Tuesday, July 29

Those "Parrish" Girls

I just reviewed Parrish (1961) and before that posting I did one on its star, Troy Donahue.  He wasn't the sole focus of the film.  I mentioned that part of my interest in it was watching old pros Claudette Colbert, Karl Malden and Dean Jagger.  But for many a highlight of the film were the three actresses who portrayed the love interests of Parrish.  I thought we'd give each of them a little attention here.  They are, of course, Connie Stevens, Diane McBain and Sharon Hugueny.

It is amazing how incredibly popular these women were at the time of making Parrish and yet none of them found much success as an actress.  Stevens, of course, had arguably more success as a singer (and I loved her breathy voice) and was the most famous of the threesome.  McBain and Huguent both suffered great tragedies. 

Connie Stevens

As Lucy in Parrish, she longed for him even before he moved into her family's home.  She was dirt-poor which seemed to give her a leg up (if you will) on trashy.  Her bedroom was directly below Parrish's and she told him to stomp on the floor if he, um, needed anything.  She also let him in on the fact she slept in the raw when it got too hot.  Oh Lucy...

Oh Connie.  I wish she would have been a bigger star.  I always liked her but thought her acting was merely passable.  In some ways she delivered the goods but the fact remains that I always saw her acting... a no-no in my book.  (With some training, I do think she could have been a good actress.)  Again, I quite liked her singing voice but she got more into clubs and Vegas and such and the movie career just fizzled.  She is likely more famous for her marriages and divorces from hunky actor James Stacy (who would lose an arm and a leg in a motorcycle accident) and singer Eddie Fisher.

Born in Brooklyn in 1938, she was singing at an early age and it would be singing that would bring her to the movies' attention. After a move to Los Angeles as a teenager, she became the only female in a quartet (the guys would go on to be part of The Lettermen) and through that she came to the attention of people who got her movie work as a stand-in and extra.  She ultimately got roles in B teenage flicks which led to Jerry Lewis choosing her for a role in Rock-A-Bye Baby (1958).  From there it was a contract at Warner Bros. and immense popularity via the TV series, Hawaiian Eye.

Parrish was the first of three films Stevens would make with Troy Donahue.  Their next together, Susan Slade, was slammed by the critics.  She had the lead role and her inexperience was evident.  Nonetheless, I liked the film, thanks mainly to Dorothy McGuire as her mother.  Palm Springs Weekend (1963), their final outing, a wretched film that could easily have been the template for her movie actress demise.  She had a nice moment or two opposite Jim Hutton in Never Too Late (1965).

From there, it was mainly television... mainly guest starring on popular series and TV movies (a couple quite good).  Her theatrical movie career is full of nonsense and junk (and I'm being kind).

She did find a life outside of Hollywood, more or less, by founding a company involved in skin care and later became an infomercial queen.  I can't say as I ever paid much attention to the latter but I was bowled over by her beauty.  Never exactly an ugly duckling, she, nonetheless, is someone who became more gorgeous as she aged.  Being a serious multi-tasker has probably kept her looking young (and those skin care products). 

Diane McBain

She played Alison Post in Parrish, a snobby, seductive, rich girl, who, of course, does not get the guy.  Her type rarely did.  And what was her type?  A snobby, seductive, rich girl... didn't I say that?  Her career was founded on that and she played it very well. Particularly helpful was that although beautiful, she truly did look like a snobby, seductive, rich girl.

She was born in 1941 in Ohio but moved to Los Angeles as a child.  Her beauty brought about modeling assignments and then television commercials and finally a Warner Bros. contract as a result of being spotted in a play.  At the time, it probably appeared all to easy.  Staying there would prove a harder task.

Her first film role came with a small part in Ice Palace (1960), an epic Edna Ferber saga about life in Alaska.  Starring with Richard Burton and Robert Ryan in such a big film brought her to the public's consciousness and they responded glowingly.  Some television followed but the next year came Parrish and McBain was really on her way.  Most of her scenes were with Troy Donahue (whom she would date) and Claudette Colbert (with whom she apparently did not see eye-to-eye).

Shortly thereafter she gave her best performance in a B-flick, Claudelle Inglish.  As the title star we saw her grow from a naive backwoods girl to a woman who has far too many boyfriends. Two years later she was delightful as the other woman in a Debbie Reynolds comedy, Mary, Mary.  In 1964 she vied with Suzanne Pleshette for the attentions of Troy Donahue in a decent western, A Distant TrumpetFrom there she moved among B, C and D movies, the television series, Surfside 6, the soap General Hospital and more television.

During the Christmas holidays in 1982, she was apparently followed home by two men who tied her to her car bumper and  brutally beat and raped her for 45 minutes in her apartment building garage.  As a result, she worked as a rape victim counsellor.

Sharon Hugueny

As Paige Raike in Parrish, she was the only good girl of the trio and the only brunette but is the one who claims him in the end. 

She was a leap year baby, born in Hollywood on February 29, 1944.  A serious-minded youngster, she loved ballet, serious music, languages and was a voracious reader.  People found her to be a very adult young person, an interesting statement considering her first divorce came as a result of her being too young.

Her beauty was compared to that of Elizabeth Taylor and perhaps that is somewhat how she initially got an interest in acting.  She was appearing in a play, Blue Denim, when she was discovered by Warner Brothers' head of talent, no less.  Not bad.

She is most famous for her role in Parrish and for being the first of clothier-actor-studio head Robert Evans' seven wives.  She would only make a total of four films and a handful of WB TV guest shots.

She impulsively married Evans before she finished filming Parrish.  She was 17 and he was 31.  After her role was completed, he moved her to Manhattan, which violated her contract and Warners suspended her.  Evans claimed that he married her chiefly to show his ill mother that he was a responsible grownup.  While in NYC, she got lost one day and called him in a panic.  He decided that the union was over, she was too young.  He would describe her as a fragile flower and Hollywood seemed to take note of the description and run with it, to Hugueny's detriment.

She signed on to a costarring role in the 1961 comedy, A Majority of One, starring Rosalind Russell and Alec Guinness, but her part was cut to what amounted to little more than a cameo.  Was Warners still annoyed with her?  In 1963 she appeared as a patient in a mental hospital in the overwrought, troubled production of The Caretakers.  Its large cast was headed by Robert Stack, Polly Bergen, Joan Crawford, Janis Paige and her Parrish costar, Diane McBain.  One could say she certainly appeared as a fragile flower.

She received star billing (her only time) alongside Peter Fonda in 1964's The Young Lovers, surely her best role, although the story of college sweethearts who find themselves preggers was a yawn.  It would be Hugueny's final film.

She disappeared from Hollywood for a good dozen years.  She remarried, had a child and was widowed.  In 1976 she married for the third time, to a writer.  By 1977 she had decided to reactivate her acting career and was on her way to sign contracts when the car she was driving was hit by a police car going 90 mph in pursuit of a criminal.  There would be no movie career again.  She would be severely injured, injuries that would remain with her the rest of her life.

She reportedly had a happy, 20-year marriage to her final husband who watched over her carefully.  They were living in Lake Arrowhead when Hugueny succumbed to cancer at age 52 in 1996.

It's a shame none of these three women became the actresses they could have been.  In all three I saw promise.  If blame can be assessed, I put the lion's share of it with Warner Bros.  From the mid 50s to the mid 60s, they were cranking out the youth-oriented movies and TV series, populating them with beautiful but largely untrained people.  Some of them were Peter Brown, Dorothy Provine, Wayde Preston, Edd Byrnes, Ty Hardin, Will Hutchins, Anthony Eisley, Roger Smith, Ray Danton, Andra Martin, Robert Logan, Van Williams, Jack Kelly and Lee Patterson.  Most of them had one or two gigs they're known for... and then they vanished. 

Part of the problem, too, is most of these people did far more television than they did movies.  In those days, if you were known as a TV performer, the movies had little use for you. 

As Karl Malden said about the young ones in Parrish... they had no training, little discipline and because of how they looked, they were thrust into a glittering fame, contented more with looking good than doing good work.

Maybe that's not exactly as Malden said it, but it's what I took away from it.  But for sure, they all made Parrish notable.

A Hollywood Passing

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