Castillejo & MADLYN RHUE as Consuela Sandino

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Dianne-“Oh Nanny it’s wrong, I didn’t think he’d blame you” Nanny-“The important thing is that he isn’t blaming you” Dianne “Oh I’m letting you be hurt and I can’t do that.. I didn’t think he’d react this way. Nanny I”m going to tell him the truth” Nanny-“What are ya going to tell him. That you were with the baby holding a drink!” Dianne-“But you’re not the guilty one, he mustn’t blame you Nanny-“Dear in the past when things went badly you know what happened. You don’t want that now You promised him that you’d give it up. Oh when the baby was here it was better… but better’s not what you promised!”
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Lois Nettleton as Dianne and Doris Lloyd as Nurse Andrina Gibbs

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Consuela- “She feels guilty, she feels responsible for the baby’s death. and the drinking helps her to forgot. so we’ll see that she continues to drink. And when the bottle is all gone. We’ll get more Vodka. Or whiskey or what ever she likes. She can hide it from Victor for a while I suppose. But he will find out-And then he’ll be terribly hurt. and disappointed in her. He’ll need help and sympathy from someone else!”

Directed by Jack Smight with a teleplay by Alec Coppel and William D. Gordon, based on a story by William D. Gordon.

Lois Nettleton plays Dianne Castillejo who adopts a little boy, who drowns in their swimming pool while she is sitting out in the sun with a coctail. Dianne is a recovering alcoholic and there is a question as to whether she was intoxicated when the tragic accident occurred. Dianne is visited by a mysterious woman, (Madlyn RhueConsuela Sandino who claims to be the little boys birth mother. She proceeds to blackmail Dianne about the circumstances of the little boys death. She convinces Dianne to allow to her stay in the house as a guest being an old school friend. Here she plans on helping Dianne submerge herself in booze so she’ll pay out loads of money and eventually have to be taken away to a sanatorium where she can then work on the handsome (Anthony George) Victor. Co-starring Doris Lloyd as Nanny. 

RUN FOR DOOM 5/17/63 DIANA DORS as Nickie Carole

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John Gavin as Dr. Don Reed and Tom Skerritt as friend Dr. Frank Farmer… Don is just smitten.
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scott brady as Nickies stand by boyfriend Bill
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Nickie-singing Just One of Those Things-“so goodbye dear and amen… Bill- “Where you going?” Nickie-“Maybe California. You know I came back just to have a look at you. You got real weak eyes Bill. Here’s hoping we meet now and then.”  Bill- “But you haven’t asked me to come along “Nickie-“Well I came here thinking I’d have to, but I don’t need you anymore the boomerang’s broken baby’ Bill-“You wanna bet!” Nickie “Uhuh, It was great fun, but it was just one of those things.”

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Directed by Bernard Girard with a teleplay by James Bridges and a story by Henry Kane.

Doctor Don Reed (John Gavin) falls head over heels for a sexy night club singer, the slinky Nickie Carole,(Diana Dors) who is just no good. Both his father and Nickie’s own band leader boyfriend try to warn Don. Nickie accepts Don’s proposal of marriage, and then his father drops dead after hearing the news. The newlyweds use the inheritance money to take a honeymoon cruise, in which Don stumbles upon his bride getting all snuggly with another passenger. In a rage, Don causes the man to fall overboard. Of course Nickie urges Don to keep his mouth shut. And he is now a murderer. Soon after Nickie grows tired of Don, as her old lover Bill warned would happen, and this hard edged old boyfriend (Scott Brady) Bill Floyd of the Bill Floyd Trio shows up in the picture again… What will happen to this dangerous triangle of lust and obsession…

THE SECOND SEASON!

A HOME AWAY FROM HOME (9/27/63)  CLAIRE GRISWOLD as Natalie Rivers

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Natalie-“I understand, they’re patients aren’t they? Permissive therapy?” Dr. Fennick-“Yes that’s it exactly. A new method, an experiment. I wanted to prove that my patients would act normally if treated like normal human beings.”

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Sarah-“Oh I feel fine doctor just fine. I always feel fine talking to you.”  Dr Fennick-“That’s what I’m here for’ Sarah-“Yes I know but… what am I here for? Beatrice Kay as Sarah Sanders the aging film star.
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inmates Virginia Gregg as Miss Gibson and Ronald Long as The Major
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The real doctors are locked up in the attic!
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the deranged Ray Milland as Dr. Fennick who menaces Natalie (Claire Griswold ) in Home away from Home- The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

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Virginia Gregg as Miss Gibson-“The doctors told everyone about you. I know they’re just CRAZY to meet you!!!”

Directed by Herschel Daugherty with a teleplay based on his story by Robert Bloch from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

This is one of those great ‘the inmates have taken over the asylum’ narratives starring Ray Milland. Milland plays Dr. Fenwick a mentally disturbed doctor who believes in role playing as a therapeutic means to unlocking a patients identity crisis and finding happiness. After he kills the director of the sanitarium, he assumes his identity! of course. He locks away the staff in the attic and allows the inmates to pick roles that would suit their desires. Things are going pretty well until the directors niece Claire shows up to visit her uncle. At least she has never seen her uncle before so she quickly assumes that Milland is who he says he is. Unfortunately Claire discovers the dead body of her real uncle and urges Fennick to call the police. Uh oh! What mayhem will ensue.

There are great little parts by Virginia Gregg as Miss Gibson roleplaying the nurse, Connie Gilchrist as Martha, Mary La Roche as Ruth… and Beatrice Kay as Sarah Sanders!

A NICE TOUCH 10/4/63  ANNE BAXTER as Janice Brandt

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That’s actor Harry Townes lying dead under that shiny star pillow…

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Janice referring to Larry (George Segal) –“He’s the kind of man who could make you do anything… anything at all…”

This episode is directed by Joseph Pevney with a teleplay by Mann Rubin

George Segal plays the young ambition actor who wins over casting agent Anne Baxter as Janice Brandt. Janice falls deeply in love with Larry the cocky and short tempered actor with whom she gets a screen test for in Hollywood and turns him into an upcoming male lead.

She has given up everything for this strong willed actor, her career, even sacrificing her marriage.

While back in New York, Janice calls Larry desperately telling him that her ex-husband Ed (Harry Townes) has tracked her down completely drunk and is now unconscious on the floor. Larry calming coaches Janice into finishing off the job by smothering him with a pillow, so she can finally be free and join him in Hollywood… But is that all there is to it?

TERROR AT NORTHFIELD (10/11/63)  JACQUELINE SCOTT as Susan Marsh & Katherine Squire as Mrs La Font

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Sheriff Will- “You can’t think of anyone at all who might have had a grudge against Frenchie?” Katherine Squire as Mrs La Font- “Only one person Will, Myself. He was my son, I loved him … there was no harm in him he never hurt anyone but he was lazy. He would not accept responsibility. That’s why he wanted me at the restaurant so I could do all the work of running it, while he’d play Frenchie La Font for the public. I used to get so angry with him. So angry… (crying)
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The creepy custodian of the library terrorized poor Susan with his tales of working the slaughterhouses

Directed by Harvey Hart with a teleplay by Leigh Brackett, and a story by Ellery Queen

In Northfield, a rural community in northern California a teenage boy Tommy Cooley is found brutally murdered. His father R.G. Armstrong, who is a religious fanatic goes on a mission to avenge his boy’s murder. There is only one piece of evidence, a broken off part of the car’s headlight found a the murder scene. First, believing that he is getting signs from God, he murders Frenchie La Font (Dennis Patrick) the person who owned the car. Then the car falls into the hands of an elderly librarian who considered purchasing the car and might have had access to it. The residents of Northfield become terrorized by the events and demand that (Dick York) Sheriff Will Pearce do something about it. Jacqueline Scott who plays Susan March a librarian and the Sheriff’s girlfriend is now the one who wound up with La Font’s car. Cooley now suspects her. He is on a mission from the lord to avenge his sons death. Will Susan be next? Co-stars Katherine Squire as Mrs.La Font who turns out a tremendous performance as the mother of a good for nothing son who winds up being the victim of Cooley’s wrath.

THE DIVIDING WALL (12/6/63) KATHERINE ROSS as Carol Brandt

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Carol-“You don’t talk much do you?” Terry-“I guess not” Carol –“Is the rest of your family like that? Quiet I mean? Terry- I don’t know. I don’t even know who they were. I was raised in a county home” Carol- “You mean like an Orphanage? Terry “Now what else could it mean? I’m sorry maybe we oughta start back, it’s a long way” Carol -“We can take the subway Terry –“I wanna walk-you wanna take the subway go ahead if that’s the way you feel about it “Carol-“why did you come with me?” Terry“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just that it’s the rush hour now…. Look I gotta thing about being closed up in places is all.” Carol- “Claustrophobia?” Terry- “yeah” Carol- “So does Mr Calucci… He was a prisoner of war” Terry– “I was a prisoner once… No war though.” Carol –“You mean the home.” “Terry- “Home reformatory, state prison, take your pick. Anything else you’d like to know? Carol“Some date huh?” Terry-Bet you don’t have any boyfriends like me.” Carol-” I don’t have any boyfriends”Terry– “come on” Carol- “I haven’t dated since high school.” Terry- “Girl like you why not? Carol-“what do you know about me?” Terry “I could learn.”

Directed by Bernard Girard  (Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round 1966, The Mad Room 1969) with a teleplay by Joel Murcott based on a story by George Bellak.

Three paroled ex-convicts stage a heist but inadvertently unleash radioactive cobalt on a small urban city street. Actors Chris Robinson, Norman Fell and James Gregory who are now garage mechanics decide to rob the payroll office. When they can’t crack open the safe, they take it to their garage, which is adjoined to the little shop next store run by Carol.

Terry who is acutely claustrophobic (Chris Robinson) begins a romance with Carol, as he struggles between self preservations and his sense of humanity and love for this beautiful young woman. Katherine Ross is a particularly seductive pixie in this episode. Ross’ presence brings an element of realism and humanist equilibrium to the very nihilist tone of the story.

GOOD-BYE, GEORGE (12/13/63) PATRICIA BARRY is Lana Layne / Rosemary ‘Peaches’ Cassidy

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Lana/Peaches-“You and snakebite are among the very few things that fail me in that respect.”

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Directed by Robert Stevens with a teleplay by William Fay and story by Robert Arthur.

This is one of the more cheeky mystery installments of the show, and Patricia Barry is just superb as the brassy dame with a secret past who’s looking out for number one. The night she wins the Oscar, movie star Lana Layne is visited by her old ex-convict husband George (Stubby Kaye), who, she thought had died in a prison fight. Rosemary ‘Peaches’ Cassidy had married the bum when she was only seventeen and didn’t know any better. But George has plans of letting Lana remain his wife, since she’s so successful and wealthy, and if they did get divorced she’d owe him half of anything that was hers. She wants to marry handsome manager Harry Lawrence (Robert Culp). Lana clocks George on the head and accidentally kills him. Now Lana and Harry must try to hide the body while finding a place to have their honeymoon, assailed by gossip columnist Baila French (Alice Pearce- Bewitched’s neurotic neighbor Gladys Kravitz). It’s a comedy of errors!

HOW TO GET RID OF YOUR WIFE (12/20/63) JANE WITHERS as Edith Swinney

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Rosie “You’ve had a narrow escape. Well life’s given you another chance. And you should take it… You should free yourself. When something’s over it’s over” The always delightful Joyce Jameson as Rosie Feather the ‘dancer’

Directed by Alf Kjellin story and teleplay by Robert Gould

Withers plays Edith Swinney the consummate nagging harpy who dominates her husband’s Gerald’s (Bob Newhart) mundane life. Gerald concocts a very elaborate plan to drive Edith mad using paranoia as he digs a grave like hole for a fish tank, leaving empty boxes of rat poison around the kitchen. Edith is so convinced that Gerald is out to kill her that she shares her fears with her friends and neighbors. Gerald purchases a pair of rats from a pet shop and plants them in the kitchen. She falls for the bait and puts rat poisoning in his cocoa making it look like murder made to look like suicide. She calls the police the next morning, but they find a very alive Gerald. Edith is arrested for attempted murder… but is that the end of the story. Joyce Jameson stars as dancer Rosie Feather, always fabulous, perhaps playing the featherbrained blonde bombshell –but always endearing!

THREE WIVES TOO MANY (1/3/64) TERESA WRIGHT as Marion Brown

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You been a bigamist 4 times. Now you can stay alive with me or be dead away from me
Marion Brown tells her husband- “You been a bigamist 4 times. Now you can stay alive with me or be dead away from me!”

Directed by Joseph Newman with a teleplay by Arthur Ross and story by Kenneth Fearing.

Dan Duryea is a gambler and a proud bigamist name Raymond Brown. He truly loves his wife… I mean all four of them. But something is going quite wrong. One by one his wealthy meal tickets are all turning up dead. At first it appears that they are suicides. But the police start to suspect Brown of murder. Marion, (Teresa Wright) has been the long time dutiful wife who has waited and suffered through heart ache to finally have her philandering husband all to herself. Could she be the one who is bumping off all of Ray’s wives? Wright takes a much different approach from the gentle farm wife Stella and shows herself off to be quite resourceful when holding onto a philandering husband!

BEYOND THE SEA OF DEATH (1/24/64/) DIANA HYLAND as Grace Renford & MILDRED DUNNOCK as Minnie Briggs

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Grace Renford- “All men are rotten aren’t they Minnie, as soon as they’re interested in me they’re no good!

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Aunt Minnie-“If he’s a doctor at all he should be giving out pills not talking to dead people!”

Directed by Alf Kjellin with a teleplay by Alfred Hayes and William Gordon. Story by Miriam Allen de Ford.

Grace Renford (the haunting Diana Hyland) plays a wealthy and beautiful socialite who longs to meet the man of her dreams. Someone who will love her for who she is and not the money and status that is her legacy. The lonely Grace answers an ad in a spiritualist magazine where she begins to correspond with a young man named Keith Holloway (Jeremy Slate).

He is an engineer who does his work in Bolivia, or so he says. When he comes to the states to meet Grace for the first time, she has rented a modest apartment and pretends that she is just an ordinary working class girl. Minnie (Mildred Dunnock) acts as guardian to the lost waif, and knows something isn’t quite right with this man. But when Grace and Keith get engaged, she tells him about her true identity. Keith insists that he is not interested in her money, and that he has his own business ventures in Bolivia. Keith returns to South America, planning on having Grace join him soon. But Grace gets a telegram saying that he has been killed in a mining accident.

Sent into the world of spreading grief, Grace turns to spiritualism and mysticism to find a way to contact her lost love. Thus appears Dr.Shankara (Abraham Sofaer) who can connect Grace with her dead love. Wanting to shed her worldly goods, she gives away her possessions to the Dr and his temple. But Minnie suspects that Keith is very much alive and that a scam has been going on with the doctor for years. Minnie tries to intervene with disastrous results!

NIGHT CALLER (1/31/64) FELICIA FARR as Marcia Fowler

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Roy- “A string of men friends all the time Mrs Fowler, a string of men friends, a string of men friends all the time ssh don’t tell anybody Roy this is your Uncle Joe from Kokomo Roy, why don’t you go outside in the yard for a little Roy huh!… {…} There’s a smell of death around women like you. Death and corruption. You corrupt people the way you go on all the time. So you better cut it out you understand that” Marcia Fowler-“Get away from me you’re out of your mind. Nobody would blame me now if I shot you now with your filthy phone calls, breaking in here like this. How exciting am I now with a gun pointing at you?”

Directed by Alf Kjellin with a teleplay by Robert Westerby & Gabrielle Upton based on Upton’s story.

Felicia Farr  plays the sexy Marcia Fowler who accuses the neighborhood thug Roy Bullock (Bruce Dern) of not only playing peeping tom, but sexually harassing her. Roy is a tightly wound teen filled with angst and rage and could possibly be a psychopath while we’re at it. He denies it, when confronted by Marcia’s husband. (David White)

Marcia does appear to be self-absorbed, neglecting to pay enough attention to her stepson. But when the obscene phone calls begin, Marcia convinces her hubby to confront Roy about it, who tells him she’s just looking for attention. When Roy Fowler goes away on a business trip he challenges Marcia calling her a tease and a lousy wife and mother, the way his own mother had failed. Okay, so the angry boy has mother issues. Things get out of hand when Marcia begins to feel threatened and takes out a gun. But is everything as it seems!

THE EVIL OF ADELAIDE WINTERS (2/7/64)– KIM HUNTER as Adelaide Winters

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Directed by Laslo Benedek with a story and teleplay by Arthur Ross

Kim Hunter is stunning as a ruthless woman who has no conscience and borders on the sociopathic. At the end of WWII, Adelaide exploits the grief and loss of surviving members of family to act as a spiritual medium. She earns a nice living by taking money from these grieving people, claiming to ease their suffering by connecting them with their lost loved ones. Gene Lyons plays Adelaide’s bunko buddy Robert who helps set up the patsies for the taking.

The is nothing more heinous than bilking grieving families of soldiers killed in battle out of their money pretending that she can communicate with them.

Enter the wealthy widower Edward Porter (John Larkin) who has just lost his son in the war. Adelaide convinces him to join her in a séance. Desperately lonely and longing for his son’s return Edward begins to come around and embrace Adelaide’s powers. Edward has also fallen in love with Adelaide and wishes the three of them to be together…!

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Robert (Gene Lyons)- “I taught you everything there is to know about this racket..” Adelaide “Profession Robert.” Robert – “That’s what you’d like to pretend, but it is a racket, a swindle a con game as any I ever did.” Adelaide-“ I only obtain the more crude aspects of the profession from you.” Robert-“Everything and I want you to stop pushing me around.” Adelaide-“You taught me a series of Halloween tricks. Carnival mumbo jumbo… I made it pay.” Robert –“They’re still carny tricks.” Adelaide-“Science!” Robert- ‘And you took them from me…”

BEAST IN VIEW 3/20/64JOAN HACKETT as Helen Clarvoe

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Directed by Joseph Newman with a teleplay by James Bridges and a story by Margaret Millar  (Rose’s Last Summer-Boris Karloff’s Thriller starring Mary Astor).

Joan Hackett, (The Group 1966) a very underrated actress of the 60s & 70s plays Helen Clarvoe a woman who is being tormented by phone calls from a menacing woman named Dorothy who is threatening her life. Kevin McCarthy is lawyer Paul Blackshear who agrees to investigate and track the maniacal Dorothy down. The crazy woman blames Helen for the break up of her wedding engagement. Paul finds a photographer for whom Dorothy recently posed, though she has destroyed any negatives and photos of herself. Then the photographer is murdered! While in the midst of his investigation, Paul receives a frantic call from Helen that Dorothy has broken into her apartment and is holding her at gunpoint!

BEHIND THE LOCKED DOOR( 3/27/64)GLORIA SWANSON as Mrs. Daniels

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Mrs. Daniels-“No Dave… this is your home now!”

Directed by Robert Douglas with a teleplay by Henry Slesar and Joel Murcott. Story by Slesar.

When Dave Snowden (James MacArthur) and his new bride Bonnie (the lovely and underrated Lynn Loring) visit the estate owned by Bonnie’s late father, Dave finds a mysterious locked door and surmises that there must be something of value hidden there. Bonnie tells her mother (Gloria Swanson) that they’ve just been married, who instantly assumes that Dave is after her inheritance. Mrs.Daniels tries to give the young man money to go away and annul the marriage. Dave is hungry for money and gets Bonnie to go along with a plan for her to fake a suicide attempt by overdosing on sleeping pills. This they hope will get the mother’s sympathy. Things go badly when a child hood illness leaves Bonnie allergic to sleeping pills. The climax is stunning as the great ironic natural law of justice is served. Swanson is marvelous as always as the elegant and protective Mrs Daniels!

THE GENTLEMAN CALLER (4/10/64) RUTH McDEVITT as Miss Emmy Wright

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Miss Emmy Rice –“I was just thinking of how awful it is when people are so mean to each other. That’s one thing when you get to be seventy five, you see clearer than anything else. How mean people are to each other.”

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Directed by Joseph Newman with a teleplay by James Bridges and story by Veronica Johns.

The delightful Ruth McDevitt plays Miss Emmy Wright, an elderly lady who sits in the park and is befriended by Gerald Musgrove (Roddy McDowall) who with his wife have just successfully robbed $100,000 but need a good place to hide the doe ’til the heat is off.

Emmy is a known pack rat, who invites the couple over to her cluttered and quirky place for many social dinners. Gerald gets the bright idea of stashing the loot inside the old dust covered magazines that Emmy has collected over the years. Gerald also convinces Emmy to draw up a will leaving him the beneficiary so that they can later kill her off and claim the clutter that holds their stolen cash. This is a dark comedic episode with stellar performances by both McDevitt playing off McDowell’s usual droll manner. Co-starring Juanita Moore as Mrs. Jones and Naomi Stevens as Mrs Goldy.

THE ORDEAL OF MRS. SNOW (4/14/64) PATRICIA COLLINGE as Adelaide Snow

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Directed by Robert Stevens with a teleplay by Alvin Sargent and story by Patrick Quentin.

Patricia Collinge is one of my favorite character actors. Here she turns in quite a moving performance as a woman trapped in a safe with timing running out. And in this episode I’m particularly fond of her doting on her two siamese cats, being a staunch advocate for cats and someone who shares their home with let’s say a variety of pussycats, a siamese rescue being just one of them!

In The Ordeal of Mrs Snow Aunt Adelaide Snow is at the mercy of her scheming niece’s husband Bruce (Don Chastain) who is afraid that auntie will go to the police about his check forging. While away on a weekend vacation, he locks Mrs. Snow inside the bank vault in her house, hoping she’ll suffocate and it will look like an accident. But he has also locked one of her cats inside as well. Thank god, because these little felines are very smart indeed. Mrs Snow’s niece Lorna, (Jessica Walter) tries to call her aunt, worried that something is wrong, not realizing what her sneaky murderous husband has done… Don’t worry, the cats come to the rescue! Also co-staring George Macready as Adelaide’s dear friend Hillary Prine.

THE SECOND VERDICT (5/29/64) SHARON FARRELL as Melanie Rydell

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Directed by Lewis Teague with a teleplay by Alfred Hayes and a story by Henry Slesar.

Sharon Farrell plays the seductive Melanie Rydell who doesn’t intentionally get men chasing after her. But her psychotic husband Lew Rydell (Frank Gorshin) gets off on a murder charge after Ned Murray (Martin Landau) successful gets him an innocent verdict. To Ned’s horror he learns that Lew is in fact a hot headed jealous nutcase who was guilty of murder and is now accusing him of going after his sexy wife. Ned is conflicted by law, but wants to bring this loaded canon to justice but can’t get him prosecuted for the same crime twice. He solicits the help of an old gangster friend who owes him one, but realizes that he has inadvertently put a hit out on the unstable Lew.

ISABEL (6/5/64) BARBARA BARRIE  is Isabel Smith

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Directed by Alf Kjellin Teleplay by William Fay and Henry Slesar, from a story by S.B. Hough.

Again, the highly underrated Barbara Barrie, who has always given her all in any performance, notably several of The Naked City. Here she plays a very timid and unstable single woman, (I will not use the word spinster here, though most analysis makes use of the word, I find it offensive) Isabel wrongly accuses Howard Clemens (Bradford Dillman) of sexual assault. Howard Clemens is sentenced to two years in prison for the crime he didn’t commit. Once he is released, the first thing he does is steal a large amount of money. $13,000 which is the amount he would have drawn as a salary had he not been thrown in jail.

He comes back to the same town where Isabel teaches, and opens up a record shop. He purposefully manages to bump into Isabel until he finally gains her confidence. Eventually the pair become engaged. While on their honeymoon, Howard tampers with the fuel ignition switch on the boat which will cause the boat to explode. He tells Isabel to take the boat out alone. A bit later he hears the blast and is finally satisfied that he has gotten his revenge on her at last.

BODY IN THE BARN (7/3/64) LILLIAN GISH as Bessie Carnby

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Directed by Joseph Newman (The Outcasts of Poker Flats 1952, The Human Jungle 1954, This Island Earth 1955, The Twilight Zone ’63-’64) with a teleplay by Harold Swanton and story by Margaret Manners.

I’ve written about this marvelous episode for Movie Silently’s The Gish Sisters Blogathon! Here Lillian Gish plays the sassy Bessie who lives with her daughter Camilla (Maggie McNamara) Bessie is a staple of the town, and when her handyman falls to his death because of the arrogance of her neighbor Samantha Wilkins (Patricia Cutts-The Tingler 1959) and her whipped husband Henry (Peter Lind Hayes) Bessie goes on a mission to try and bridge the feud with the couple by inviting them over for supper.

Samantha refuses to break bread with the Carnbys, but Henry starts to insinuate himself into Bessie and Camilla’s life. One night Henry disappears and Bessie sees Samantha digging a hole in the barn. She accuses the woman of murder and eventually Samantha is executed for killing her husband. But… Henry unexpectedly returns, claiming to have been on a long sea voyage not able to hear about his wife’s trial. Bessie suspects that Henry has staged the whole thing and begins to feel terrible guilt about what she has done. Will she be able to rectify the awful mistake she has made and bring Henry to justice?

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Bessie-“To bring to the light of day the two lies that together make a truth. “

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SEASON 3

CHANGE OF ADDRESS (10/12/64) PHYLLIS THAXTER as Elsa Hollands

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Elsa –“There’s something wrong with this house, I lye awake at night and I can feel it. There’s is something wrong with this house Something we don’t know about.”
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Elsa-“That’s the girl I saw at the beach, she’s lovely” Keith- “What I want, what I really want. What I’m sure as sitting here want… uhhh.” Elsa –“Keith it may be, it just very well may be I want the same thing”. Keith- “What are you talking about baby? what you were talking about… Elsa-“how we rid ourselves of each other… and when! Me of you and you of me.”

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Michael Blodgett and Tisha Sterling do some mod dancing in Change of Address
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Elsa… do you really need to go down to the basement to see what your adolescent husband wants to show you? Can’t you guess!!!!

Directed by David Friedkin with a teleplay by Morton Fine and David Friedkin and a story by Andrew Benedict.

Elsa Hollands (Phyllis Thaxter) hates the new beach house. Keith Hollands (Arthur Kennedy) refuses to grow older, and chases after the local beach hottie Tisha Sterling. The house gives Elsa the chills, and it doesn’t help that Keith starts digging a hole in the basement floor that he claims is for the new boiler. Elsa and Keith keep clashing over the strain in their marriage. She just wants to go back to her old apartment and senses something terribly wrong with the damp place.

While Keith is playing around with the young blonde beauty, Elsa contacts the ex-owner’s wife to discourage her from selling, and perhaps finds out the truth about the place. When Keith can’t take Elsa’s complaints anymore, finding her an obstruction into his world of new found vitamins, jumping jacks, young beach bunnies, hair dye, turtle necks, late nites out at the disco dancing along side the dreamy blued eyed Michael Blodgett, he kills her and buries her in that nice big hole he’s been digging. But will Elsa’s investigation come back to bite Keith in those awfully ugly jogging shorts?

WATER’S EDGE (10/19/64) ANN SOTHERN as Helen Cox

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Helen-“Funny you dreaming’ about me and here we are. Life’s a big surprise.”

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Directed by Bernard Girard with a teleplay by Alfred Hayes and a story by the great Robert Bloch!

Rusty Connors (John Cassavetes) is newly released from prison. While in prison his mate Mike Krause (Rayford Barnes) talks incessantly about the perfect blonde he left behind. Krause dies in prison, and so while Rusty gets out he decides to look up this gorgeous dish that was married to his former cellmate. Krause had been in prison for robbery and murder, but neither the money nor the body of his partner have ever been found. Could Krause’s wife Helen know where the loot is stashed?

Rusty comes to find Helen (Ann Sothern) slinging hash at a greasy spoon, but she is far from the pin up that Mike Krause crooned about. Still Rusty plays up to her, thinking that she can lead him to the stolen money. The pair form a tumultuous sexual relationship, both greedy to find the hidden cash. Which they stumble onto in an abandoned boat house infested with starving rats. The two might just turn on each other, but you’ll have to see the episode and find out for yourself! This is a macabre and gritty story by the master of the suspense genre Robert Bloch author of Psycho

LONELY PLACE (11/15/64) TERESA WRIGHT as Stella

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Stella “I”m scared of Jesse… You scared of him too. You scared too. talking don’t help Emery I heard you talking to Jessie in the orchard. You told him you married me to have someone to feed ya. Is that why we ain’t ever have any children?”

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Directed by Harvey Hart with a teleplay by Francis Gwaltney and a story by G.B Gilford

Teresa Wright is outstanding as poor Stella, married to a horrible dolt of a husband who doesn’t appreciate her. Emory (Pat Buttram is a weak and unloving bumpkin who owns a peach farm. This is a dark Americana tale about a quiet woman named Stella who suffers in silence but has a few joys, like the love of animals, in particular her little pet squirrel. One day an ominous drifter asks if he can work the farm for a bit. Bruce Dern plays Jesse, in a role that surpasses so many of the psychopaths he’s had opportunity to play. Jesse has a particular viciousness that is spine tingling. While he helps harvest the peach crop, he secretly torments Stella with his fondness for his sharp knife. Stella feels threatened but her husband acts clueless, while at times we see that he is very aware of what is going on, he just chooses not to intervene out of cowardice. The episode is perhaps one of the most psychologically enthralling, and it’s climax will leave you breathless. The performances are absolutely stunning. Just as frightening as any modern thriller on the screen today! And Wright turns in a performance that tugs at your heart with so many levels of emotional reflection as a woman trapped by her circumstances. John F. Warren’s cinematography portrays a rural hinterland that is otherworldly and melancholy.

MISADVENTURE (12/7/64) LOLA ALBRIGHT as Eva Martin

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Eva-“You crying? You are crying Ha! What do you’ve got to cry about? If anybody’s gonna cry it should be me. Although I must say… You are a most unusual gas man!”

Directed by Joseph Newman with a story and teleplay by Lewis Davidson.

Eva (Lola Albright) is an adulterous wife to unsuspecting businessman (George Kennedy) who is a penny pincher though he is quite well to do. One day a mysterious stranger (Barry Nelson) manages to work his way into the house by claiming to be the gas man. He acts very peculiar, until finally he gets her into bed. Colin convinces Eva that it would be easy to kill her husband… This zany and interesting episode has a lot of twists so I won’t give anything away! Just watch for great performances by Nelson and in particular the lovely Lola Albright who can do comedic mystery thrillers with ease!

TRIUMPH (12/14/64) JEANETTE NOLAN as Mary Fitzgibbons

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Mary-“You are a vain man.” Brother Thomas-  “A minor vice.” Mary-“There is no such thing as a minor vice.” Brother Thomas “trimming a mustache harms no one.” Mary-“It’s so difficult for you to be the kind of missionary you should be.” Brother Thomas- “I have a good reputation.” Mary-“Because I have made sure of it.” Brother Thomas“yes you have.” Mary-“you begrudge me that recognition.” Brother Thomas-“I’m the first to admit it.” Mary-“I have loved you.”

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Mary- “I don’t know if I still do. I’ve had to forget my needs and devote myself to your work.”

Directed by Harvey Hart with a teleplay by Arthur Ross and story by Robert Branson.

This is a particularly intense addition to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour due to the fine performances by Ed Begley and one of my favorites Jeanette Nolan. Nolan plays Mary the enigmatic wife to a missionary medical man (Begley). The strong woman behind the man so to speak. Begley plays Brother Thomas Fitzgibbons who in actuality is an incompetent surgeon living in a primal world in the rugged terrain of India. Mary is ambitious and wants all the glory for her and her weak husband. When Tom Simcox and Maggie Pierce –Brother John Sprague and his wife Lucy come to help the mission, Mary fears they will expose the truth about Brother Thomas’ work, as well as usurp their position there. Oh what a tangled web we weave. Nolan almost reignites her Lady Macbeth with her role as the conniving and treacherous Mary Fitzgibbons– Her silver tongued laments as always put her at the top of my favorite character actors!

WHERE THE WOODBINE TWINETH (1/11/65) MARGARET LEIGHTON as Nell Snyder & JUANITA MOORE as Suse

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“would you like to meet Mingo when she comes? She’s not very big. She’s big enough to live in a bird cage and big enough to have a frog for a horse!”
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“Do you believe me about Mingo?”

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Eva-“Is it dark where daddy is?”-Nell ” I hope not… I don’t know.” -Eva “Numa knows Mingo says it’s brighter than day!… they have bumble bees there too.”-Nell- “Who’s Mingo honey?”-Eva- “My best friend!”

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This is one of Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s most supernatural of tales that breaks the mold of the crime/suspense drama. Along with The Sign of Satan, The Monkey’s Paw, and The Magic Shop by H.G Wells. Where the Woodbine Twineth could have fit nicely into Boris Karloff’s Thriller anthology series. A haunting tale that will stay with you for a long time. Margaret Leighton is mesmerizing as Aunt Nell, a woman who just cant embrace her little niece’s wild imaginative tales. I’ve recently become acquainted with Leighton’s work and have fallen in love with the actress!

Directed by Alf Kjellin with a teleplay by James Bridges and a story by Davis Grubb (wrote Night of the Hunter, The Cheyenne Social Club and a few short stories for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery 1971.

Leighton is marvelous as she coldly, rigidly lacks understanding of her recently orphaned niece who talks about fey people who live under the davenport and visit her at night. When Eve comes to live with the elderly Mississippi riverboat Captain Snyder, her grandfather, her aunt Nell just can’t break through.

Nell just believes the child to be willful and lazy trying to blame things on her imaginary friends like Mr. Peppercorn and Mingo… Aunt Nell just can’t handle the role of caretaker to a wily and free spirited child and begins to crack under the pressure. The conflict becomes very real when Nell challenges Eva at every turn.

When Eva (Eileen Baral) gets a wonderful Creole doll she names Numa from her riverboat King grandfather, tensions ignite  and Nell comes face to face with the mystical world where the woodbine twineth. A nether region between life, death and the realms you cannot see with the naked eye. To balance out the constant struggle between the suffering Nell and the precocious Eva, is the calming and level headed presence of Juanita Moore as Suse, who understands Eva and is more like a mother to the young girl than Nell can possibly manifest from her rigid identity.

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Nell is obsessed with controlling Eva, and catching her at lies. She fears the child’s freedom, and resents how happy she can be. When she hears Eva chatting and playing with Numa, the doll grandfather had given Nell suspects that it is a child from the neighborhood.

Eva warns that if Nell takes Numa away, Eva will have to trade places with Numa and go to dwell “Where the Woodbine Twineth.”

But obstinate Aunt Nell defies Eva and puts Numa on top of the player piano, Eva steals Numa away and runs into the woods. Suddenly in an eerie haunting manner the player piano mysteriously starts up by itself. Nell desperate stumbles onto Eva in the backyard playing with a little black girl –they are dancing.

Nell chases the girl away, warning her to stay away but then Eva disappears. When Nell finds a doll in Numa’s box it looks exactly like a porcelain version of little Eva, Nell realizes that the magic was real and that she has lost her little niece forever to the ether world beyond the trees… A changeling in her place, never to return.

One of my all time favorite episodes. Just effectively creepy yet magical stuff… with a haunting quality that lingers…

FINAL PERFORMANCE (1/18/65) SHARON FARRELL as Rosie

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This piece directed by John Brahm from a teleplay by Clyde Ware & Lee Kalcheim. (Let’s Scare Jessica To Death 1971, All in the Family 1972) is a story based on Robert Bloch.

Roger Perry plays Cliff Allen a television writer on his way to Hollywood who picks up a pretty hitchhiker named Rosie.(Sharon Farrell) Later Rosie accuses Cliff of abducting her when he is stopped by the local police. Of course Cliff denies the charges but the sheriff orders him to come back to town with him. Cliff’s car breaks down, and so he is forced to stay over in a very run down motel.

Off the beaten path Motels already smack of creepy so as you can imagine when it turns out that it is run by a washed up vaudeville actor name Rudolph Bitzner or Rudolph the Great ( great –for what you’ll find out! )

Rudolph is played by the wonderful Franchot Tone, who dreams of a comeback someday, and Rosie is the daughter of his dead wife who used to be his partner. Now Rosie not only works at the cafe/motel, but she’s being groomed to be part of the comeback act.

Rosie sneaks off to apologize to Cliff for lying but she is terrified of Rudolph who is forcing her to marry him once she turns 18 which is in a few days. Cliff agrees to help Rosie escape once his car is fixed. But when he goes to her cabin she is not there. Rudolph convinces him to sit out in the audience and watch his great comeback act with Rosie before he leaves for Hollywood.

One of the most subtly grotesque and atmospheric relics of the early 60s before psycho-sexual cinema hit the proverbial fan!

I won’t give it away, you must see this macabre and eerie instillation in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour collection.

ONE OF THE FAMILY (2/8/65) LILIA SKALA plays Nurse Frieda Schmidt

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Directed by Joseph Pevney with a teleplay by Oscar Millard (Angel Face 1952, Dead Ringer 1964) and William Bast. Based on a story by James Yaffe

Dexter and Joyce Daily (Jeremy Slate and Kathryn Hays) hire Dexter’s old German nanny named Frieda (the inimitable Lilia Skala) to come and take care of their newborn baby boy. She did such a good job with Dexter when he was just a tot. But Joyce becomes suspicious when she hears a radio broadcast about a nurse who is wanted in the poisoning death of an infant in San Francisco. Frieda does have some peculiar ways, but Joyce goes as far as to contact the murdered baby’s aunt played by Olive DeeringChristine Callendar only confirms Joyce’s greatest fears that Frieda is the one the police are looking for and that she is a dangerous baby killer!

AN UNLOCKED WINDOW (2/15/65) DANA WYNTER as Stella & LOUISE LATHAM as Maude Isles

Dana Wynter An Unlocked Window

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As Maude’s husband reads the newspaper about the recent strangulation murders –she comments-“I read a book about a man who only killed trombone players, he beat them to death with their own trombones.”

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Directed by Joseph Newman with a teleplay by James Bridges and story by Ethel Lina White

Stella Crosson (Dana Wynter) is the nurse to an invalid heart patient (John Kerr) Stella needs help and is very happy to get some relief when Nurse Betty Ames (T.C. Jones) shows up to help. The large house is also inhabited by an alcoholic housekeeper Maude played by the wonderful Louise Latham. The night is fret filled with storms and the news has reported that a maniacal nurse killer is on the loose! Oh, and the power has gone out, so they’re all in the dark.

Maude sends her husband out in the storm to get some medicine, and Stella goes around the house locking all the windows and doors. Except she fails to secure one that is in the creepy basement. The shocking ending will catch you off guard.

THOU STILL UNRAVISHED BRIDE 3/22/65SALLY KELLERMAN as Sally Benner

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Directed by David Friedkin with a teleplay by Morton Fine and David Friedkin and story by Avram Davidson

American Sally Benner is soon to marry London policeman Tommy Bonn (Ron Randall) While on a transatlantic cruise they announce their engagement, but four hours before they are to be wed, Sally has pangs of doubt and goes out into the London fog.  There have been a series of murders and her family grow weary for her safety. Tommy and his partner Stephen Leslie (Michael Pate) go in search of Sally.

They eventually stumble on an odd young man named Edward Clarke (David Carradine) who they suspect might be the strangler, and with the description of the woman he confesses to murdering they fear Sally’s fate. The episode also stars Kent Smith and Edith Atwater as Sally’s parents. This episode is very atmospheric and Kellerman as usual does a wonderful job of manifesting a languid sensuality and longing that hangs like dew on the petal.

POWER OF ATTORNEY (4/5/65) GERALDINE FITZGERALD as Agatha Tomlin & FAY BAINTER as May Caulfield

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Directed by Harvey Hart with a teleplay by James Bridges and story by Selwyn Jepson (Stage Fright! 1950)

Richard Johnson is a smooth con artist Jarvis Smith posing as a stock expert who insinuates himself into the lives of the wealthy Mary Caulfield and suspicious companion Agatha. It’s always wonderful to see Geraldine Fitzgerald in any performance, here it is no exception. She has an elegant and stayed sensibility that can be as poignant as it is sophisticated. She works well against Fay Bainter who is always enigmatic like a fine bit of silverware that is timeless and sturdy. Johnson sheds his kindly Dr Marquay (The Haunting) persona here and plays the perfect cad. Jarvis eventually romances Agatha and takes over the handling of Mary’s sizable fortune, pretending that he is investing it for her. When it comes to light what Jarvis has done, the drama becomes a taut little mystery melodrama.

THE SECOND WIFE 4/26/65 JUNE LOCKHART as Martha

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Directed by Joseph Newman with a teleplay by Robert Bloch from a story by Richard Deming

June Lockhart plays Martha Peters. Martha has answered a lonely hearts and becomes a mail order bride she finally meets Luke Hunter (John Anderson) a miserly reserved sort of man who seems to have no joy in his life. Married once before, his first wife was a mail order bride as well who died under mysterious circumstances. When Luke goes to visit his relatives, Martha’s fears begin to build when she finds a coffin shaped box hidden in the garage. She also hears her husband digging all night down in the locked cellar.

Suddenly Luke insists that they go on vacation for the Christmas Holidays, and urges her to start packing so they can go visit his relatives. Before they leave the house, Luke unlocks the cellar door and insists that Martha go downstairs and see what he’s been working on!

NIGHT FEVER (5/3/65) COLLEEN DEWHURST as Nurse Ellen Hatch

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Directed by Herbert Coleman with a teleplay by Gilbert Ralston and story by Clark Howard, this is a stand out story, with a sublime performance by the always compelling Dewhurst.

Here Dewhurst plays a very compassionate nurse Ellen Hatch who is taking care of a cop-killer Jerry Walsh (Tom Simcox) on his way to death row. Jerry manages to melt Ellen’s tough yet kind exterior and lure her into believing that he’s fallen in love with her so that she can help engineer his escape.

Continue reading “The Women of Alfred Hitchock’s Hour (1962-1965)”

When the Spider Woman Looks: Two Glorias- “Wicked Love, Close ups & Old Jewels”- The sympathetically tragic villainesses of Sunset Blvd (1950) and Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

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This is part of the Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy* Shadows and Satin & *Silver Screenings from April 20th – 26th 2014

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”– T.E. Lawrence

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”- Mark Twain

IT’S ALL IN THE EYES! -THE LEGACY OF GLORIA SWANSON/NORMA DESMOND & GLORIA HOLDEN/COUNTESS ZALESKA

Gloria Swanson Norma Desmond

Gloria Holden as Dracula's Daughter

Are these wicked women? Do they exemplify the monstrous feminine? I dare say NO! They are sensual yet tragic figures!

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Gloria Holden’s Countess Zaleska is a victim of her bloodline (literally)–her father Dracula’s legacy, desperately seeking out redemption and’ release’ from the torture of her relentless desires. (lesbianism in the form of blood lust) And Gloria Swanson‘s enduring Norma Desmond an aging silent screen star pushed out by talkies-a victim of a punishing Hollywood institution that forces older women into self-delusion. Though her beauty did not fade, the praise and recognition has.

Both women are-literally immortal!

Ironically without realizing the connection there are two threads of synchronicity that revealed themselves after I decided to pair both Glorias. A) Both women have male servants who show a stoic undying co-dependent worship of their mistress and B) Hedda Hopper appears in both films….

“She gives you that weird feeling!” –tagline from Dracula’s Daughter

Two Glorias, two dynamic forces on screen- Written about endlessly, on the surface spider women, vamps and villainesses perhaps… but to the thoughtful observer and film fanatic like myself… they are sympathetic figures in a cruel world…

“Cast out this wicked dream that has seized my heart.”- subtitle from one of Gloria/Norma’s silent films.

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First let’s begin with our ‘close-up’- on Gloria Swanson as the eternally mesmerizing Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s masterpiece! Norma is in actuality the one trapped in an orbit of ambivalence about her own primacy which ultimately devolves into a vulnerable, needy, discontented and brooding personality whose dependency upon men and (one opportunistic man in particular) is self-destructiveness turned outward.

SUNSET BOULEVARD 1950

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Written and directed by auteur Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity 1944, The Lost Weekend 1945, Ace in the Hole 1951, Stalag 17 (1953), Witness for the Prosecution 1957, Some Like It Hot 1959, The Apartment 1960 which won for BEST PICTURE that year, beating out ELMER GANTRY!).

Considered the last motion picture in the film noir cannon. The first being Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity 1944  with his notoriously sexified femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson who’s got a great pair of gams showcasing that diamond ankle bracelet, dark sunglasses and Barbara Stanwyck’s cool exterior. And Wilder’s last noir Sunset Boulevard that unofficially marked the end of classical noir’s heyday. Sunset Boulevard truly pushing the conventions of noir to it’s limits.

Written for the screen by Wilder and Charles Brackett (The Lost Weekend ’45, Edge of Doom, ’50, Niagara ’53).

Music by Franz Waxman  (Magnificent Obsession ’35, The Invisible Ray ’36, A Day at the Races ’37, The Man Who Cried Wolf ’37, Gone With the Wind -uncredited, Humoresque ’46 I Married a Monster From Outer Space, Home Before Dark, there’s so much more– see IMDb profile). Waxman’s score is superb, from the exhilarating opening sequence that accompanies the flurry of police and newsreel camera trucks racing to the crime scene, the vibrant strings and strident horns that accentuate modernity to the more subtle poignant moments that underscore Norma’s internal agony.

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John Seitz is responsible for the evocative and quirky noir-esque cinematography (Sullivan’s Travels ‘4I, Double Indemnity ’44 , The Lost Weekend ’45).

The use of light in key frames showcases Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond who exults whenever she is either watching herself or is thrust into sudden illumination renders her as somehow lost. The use of shadows and oddly lit spaces evoke the sense of her tragic misconstruction of reality. 

Bruce Crowther on- Cinematographer Seitz who helped to define some of the memorable images of Sunset Boulevard“Rarely does full light intrude upon this movie… Seitz handles the often cluttered sets using lighting to direct the eye to each scene’s key areas. Even when light is used fully, as when Norma steps into the beam of her home movie projector or when a lighting technician at the studio turns the spotlight on her, it serves a dark purpose… Here it shows with appalling clarity the incipient madness that will eventually destroy Norma.”

Arthur P Schmidt, the film editor, died at age 52 (worked on Ace in the Hole and Some Like it Hot with Wilder).

Art direction by Hans Dreier and John Meehan, fabulous mise-en-scéne by set designers  Sam Comer Ray Moyer who both worked on (Read Window 1954, Vertigo 1958, Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961) Which arranges the landscape of Norma’s world with Art Deco style furnishing, elaborate candelabras, wrought iron scrolled staircases, tapestries and ornate lighting fixtures. Norma’s bedroom is something out of a Gothic fairytale with it’s superfluous ruffles and claustrophobic pageantry.

Wilder and his artistic design team create an atmosphere of decadence and decay. Using an ornate baroque visual style that puts emphasis on the surroundings which are careful set pieces of time-worn opulence. The scenes are filled with a cluttered and suffocating mise-en-scéne. Sunset Boulevard reveals the conflict of the old grandeur of the silent era with the hollow clamor of modernity, as a ‘clash of styles and eras.’

Once Joe walks in from the brightly lit Los Angeles hustle and bustle, the tone turns darker, as he steps inside the confines of the mansion crowded with the serpentine wrought iron staircase, large yet dim light fixtures and ancient looking columns that appear to be disintegrating in small scattered parts. Set against the crispness of Max’s white gloves and Norma’s black sateen lounging pajamas, it offsets the sense of a perishing house in an odd and creepy way. Again this is where noir meets horror by the elements combined in the visual style.

Most effectively is the central character of Norma Desmond who’s electrifying intensity and melodramatic flare projects an other-world style in contrast with the biting and cynical, dispassionate humor of the younger screenwriter from the age of talkies.

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According to Sam Kashner and Jennifer MacNair many of the film’s props came from own Swanson’s home and scrapbooks. “One shot pans across the table covered with Swanson’s film stills, the photographs in old frames capturing her young face and heavily painted eyes.”

The portrait in Norma’s living room was painted by Geza Kende. Wilder also borrowed a film clip of “Norma” in her prime from a Swanson film Erich Von Stroheim directed, Queen Kelly 1929.

From Foster Hirsch’s The Dark Side of the Screen- he cites Amir Karimi in Toward a Definition of the American Film Noir as the true period of noir beginning with Wilder’s Double Indemnity and ending with the same directors Sunset Boulevard 1950. He goes on to say that Wilder’s noir drama’s contain “the biting social comment, the stinging disapproval of the American way” Sunset Boulevard “transfers noir psychology to a novel setting, the decaying mansion of a once-grand film star. Wilder’s portrait of the megalomaniacal Norma Desmond is etched in acid; she is the embodiment of Hollywood’s rotting foundations, its terminal narcissism, it’s isolation from reality.”

Norma’s sensational costumes were created by prolific designer Edith Head who resurrected Swanson’s silent era look, the exotic and exaggerated costumes and fashions of an ex-screen Goddess, which point back toward Swanson’s past. She wears a hat, adorned with a peacock feather in the scene where she is reunited with Cecil B. DeMille. This is a visual homage to a headdress she wore in Male and Female 1919 one of the first films he directed her in.

The silent movie queen Norma Talmadge is reportedly “the obvious if unacknowledged source of Norma Desmond, the grotesque, predatory silent movie queen” Dave Kehr,An independent woman, nobly suffering in silents”, New York Times, 11 March 2010.

Sunset Boulevard could not have been cast with anyone better than the dynamic and grande actress who in 1919 was signed to a contract by Cecil B. DeMille. With this, her come-back role Gloria Swanson ignites the screen with her eponymous Norma Desmond -star of the silent screen -Norma Desmond, the tragic central satellite of the story who herself is dreaming of a comeback. Swanson’s performance is as much transfixing as it is exquisite.

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The intoxicating beauty of Gloria Swanson from the silent era

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Swanson herself was a very hard working actress in 1910s and 1920s with Mack Sennett before joining Paramount studios. She started her own production company in the mid ’20s but only made a few talkies in the 1930s. She made six silent films with Cecil B. DeMille.

As Leo Braudy says in his insightful book- The World in a Frame: What We See– Aesthetically, Swanson faces into the film as the fictional character Norma Desmond and faces outward toward us as the star. He calls her role a ‘meditation’ on her screen image and the relationship between the old world of silent films and the new world of 1950s Hollywood. He refers to the other actors who were her contemporaries playing themselves as ’embalmed’ with her in the past, losing their relevance to the audience and ultimately their power.

Billy Wilder’s film is as James Naremore says in his book More Than Night- Film Noir in its Contents- is an “iconoclastic satire” and “a savage critique of modernity.” Much like Aldrich’s The Big Knife it is a condemnation of Hollywood in the cycle of films released in the 1950s, also notable The Bad and The Beautiful 1952. Naremore points out these films coincided with the blacklist, and the decline of studio owned theater chains summoning the end of an era. Norma’s character is a casualty of changing times.

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Co-starring as the ill-fated gutless unemployed screenwriter who becomes Norma’s gigolo, is smooth and sexy William Holden as Joe Gillis. Erich Von Stroheim plays Norma’s devoted butler and ex-hubby Max Von Mayerling. Erich Von Stroheim who had directed Swanson in Queen Kelly ’29 is perfectly suited to play her servant/ex-husband/devotee.

The film also co-stars Nancy Olson (Union Station 1950) as Betty Schaefer, Fred Clark as Sheldrake, Lloyd Gough as Morino, Jack Webb as Artie Green, Franklyn Farnum as the undertaker, and special appearances as themselves, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Anna Q Nilsson, H.B. Warner, and composers Ray Evans and Jay Livingston.

The film is a Gothic, poetic nightmare in noir that so often evinces a sympathetic lens toward the forgotten characters who engage the audience like apparitions of another time in Hollywood. The unorthodox narrative that embraces a vividly unstable noir identity that dwells within the constructs of an American life, pushing the limits of social and sexual convention to a dark place of obsession and excess. Although Wilder scripted this as a black comedy, the noir stylization that had by now ran through it’s re-occurring patterns still manages to create the incessant mood of bleak cynicism and a distant vulgarity.

Bruce Crowthers Reflections in a Dark Mirror- ”Of the other German emigres who worked in Hollywood the most significant contributor to the film noir is Billy Wilder, whose Ace in the Hole perhaps the most cynical movie ever to come out of Hollywood, Double Indemnity with it’s mesmerizing manipulative spider-woman and Sunset Blvd with it’s atmosphere of brooding baroque insanity are classics of the genre.”

“Wilder introduces a creepy atmosphere of eccentric ruin that’s strange and destroys lives, yet hypnotically alluring and seductive from a lost indulgent age.”Alain Silver & James Ursini from The Encyclopedia of Film Noir-The Directors

Wilder wanted stark reality and realism to pierce the veil of illusion and fantasy that was the dream factory of Hollywood 1950s. He portrays a corrupt landscape of used-up people, conniving agents, writers hustling to get their scripts sold, and the loneliness and alienation that permeates a world of broken dreams and perpetual struggle. Andrew Dickos in Street With No Name calls Wilder’s noir films “visions are steeped in cruel and corrosive humor, distinctive in its own right and its ability to function apart from the noir universe.”

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In this provocative masterpiece Billy Wilder masterfully evokes a shudder in us, “by emphasizing it’s verisimilitude, though, Wilder reveals the hidden truths of the world’s cruelest company town- from the isolation of forgotten celebrities to the crass efficiency of producers. Not only a thrilling and strange piece of entertainment, the film also is an indictment of Hollywood.” –Kashner & MacNair

Louis B Mayer, at a private screening of Sunset Boulevard, was furious with Wilder for his cruel portrayal of the industry that supported him. At the party before the various celebrities, he reproached him, “You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you! You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood!” Wilder kept the script hush hush using the innocuous code title A Can of BeansWilder and Brackett fearing that Hollywood would respond negatively to their damning portrayal of Hollywood.

He offers us the very typified archetypes of classical noir with his doomed anti-hero, the dangerous femme fatale, and the good girl redeemer. Also present are the familiar themes of entrapment, claustrophobia, instability, corruption, flawed character, psychological crime melodrama and even the police procedural with it’s thrilling opening sequence as the newsreel camera’s and police cars, their sirens blaring, tear up the streets as they speed toward the murder scene.

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The inimitable Mae West turned down the part of Norma Desmond

Originally Billy Wilder wanted the legendary & incomparably sexy and suggestive writer/actress Mae West to play Norma. West declined because she found the story to be ‘too dark’. She also didn’t want a film that portrayed the relationship between an older woman and younger man that reflected itself as hideous. The two approached Greta Garbo who also declined the offer. Wilder also approached Mary Pickford who was appalled by the offer, they had to apologize to her. It was George Cukor who suggested Gloria SwansonWilder asked Gloria Swanson to screen test for the part in 1949 and she almost said no. She had worked with Wilder who had adapted the screenplay for her film Music in the Air 1934. Norma is a larger-than-life film character though an exaggeration of reality considering Swanson wasn’t ancient she was only fifty at the time!

Wilder had contracted Montgomery Clift to play Joe Gillis. Clift left the picture finding it too uncomfortably close to his own life, because of the younger man relationship- he allegedly had an affair with Libby Holman a popular singer of the 20’s whose career was ruined by scandal surrounding the shooting death of her husband. Clift had spent time with Holman who also lived in a sprawling mansion much like Norma’s. Wilder worried that the age difference between Swanson and Holden wasn’t big enough, Swanson was fifty and Holden was thirty one. Wilder hadn’t been impressed with some of Holden’s more mediocre films of the ’40s, even though he had starred in Rouben Mamoulian’s Golden Boy (1939) with co-star Barbara Stanwyck. Sunset Boulevard made William Holden’s career. While I find Joe Gillis to be a dismissive smarmy ass who sort of had it coming to him, in this picture, I let it be know that I’m a huge fan of William Holden!- he did a superb job of playing it cagey, opportunistic and sarcastic as hell.

Wilder mirrors Joe Gillis’ from his own start as a shaky Hollywood writer having moved from Germany to America after Hitler’s rise to power, He used to be a ‘taxi dancer’ who would dance with any unattached older women who were willing to pay for his services.

One of the most iconic scenes from Sunset Boulevard, aside from the film’s fever dream climax where Norma descends the grand staircase, plunging into her gathering madness, is the scene that illustrates the withering passage of a lost era. The three fading silent film stars play bridge in the parlor of Norma’s decaying Gothic mausoleum. During the scene with the old stars playing bridge, the collectors come and take Joe’s car away, the only passport to freedom he has.

‘The wax works’ cracks wise, struggling snarky screen writer Joe Gillis, referring to Norma’s bridge party guests. Wilder envisioned this scene as purposefully macabre or as Kashner and MacNair call it “ghastly.” To see figures gathered around the table, as the sequence unfolds, it is revealed that these actors are actually playing themselves. Silent screen actress Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner who had played Christ in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1927 picture The King of Kings. And Legendary actor of silent cinema Buster Keaton is there too. Kashner and MacNair describe “his features ravaged by alcohol abuse.” Even Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in a way is paying tribute to herself recalling the bridge game in the parlor scene- “Came close to giving us all the creeps.”

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Like the bridge guests DeMille plays himself with scenes shot on the real set of his 1949 motion picture Samson and Delilah. Erich Von Stroheim himself a once great director, Wilder uses him poignantly as Max who mourns his former life. Wilder touching on the fact that Stroheim in real life had a rough time with his career often going over budget and ultimately making box office flops.

As I’ve pointed out here in this piece for The Great Villain Blogathon, I am using Norma Desmond to argue that she isn’t the psychotic spider woman or villainess that she’s been referred to, and that the film neither makes fun of her, yet creates a sense of sympathetic apology to this grande dame mostly revealing her as quite a tragic figure. I neither see her as washed up nor grotesque, but a beautifully powerful women possessed of intensity. She is the one who is ‘trapped’ in the web of an unforgiving culture that demonizes women for their sexual primacy. Norma is possessed of desire. The desire to still be adored. The desire to make a ‘return’ to motion pictures. The desire to be loved as a great star. The desire to be loved by Joe.

It’s Joe Gillis that is not a very likable guy, who is uncaring, weak, too shallow and powerless. Let’s face it he’s a self-acknowledged heel. Ironically, sadly it is Norma’s story that is being told through this guys voice and perspective yet another way that her character is silenced, her personae distorted and perverted through the male gaze.

Once again Silver & Ward point out eloquently-

“Norma herself as portrayed by Gloria Swanson is a tragic figure. imbued by Wilder with powerful romantic presence… A woman obsessed, she clings to her vision with a tenacity that must ultimately be granted a grudging admiration and she is the only character in the film with the possible exception of Erich Von Stroheim’s fanatically loyal Max, who inspires genuine sympathy. Watching herself on screen in an old movie, she leaps into the projector’s murderous blast of light and cries, ‘They don’t make faces like that anymore!’ It is difficult for the viewer to favor Joe’s cynicism over her fervor, however misguided or self-centered it may be…”

THERE’S A MONSTROUS FEMALE IN OUR MIDST- SOME CHARACTERIZATIONS OF NORMA:

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From The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the 1950’s by Sam Kashner and Jennifer MacNair-Chapter- The Waxworks: Mae West, Gloria Swanson, and Sunset Boulevard which opens with-
 “Hollywood has never been kind to older actresses…”

Here are just a few of the negative & unwarranted cursory examinations of Norma Desmond’s persona, put here -not because I agree, but to point out how cruel & misguided critics have been.

David Kehr of the New York Times refers to Norma as “predatory and grotesque.”

Alain Silver and James Ursini from The Encyclopedia of Film Noir- The Directors– refer to Norma as “delusional eccentric, past her prime.” and a “washed up misfit.” “femme fatale who embodies unstable noir psychosis.”

Foster Hirsch spells it out like this,  “Her fate was monstrous” calling her the “ultimate spider woman hibernating behind closed shutters in a swoon of alcohol and self-deception…{…} her loss of fame and fading beauty turn her into a psychopathic recluse.”

Hedda Hopper describes Norma descending the great staircase at the climax of Sunset Boulevard as her being in- “ a state of complete mental shock!”

Bruce Crowther-Film Noir: Reflections in a Dark Mirror actually uses the word ‘demonic’ he says “Yet, in Sunset Boulevard (1950), she succeeded in bringing to demonic life Norma Desmond, an old-time movie star who is on the most grotesque of all femme fatales.”

Janet Place chapter The Spider Woman from Women in Film Noir“with her claw-like hands.”

Actress Mae Murray a contemporary of Swanson’s, was offended by the film and commented, “None of us floozies was that nuts.”

Forster Hirsch calls her -“megalomaniacal.”

John McCarthy- Movie Psychos and Madmen calls her “a monster”

Marjorie Rosen (Popcorn Venus 1973) & Molly Haskell ( From Reverence to Rape 1974) –“a despairingly lonely serpent…” whose predicament is “reduced and trivialized because the source of her misery is merely growing old”cited by Brandon French, who feels they miss the point by merely reducing Norma to a victim of Wilder’s satire.

Brandon French -On the Verge of Revolt- “these fictional villainesses unable to discover-or accept-an autonomous creative expression of their power are made monsters by it, to one degree or another…{…} Her ludicrous existence as a middle-aged child.” 

From Chapter –Women in Film Noir– by Janet Place- The Spider Woman

In discussing the powerful returning motifs and patterns in film noir, Place talks about the dangerous power of the sexual woman, and how it is visually expressed. She states,

“Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard is the most highly stylized ‘spider woman’ in all of film noir as she weaves a web to trap and finally destroy her young victim, but even as she visually dominates him, she is presented as caught by the same false value system. The huge house in which she controls camera movement and is constantly center frame is also a hideous trap which requires from her the maintenance of the myth of stardom;the contradiction between the reality and the myth pull apart and finally drive her mad.”

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A caption that goes with the photo of Norma with head scarf and dark glasses smoking a cigarette “emphasizes the perverse, decaying side of film noir sexuality, with her claw-like hands, dark glasses and bizarre cigarette holder.”

She goes on to add that these ‘visual cues’ are a characteristic iconography of the “dangerously explicitly sexual and often violent noir female.” Using signals like cigarettes and their trails of wispy smoke are linked with immoral feminine sensuality and the forces of darkness. The specific use of heavily defined make-up, eyebrow pencil and full contoured lips, the dark glasses etc. Even the animal print that Norma wears. The power of these particular women is expressed in the visual style by “their dominance in composition, camera movement and how they are lit.”

From Mary Beth Haralovich– Chapter-Movies and Landscapes in-American Cinema of the 1950s Themes and Variations edited by Murray Pomerance“A character’s mental landscape is written on the mise-en-scéne in the film, the bodies of the actors and in their subjective visions, in their responses to settings that give them solace and to settings that they fear.”
As Joe Gillis comments to Betty Schaefer in Sunset Blvd“Psychopaths sell like hotcakes.”

In fact like the silent cinema which was once her world, Norma is a ghost there, an empty shadow of the past. Now Norma is in a lonely place because the industry that once supported her has forgotten her completely.
“Sunset Boulevard is cast with doppelgangers, fictional counterparts of actual Hollywood players, Paramount’s actual silent star Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond, “Paramount’s Silent Star” Like Norma, Swanson’s screen career did not transfer over to sound films until her remarkable performance in the Sunset Boulevard.

One issue that is suggestive of lensing Norma as a monstrous female is the prevailing mood of ‘male anxiety.’ Centered around not only her age, (for crying out loud she was only 50), but threatening was also her vivid sexual impulses and desires.

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Mary Beth Haralovich points to critic Sarah Street “Sunset Blvd. describes the overwhelming male anxiety about age, morality and career” -from her Mad About the Boy”; Masculinity and Career in Sunset Boulevard 1995

Haralovich points out that in Sunset Boulevard Joe works well with Betty at the studio -it’s a space where creativity can flourish, after hours and is a collaborative effort with Betty for the screenplay first entitled Dark Windows but the new draft is called Untitled Love Story. It shows that energetic youth is taking over the staid and faded ways of the old world.

I defer to Brandon French once again because of his insight and compassionate stance on the character of Norma Desmond, as I also see her. He writes, “In numerous films of the fifties such as All About Eve (1950) The African Queen (1951), The Rose Tattoo (1955), All That Heaven Allows (1956) and Autumn Leaves (1956) middle aged women are shown to be sexually attractive. What renders Norma less than desirable is her neurosis not her age.”

So you could argue that Wilder’s film is not only a condemnation of the failed system of Hollywood but also how it marginalizes it’s older stars, more specifically women. As French puts it, “a protest against Hollywood’s institutional policy of human discard, Wilder put the spotlight on Swanson.”

Gloria Swanson beautiful

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The film showcases society’s anxiety about sexual women especially those who have aged out of their place of ‘desirability.’ It’s this repulsion against older women that turns them into screen ‘monsters.’ It only follows that Norma would fall into an orbit of madness, when she had once flourished in an industry that co-nurtures narcissism, then punishes their women stars when they no longer have the advantage of claiming that egotism as an earned right. These stars are primed to be egotistical and then damned for it once they no longer serve a purpose for the industry cronies who make pictures.

Again, it invokes, Bette Davis’ performance of Baby Jane Hudson and her self-delusion caused by years of growing neglect and the cruel reversal of attentions that were once foisted on her. These accolades taken away, creating  stars that are relics left in a lonely place. Perhaps Wilder’s script did not make his import obvious or more compassionate through the narrative which would more easily coax the audiences sympathies and not necessarily gear them toward repulsion of the central tragic figure that is Norma Desmond. 

Norma Desmond was the prototype for the Grande Dame Guignol films that were to follow… of course the actresses would be faced with the same dilemma– of being given a script that would challenge them not to be type cast or appear monstrous.

It is then up to us to redeem Norma ourselves and see her as the victim and not the ultimate noir spider woman, psychopathic megalomaniac, deranged and deluded horror movie queen.

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The story should work in a way that sheds light on the anxiety surrounding women who aren’t in their twenties or thirties, not framing the narrative or focusing the visual cues on their age as if they are uncanny and dangerous. To tell the story of alienation and madness yes but lens it in a way that doesn’t promote revulsion of the older woman’s sexuality and power. A beauty standard where women can’t grow older and be beautiful at the same time. As people describe Norma as ‘grotesque’ All I see is a very beautiful lonely woman who is yes, filled with a growing delusion. Norma’s misguided fervor is only fueled by her co-dependent side-kick Max as he shelters her from the truth instead of helping her gain awareness through his companionship.

“The attention that Norma Desmond pays to herself, as opposed to the man, is the obvious narrative transgression of Sunset Boulevard.” -Haralovich

Not that Hollywood hasn’t created narcissism in their stars, or that it’s truly a crime for a woman to value herself above all else. Norma gazes at her own reflection in mirrors and in her old motion pictures. As Writer Place points out that the narcissistic independence that the femme fatale seeks is ‘fundamentally and irredeemably sexual’ in noir. Combined with both aggressiveness and sensuality, the dangerous woman becomes the central ‘obsessive’ focus of the narrative. She represents the man’s own sexual freedom, which she must control, repress or ultimately destroy him.

Norma insists on Joe participating in her life rather than being interested in his life. He dreams he is her pet chimp and he actually does become her victim. The victim of Salomé-

From Brandon French’s On the Verge of Revolt-Women in American Films in the Fifties- Chapter 1 The Scarlet “A” Sunset Boulevard (1950) “Sunset Boulevard is a film about ambition and what it allegedly does to the human spirit…{…} On the other hand we harbor a gloomy suspicion that ambition corrodes the soul. America’s negative attitude toward ambition had a critical influence on the transitional woman of the fifties. An Ambitious woman not merely violated the domestic female image; she became a receptacle for America’s most distorted fantasy projections about ambition; a soulless monster of selfish manipulation without moral restraint.”

This was the type of female who film noir had manifested during the forties and fifties. French so aptly points out that ambition is ‘as deadly as the scarlet “A” that is born of our puritan consciousness’. Sunset Boulevard is a perfect example of how a woman who has more drive and ambition, even more than Joe Gillis, evokes an image of her as a “fallen Eve seducing Adam into sin.”

In Sunset Boulevard French views as do I, Billy Wilder’s depiction of Norma as not a typically “just plain rotten” noir villainess. The film yields a thoughtful perspective on the ambivalence of what French calls ‘the transitional woman in the fifties.” Because Wilder complicates the issue of the typified noir evil predatory woman, misunderstood trapped man, innocent ingenue redeemer. Norma is therefore much more nuanced than a sad tragic figure.

Another sentient point that goes to the entire source of Norma’s ambivalence and state of mind begs the question… who’s responsible for her state? DeMille who doesn’t take any culpability for his own contribution to Norma’s decline-blames the press agents who worked overtime focusing on Norma, creating her goddess like megalomania. Demille does not come to Norma’s rescue and help her ‘return’.

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DeMille fondly recalls Norma’s talent in terms of her as “a lovely little girl of seventeen.” But unlike ‘men’ in the film industry who don’t have to qualify themselves by their age and appearance, they don’t have to suffer the effects of a punishing system of skin-deep values. Also it’s this atmosphere that nurtures and places value on youth and the function of beauty that have given rise to a Norma with an arrested development, living in the past obsessed with her ‘self.’

His girlfriend Betty types while he dictates the script they try to write together. Joe loves that Betty smells like a brand new car or freshly laundered handkerchiefs, and not tuberoses. Betty is ambitious too, she dreams of his career and is content to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. “Self-interest, over devotion to a man is the original sin of the film noir woman.”Haralovich

In John McCarthy’s Movie Psychos and Madmen- Chapter- The Female Psycho, McCarthy talks about Gloria Swanson’s faded movie queen in Billy Wilder’s biting attack on Hollywood. He frames Norma as trapped by her delusions-“the delusion that her glamour has not yet faded.”

I disagree. I think that Gloria Swanson/Norma Desmond is STILL glamorous. Perhaps led by the majority who have profiled her as a has been beauty queen and here again, the value judgement has been sworn against her, not just as a character trapped by self-delusion and that her career has ended, but that her desirability is an illusion as well…

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Gloria Swanson is beautiful as ever as silent movie queen Norma Desmond

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Given the immense narcissism which goes along with Hollywood, Swanson  in my opinion does not look like a caricature of her former self nor is she Norma Desmond’s doppelganger. To me… she just looks a little older but still quite sensual and beautiful as ever!

I suppose due to the visual cues by director Wilder and cinematographer Seitz Norma is presented or we are made to believe that she is grotesque like Bette Davis’ Baby Jane whose make up, hairstyle and mannerism truly were an exaggeration of a farcical youth that Davis purposefully plays as campy in order to illustrate her detachment from reality and the attachment to a past life that doesn’t translate well in the modernity of Los Angeles in the 60s. Aldrich’s film pushed the boundaries of convention even further by implementing an even more claustrophobic universe in conflict with the outside world, that engenders madness.

It was a combination of fate and opportunity-

Though Norma has been referred to as having snared Joe in her web. She didn’t go out and set a trap for him, he wandered into her world, she didn’t force him to stay, he stayed because he saw ‘a cozy set up’. and money in it for him, he was hiding and was morbidly curious about the ex-screen Goddess as if he saw her as a side show freak… if the house was a web, he put his own foot on the silk chord and set off the tremor that signaled the spider to pounce. Joe even remarks via voice-over while he’s being led up to his room over the garage, “I dropped the bait, and she snapped at it…”

It’s a tragedy of psychological entrapment and neurotic purgatory that she desires to be loved for herself by the down on his luck screenwriter Joe Gillis whom she has turned into her kept man. Tragic that she believes her fans continue to remember and write to her, and finally that the Hollywood she helped build is still anxiously awaiting her return. McCarthy says “unlike the use of her trap of delusion as a vehicle for comedy as in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) about two dotty women… Norma’s psychological entrapment is a tragedy.”

That Norma’s entrapment is as real and not just that of Joe Gillis’ is a tragedy, I would entirely agree. But McCarthy continues by calling her a ‘monster.’ And yes through the lens of Grande Dame Guignol cinema of which Sunset Boulevard appears to be seedling the screen for the sub-genre, with the decaying mansion and dreary atmosphere, and the theme of ‘the monstrous feminine’ Norma has been perceived and written about as having evolving into a monster. Though I’ll never see her that way.

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And I dare say she did not create this transmogrification herself. She was created by Hollywood, the fictionalized concept that Wilder attacks and by the actualization of the character by Wilder who framed her that way. As a result of her delusion, much like Davis’ Baby Jane Hudson– her madness leads to murder. As McCarthy says, “broken dreams leading to a broken mind” He brings up one good point. That Sunset Boulevard could almost be a horror movie/film noir hybrid. Much like Aldrich’s similar rebuke of Hollywood with his seminal What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? it is a psycho-sexual thriller that breaks apart conventional narratives. And much like Norma Desmond, I will never see Bette Davis’ role as Jane Hudson through the lens of the monstrous. They will always be sympathetic figures to me.

Plot

“A Hollywood Story… This is it … the most compelling dramatic story ever unfolded on the screen .. a tale of heartache and tragedy … love and ambition … told against the fabulous background of Hollywood.”

Told in flashback by a dead man-set against the blaring sirens of racing police cars to the crime scene, the film opens with police cars speeding down Sunset Boulevard. They’ve been called to a mansion where the body of a man, Joe Gillis (William Holden) is floating face down on the surface of the swimming pool with his eyes wide open-(camera used a mirror underneath to catch Holden’s face from underneath). The dead man begins to narrate the story of what led to his death in flashback noir style. This is truly a spin on the term, “ghost-writer.”

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“Yes, this is Sunset Blvd… the homicide squad complete with detectives and newspaper men. A murder has been reported from one of those great big houses… You’ll read all about it in the late editions… You’ll get it over your radio, and see it on television because an old-time star is involved, one of the biggest. But before your hear it all distorted and blown out of proportion, before those Hollywood columnists get their hands on it, maybe you’d like to hear the facts, the whole truth… If so you’ve come to the right party.”

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Repo Man-“There’s gonna be fireworks” Joe Gillis- “You Say the cutest things!”

It leads us back- Six months earlier. Joe Gillis is an out of work screenwriter with only a few B-movies to his credit. He tries to persuade Paramount Pictures producer Sheldrake (Fred Clark) to buy one of his scripts, but reader Betty Schaefer (Olson) administers a harsh critique not realizing that Joe can hear her. Carrying a folder of papers, she puts them on Sheldrake’s desk not noticing Joe Gillis standing by the door. Referring to Joe’s script Sheldrake-“What’s wrong with it?” Betty- “It’s from hunger… just a rehash of something that wasn’t very good to begin with.” Sheldrake-“I’m sure you’ll be glad to met Mr. Gillis. He wrote it.”

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Betty is embarrassed, she would like to ‘crawl into a hole and pull it in after her.’ She says to Joe, “I’m sorry, Mr.Gillis but I just don’t think it’s any good. I find it flat and banal.” He asks “Exactly what kind of material do you recommend? James Joyce? Dostoyevsky?” She tells him, “I just think pictures should say a little something.” Gillis“Oh, you’re one of those message kids. Just a story won’t do. You’d have turned down Gone With the Wind.”

First Joe is typing at his apartment when two collectors show up looking to repossess his car. He manages to elude them once but they spot him on the street at a traffic light. Gillis spots the men who are going to repossess his 1946 Plymouth convertible while sitting at an intersection. They begin chasing him and he gets a blow out.

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the car hidden behind Rudy’s Shoeshine Joe comments about Rudy-“he’d just look at your heels and know the score”

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Trying to hide out Joe turns onto a Sunset Boulevard driveway and stumbles onto an old garage crumbling by the side of a gloomy yet grandiose deteriorating, dying mansion with a little formal garden all gone to seed.

“If ever there was a place to stash away a limping car with a hot license plate.”

When Joe starts his monologue describing Norma’s house, it’s as if he is giving us a portent, describing Norma’s state of mind as the mansion is an extension of her projected identity.

Gillis’ voice-over “It was a great big white elephant of a place. The kind crazy movie people built in the crazy twenties. A neglected house gets an unhappy look. This one had it in spades. It was like that old woman in Great Expectations –that Miss Haversham in her rotting wedding dress and her torn veil, taking it out on the world because she’d been given the go by”

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Suddenly he hears, “You there!… why are you so late!”

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CapturFiles_41 the ever brooding max
The ever brooding Max

Living in this opulent ruin, is the reclusive and long forgotten silent film star Norma Desmond. She alone inhabits this fading estate with her faithful butler Max (Erich Von Stroheim), who also happens to be her ex-husband, who was once a great director and plays a wheezing organ. Both lost relics of a bygone era. The interior shots of the grand hall, great staircase, Norma’s ‘waxwork’s’ parlor, her bedroom and the Gothic baroque style mansion in general evoke an atmosphere of bleak desolation and mystification.

The great hall is grandiose and grim, described in the script as exhibiting portieres that are drawn before all the windows, and “only thin slits or sunlight find their way in to fight the few electric bulbs which are always burning.”

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As Norma Desmond first makes her entrance she stands like a ghostly figure down the corridor in front of a doorway that allows the intrusion of a flickering light. She is small in stature, yet she exudes an electrifying presence, wearing black house pajamas and high heeled pumps. Like many femme fatales she wears dark glasses, a scarf and turban patterned in leopard print.

The undercurrent is gloomy and dust covered. The room is hung with white brocade which is tattered in places and has become mucky from years of neglect. Sam Comer and Ray Moyer’s set design fits the mood perfectly as the scene also showcases a great unmade gilded bed, the gold peeling off as to symbolize Norma’s decomposing love life. The curious set piece is in the shape of a swan.

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The gondola bed in her boudoir is ornately carved with cherubs that Norma sleeps in was actually owned by dancer Gaby Deslys who died in 1920. It had belonged to Universal’s prop department who bought it after Desly’s death. It appears in Lon Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Joe in one of his voice-overs describes it as a gilded row boat. “The perfect setting for a silent movie queen. Poor devil still waving proudly to a parade which has long since passed her by.”

All these little details just add to the sense of realism built into the visual narrative with its accoutrements of Hollywood’s “world of illusion.” Clothes and negligees strewn about the room, which is graced with photographs of fading stars of yesterday. There’s a baroque style fireplace book ended by two ornate candelabras. Set out like an Egyptian prince on her massage table is the shrouded monkey in repose under a shawl.

Norma begins to direct Gillis believing him to be the undertaker (Franklin Farnum) from the funeral home. Joe plays along with a morbid fascination. She tells him,  “I’ve made up my mind we’ll bury him in the garden. Any city laws against that?” Joe says, “I wouldn’t know” Norma continues, “I don’t care anyway. I want the coffin to be white. And I want it specially lined with satin. White, or deep pink.”

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When she picks up the shawl, a small stiff arm falls out. Joe is a little stunned by the tiny hairy arm. “Maybe red. Bright flaming red. Gay. Let’s make it gay.”      

When Joe looks closer at the small body under the shawl he sees the very pitiful, bearded face of a dead chimpanzee. It’s a startling scene, odd and curious. Norma seems to have made her little friend almost a surrogate child.

Joe says to her, “I know your face. You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.” Norma replies with a stately languor, “I am big… it’s the pictures that got small…”

Gillis in his smug manner, “I knew there was something wrong with them.”

Norma begins her brusque tirade “They’re dead. They’re finished. There was a time when this business had the eyes of the whole wide world. But that wasn’t good enough. Oh, no They wanted the ears of the world, too. So they opened their big mouths, and out came talk, talk, talk…”

Joe Gillis quips, “That’s where the popcorn business comes in. You buy yourself a bag and plug up your ears.”

Norma chastising- “Look at them in the front offices — the master minds! They took the idols and smashed them. The Fairbanks and the Chaplins and the Gilberts and the Valentinos. And who have they got now? Some nobodies….”

Joe Gillis- “Don’t get sore at me. I’m not an executive. I’m just a writer.”

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Norma- “You are! Writing words, words! You’ve made a rope of words and strangled this business! But there is a microphone right there to catch the last gurgles, and Technicolor to photograph the red, swollen tongue!”
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Joe- “Ssh! You’ll wake up that monkey.”

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Norma yells- “Get out!” as Gillis starts down the stairs, he answers her, “Next time I’ll bring my autograph album along or maybe a hunk of cement and ask for your footprints.” Halfway down the stairs she stops him, “Just a minute you!”

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Joe-“I didn’t know you were planning a comeback”
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“I hate that word!” (clenched teeth)
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“A return… to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen”
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“Salomé” (Norma whispers to herself)

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She is drawn to Joe, and offers him a job helping her prepare the script for her ‘return’ (she hates the word ‘comeback’) in the film Salomé.

Norma tells Joe, “It’s the story of Salomé I think I’ll have DeMille direct it” Joe humors her. “We’ve made a lot of pictures together.” Joe asks, “And you’ll play Salomé?” “Who else?” “Only asking, I didn’t know you were planning a comeback” “I hate that word… It is a ‘return.’ A return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen!… Salomé, what a woman! What a part! The princess in love with a Holy man. She dances the Dance of the Seven Veils. He rejects her, so she demands his head on a golden tray, kissing his cold dead lips.”

Max wheels in a tea wagon with Champagne and caviar. Norma sits in her chair smoking from her curious cigarette holder that is a gold ring with a clip. She dumps another batch of pages from the script on Joe.

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Joe “It was a cozy set up”