Friday, February 20

Easy on the Eyes

Another trio coming your way... all very sixties.  If you were around then or know your movies from the old days, you've heard of them.  I title it what I do because I think their main contribution to films was decorative.  Nothing wrong with that from my point of view.  Let it be known I have certainly loved some of their films.  Let's see who they are:

Carol Lynley came to the movies at the same time that Sandra Dee did and there was a bit of competition between them.  Lynley made better and more films than Dee and was a better actress but she never attained Dee's popularity.

She was born in Manhattan in 1942 and became a teen model.  At age 15 she graced the cover of Life Magazine and Walt Disney saw it and found her to be the perfect partner for James MacArthur in the 1764 Delaware adventure flick, The Light in the Forest (1958).  I was a teen myself then, flocked to live-action Disney flicks and found myself a little bit lovesick for both of them.

I saw all her three 1959 films, the oh-so-silly Holiday for Lovers, where she played the daughter of Clifton Webb and Jane Wyman; Blue Denim, which she had done on Broadway, concerned unwanted teen pregnancy, with Brandon De Wilde; and opposite Fabian and Stuart Whitman in Hound Dog Man.  Hey, somebody had to appear with Fabian in Hound Dog Man.

1961 was a good year for Lynley.  She appeared in her best-known film up to that time in Return to Peyton Place.  Top-billed in a large cast, she played Allison McKenzie who has written a too-honest book about her former hometown.  It was a highly-anticipated sequel to the famous soaper.  I think she did some of her best acting as Dorothy Malone's headstrong daughter in the Rock Hudson-Kirk Douglas western, The Last Sunset.  Some good acting and adult themes for an oater.

She was good in the comedy, Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963) as a comely tenant whom landlord Jack Lemmon is trying to steal from her fiancé.  She was lost in the large cast of The Cardinal (1963).  She'd probably like to leave the asylum flick, Shock Treatment (1964), off her resumé.  That same year's The Pleasure Seekers, another girl-trio-looking-for-husbands flick, was fun but not real demanding of anyone's talents.  Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), about a woman who claims her daughter has disappeared but no one knows of any daughter, should have been better than it was. 

She was miscast in a creepy low-budget look at screen legend Jean Harlow (1965) and I suspect it may have resulted in her career taking a downward turn.  She would never again have a lead role in an important film.  She can count herself as among the fortunate to have been part of the glittering all-star cast of 1972's The Poseidon Adventure.  She had the added allure of lip-synching to the film's Academy Award-winning song, The Morning After and of being one of the few survivors.

Lynley had a long friendship with, of all people, Fred Astaire, and was newsman David Frost's on-again, off-again galpal for 18 years.  I loved her comment: I've never been in a scandal.  I've never been caught running naked down a highway.  I've not tried to shoot anybody.  Nobody's ever tried to shoot me.  My child is legitimate.   I've never been to Betty Ford.  No porn.  No drug addictions.  I've outlived three of my doctors.  So if you're going to write a juicy book, I've got a problem.

Elsa Martinelli was a most arresting creature.  Once again, it's my gravitational pull toward European actresses.  I loved everything about her... great face, sexy Italian voice, infectious laugh and when she played dress-up, boy oh boy, could she move through a room.

She was born in 1935 in Tuscany but moved with her family to Rome when she was still a child.  Like Carol Lynley, Martinelli began modeling as a teenager and had a few bit parts in Italian films.  Also like Lynley, she was discovered for American films due to a magazine cover.  That discoverer was Kirk Douglas who put her under contract to his production company.  He assigned her a role as an Indian maiden in a good western, 1955s The Indian Fighter.  It's been said he got frustrated with her afterwards and didn't employ her again because he felt she was too concerned with her looks and allowed her acting skills to atrophy.

She would bounce back and forth between American and Italian films for a good decade.  In 1956 she won the equivalent of Germany's Oscar for the Italian comedy DonatellaIn 1957 she made 4 Girls in Town about a quartet of actresses vying for the same role in a film.  It was lightweight stuff from Universal but costarred George Nader, Julie Adams, Gia Scala and John Gavin, so I was in my seat and ready.  The same year she made the British film, Stowaway Girl opposite Trevor Howard.  He was a hardass steamship captain who begins to melt when he finds Martinelli hiding on his ship.  Hey, I get it.

For the five years until 1962 she made films mainly in her native country.  Although she was often top-billed and films were centered around her characters, I don't think she ever made it big in Italy and apparently did not work for any of the internationally-famous Italian directors. 

International fame did come to Martinelli in 1962 when she signed on as the female lead in the mega-popular Paramount African adventure film, Hatari.  Starring opposite John Wayne, Hardy Kruger and Red Buttons, it was a rousing tale of group of pals who capture and sell wild animals to zoos.  Some of the most memorable scenes involved Martinelli with baby elephants and Henry Mancini's song, Baby Elephant Walk.

The same year she made the very silly war comedy The Pigeon That Took Rome which failed partly because costar Charlton Heston didn't know the first thing about comedy.  Also in '62 she made a film for Orson Welles, The Trial, which I loathed and admit that I scarcely understood.  Even if I had understood it, it was still weird which is why Tony Perkins wanted to make it.  I was lured by Martinelli, Romy Schneider and Jeanne Moreau... and what American lad who was smitten with European actresses wouldn't be?

Her last year in American films came in 1963 with two of them.  She was one of a group of glamour stars to head the cast of The V.I.P.s.  Martinelli had a small role as a movie star who sashayed through an airport with Orson Welles in tow.  Then came Rampage with Robert Mitchum and Jack Hawkins.  It was high adventure about a trapper and a hunter and the woman between them who stalk a leopard known as The Enchantress.  I thought it was fun and I never missed Mitchum flicks.

Martinelli has worked as recently as 2004 but entirely in European productions, none of which particularly stand out in my opinion.  She hasn't made an English-language film in many years.

Pamela Tiffin should have been a bigger star.  I'd like to think if she had stuck around a bit longer, others might have seen what a fine comedienne she was and her films would have improved.  What there never was any doubt about was that this woman had a face kissed by the gods.  Whether a brunette or a blonde, she was stunning to behold.

She was born in Oklahoma in 1942 to an architect and his wife but moved to Chicago where she, like Lynley and Martinelli, became a model in her teens.  After high school Tiffin moved to Manhattan to continue modeling and attend college but the modeling was so successful that college became history.  While visiting the Paramount commissary in California, she met producer Hal Wallis (remember him from my Lizabeth Scott posting?). 

He was making the film version of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke (1961) and an important part as a lusty teenager had yet to be filled.  The film concerned a repressed spinster (Geraldine Page) who lusted after her neighbor, a young doctor (Laurence Harvey), who, in turn, developed a passion for Tiffin's character.  She garnered much attention for this role and won some awards.

That same year the esteemed director, Billy Wilder, noticed her and assigned her a plum role as James Cagney's daughter in the Cold War comedy, One, Two, Three.  She was well-matched in the pretty department with Horst Buchholz as her feisty boyfriend.

It was a great beginning and then it all went downhill.  Technically, I quite liked her next film, the saccharine State Fair (1962) but she was far out-shadowed by sexy newcomer Ann Margret and a return to the screen after a 16-year absence of Alice Faye who played Tiffin's mother.  Tiffin's voice was dubbed... the only non-singer in the lead cast.

Then she went into the death throes of Hollywood careers... the romantic comedy.  Come Fly with Me (1963), about three stewardesses and the men who want to fly them; two incredibly silly 1964 teen movies with James Darren, For Those Who Think Young and The Lively Set; The Pleasure Seekers with Ann Margret and Carol Lynley looking for love in Madrid, and the misguided 1965 comedy-western, The Hallelujah Trail, pretty much sank her career.

She flew off to Italy where the rest of her career took hold with the exception of the superior Paul Newman detective yarn, Harper (1966), and the mainly silly Peter Ustinov film, Viva Max (1969).  I don't think I have heard of her since.  Her checkered American career was all sixties.

A Good 60s Movie
(one mentioned here)


  1. Always fun reading these 60s reviews. All kinds of memories flashing through my mind...people, places and events! Good stuff.

  2. Only Lynley is iconic today, thanks to Poseidon...I enjoyed her and Keir Dullea in Bunny Lake recently on TCM, but I agree with you that it is not a great movie.

    Having lots of fun exploring your wonderful world here...

  3. Wow, Chris, thanks for this and the seven other comments you made on other pieces. You're really digging in. I am so pleased. I am certainly drawn to other movie-lovers. You might be my new BFF. I read your blog as well and it was fun. I have already written about five of your favorite movies and have a few more of them to come. Welcome... welcome.

  4. Exactly, looks like we share similar taste in films!