Joan Crawford

All posts tagged Joan Crawford

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Diana Dors

Published August 13, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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She was England’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, but the glorious Diana Dors soon proved she was her own very unique creature. Almost immediately, she lit up a bevy of British noir films and, by the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, was giving honest and heartfelt performances in a variety of horror films including Berserk (with Joan Crawford), the Vincent Price classic Theater of Blood, the anthology From Beyond the Grave and Nothing But the Night (with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee).

Dors was also an accomplished vocalist. Her album Swinging Dors, a fan favorite, features peppy versions of a number of standards, but she also knew how to rock ‘n roll. Her sensuality and common sense were put to great use with the one off single, So Little Time.

Move over, Presley!

 

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Dors in the “Children of the Full Moon” episode of Hammer House of Horrors 

 

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Triumvirate of Horror: Queen Bee (1955)

Published September 10, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

Queen Bee 1
Once upon a time, a former goddess of scream met two future contenders to her throne and they all played, very bitchily, together!

Years after facing down the likes of Leslie Banks in The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Lionel Atwill in Doctor X (1932) and Kong in King Kong (1933), the versatile Fay Wray dealt with her most monstrous adversary of all – Joan Crawford’s malevolent Eva Phillips in 1955’s woman-centric noir Queen Bee. Wray

As the addled, childish Sue McKinnon, Wray strikes an incredibly sympathetic pose here. Years earlier, Crawford’s Phillips stole McKinnon’s beau out from underneath her wedding slippered feet and McKinnon has never been the same. On a visit to the Phillips’ Southern mansion, McKinnon is tenderly awash in false memories, lovingly tended to by Eva’s sister-in-law, Carol Lee, warmly played by Betsy Palmer. But when Eva enters the picture, Wray, expertly, falters as McKinnon, hurriedly, rushes away. It is a powerful sequence and one that sets up the twisted, future paths that Eva will wander down – including driving the increasingly fragile Carol Lee to suicide.

Queen Bee 2Naturally, for horror fans this scene is an exquisite treat. Obviously, Wray, lovingly referred to as the original Scream Queen, and her co-stars had no idea what gothic paths their careers would go down. By the early 60s, Crawford would find her steadiest employment in such thrillers as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Berserk and Strait-Jacket. Palmer, of course, would find joyous infamy as one of the slasher era’s most endearing serial killers, Mrs. Voorhees, in 1980’s seminal Friday the 13th.

Here, though, they are three pros, lovingly, excising all the heightened drama out of the lurid circumstances at hand – terror projects, past and future, be damned.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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In Remembrance: Betsy Palmer

Published June 3, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

Betsy Palmer1Those who were lucky enough to meet actress Betsy Palmer, who died at the age of 88 this past weekend, in person, often found themselves inundated with delightful information. Mention her role in a production of Countess Dracula in 1979, at the Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, and she’d blush with love for that particular character and then swiftly reminisce about how she had to make the quickest and most difficult costume changes ever imagined during its run. Producing a leggy, cheesecake photo for her to sign, would elicit a remembrance of how all the young starlets in the 1950s, no matter how serious their intentions, were required to pose for such seductive publicity images. Inquire about her long run as a game show guest during television’s golden years and she’d reveal how she never got to see herself in any of those productions as they were all performed live.

For those who didn’t make Ms. Palmer’s acquaintance, and even for those who had, director S. Shane Marr does the world a great service with Betsy Palmer: A Scream Queen Legend in Her Own Words. Marr, who worked with Palmer on Bell Witch: The Movie, was so enchanted by Palmer’s show biz stories that he ingeniously decided to have her sit before his camera and talk to it as if it were an eager new friend.betsy palmer madame dracula

We get the familiar Friday the 13th story. Palmer’s car broke down and needing the $10,000, she accepted the role of Mrs. Voorhees even though she hated the script. Palmer delights in the irony that while this killer mommy is her best known role, her decision was initially made because she thought that no one would ever see the film. It is interesting to watch her make sense of her place in film history and hear her analyzing the appeal of her most popular character.

More than that, we learn of Palmer’s humble beginnings and her gradual indoctrination into an acting career.
She regales us with stories of working with famed director John Ford and the behind the scenes controversies of one of her earliest, best known films Mister Roberts. We are, also, told that she actually got along with the combative Joan Crawford on the set of their film Queen Bee. One of the most interesting stories is about her adventures making the obscure, low budget The True Story of Lynn Stuart with Hawaii Five-0′s Jack Lord. Apparently, the real Lynn Stuart visited the set and brought more attention to her presence by elaborately masking herself then if she had just shown up and silently observed.

betsy2It would have been nice to have learned something about Palmer’s other genre credits (1999’s The Fear: Resurrection and 2005’s Penny Dreadful) yet she does speak glowingly of the Bell Witch: The Movie and of her then hopes to be involved in any sequels.

Overall, Marr allows us to see Palmer as she truly was – warm and sharply inviting. Here, she, ultimately, proves herself to be that lively aunt or grandmotherly figure that has lived a life that most could only dream of. It’s a visual document that makes her passing all the more bittersweet.

Betsy Palmer: A Scream Queen Legend in Her Own Words is available for free viewing on YouTube and for purchase from Amazon in various formats.

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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Heiress Horror: Sudden Fear (1952)

Published May 5, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

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Heiress Horror explores that subgenre of terror wherein sweet moneyed lasses find their lives threatened by evil spouses and duplicitous family friends. For shame!

That bully Alexander Grumpface always stole my lunch money in the fifth grade. Did that mean that he secretly wanted to marry me?

Well, if the example of Joan Crawford in 1952’s classic noir-thriller Sudden Fear is any indication then maybe he did. Here, Crawford plays Myra Hudson, the benefactress of a large San Franciscan fortune, who, also, just happens to be a wildly successful playwright. Having fired the cleft chinned David Blaine, played with smooth charm by Jack Palance, from her latest production for not being matinee idol handsome, the regal Hudson soon finds herself charmed by this rebuffed gent, on a long train ride to her hilly mansion home. Soon, they are married and, naturally, both the other woman (a pouting, perfect Gloria Grahame) and his ulterior motives soon appear. Things turn decidedly deadly when Blaine and his cutie discover that Hudson is handing her inherited fortune over to charity and, mistakenly, conclude that he will be left in the lurch.Sudden_Fear_Kino_05158

Naturally, since Madame Crawford is ever powerful, Hudson soon discovers, in a neat plot twist, everything that her supposedly loving spouse is up to. Once she gets over the shock of the duo’s murderous intent, this creative mogul soon rallies with a plan to turn the tables on them. But will her need for deadly retaliation ultimately melt beneath her expansive humanity? Of course, it will! But as always, Joan-Hudson has the last shot – as in close-up – as she regally faces life without her two timing gent, a silk scarf drifting gently from her hands and tears streaming down her face.

Accented by Elmer Bernstein’s moody score and Charles Lang, Jr.’s appropriately dusky black and white cinematography, Sudden Fear is, ultimately, the leading actors’ show. Both, Crawford and Palance, deservedly, received Academy Award nominations for their work. Most notably, as in her other 50s pictures such as Female on the Beach, Crawford telegraphs every emotion with a perfected movie goddess technique that is as grounded in artifice as it is in natural emotion. She is a wonder to behold.

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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Review: Christmas Dearest

Published December 21, 2013 by biggayhorrorfan

CHRISTMAS-DEAREST
Mona, one of the kindly lesbian prostitute nuns who raised me, was ashamed of some of the stag films that she did in her dwindling years. But it did get her elected as den mother to a gang of derelict Webelos – so it wasn’t all bad.

Similarly, a bunch of us terror freaks LOVE Joan Crawford NOT for her Academy Award gyrating in Mildred Pierce (although that’s mighty fine, too) but for her controlled hysterics in such cult classics as Strait Jacket (1964), Berserk! (1967) and Trog (1970).

Nicely, Chicago’s illustrious, fun Hell in a Handbag Prductions is currently presenting Christmas Dearest, their version of A Christmas Carol as seen through the diva-like eyes of Crawford. Amazingly articulated by the incredible David Cerda, Joan is given the Scrooge treatment, here, with hilarious results.

ChristmasDearest

One of the show’s true pleasures is its homage to Joan’s later career moves. With a brilliantly sodden Ed Jones, momentarily standing in as the elder Crawford, Cerda (who serves as playwright, as well) takes us to the set of an imagined Sci Fi Monster flick, a perfect stand in for all of our favorite celluloid goddess’ final screen credits. With drunken fervor, Jones’ Joan saves the day – but special notice should be given to handsome Michael John Lea who nicely captures the nuances of such (much younger), late career Crawford love interests as Lee Majors and Ty Hardin.

Featuring exemplary work from Steve Love as the younger, career hungry Joan, Cerda also offers up the final word on the Christina-Joan rivalry, here, making this the perfect holiday stage treat for film lovers of every sort.

Christmas Dearest runs in Chicago through December 28th, 2013. Further information can be gathered at http://www.handbagproductions.org.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan

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Judith Evelyn: The Tingler’s Eternally Regal Victim!

Published April 16, 2013 by biggayhorrorfan

judith pretty
At the undead café the greedy zombie hustlers all swirl around Big Gay Horror Fan – until they realize that he has no money to spend. Then, penniless and alone, I make my exit.

Evelyn in 'Thriller'

Evelyn in ‘Thriller’

Such grand victimhood was elevated to perfect heights by acclaimed stage actress Judith Evelyn (1913-1967) throughout her cinematic career. But, while this regal dame was often seen as the gaslight ridden heiress or meeting her fate at the hands of some William Castle inspired lunacy, in reality she was one of the few survivors of a torpedoed ship (the Athenia in the Irish Sea in 1939) and in one of her most famous Broadway roles, The Shrike, she played a woman who drove her husband to madness.

Well rehearsed Joan and toned Jeff!

Well rehearsed Joan and toned Jeff!

But in 1955’s Female on the Beach, Evelyn portrayed Eloise Crandall, a victim of an aging gigolo’s (played by toned, silver haired Jeff Chandler) fake love. Dancing between swooning and despondent, Evelyn makes quite an appearance here. Still, this is Joan Crawford’s show. Taking over the house that Crandall was renting, Crawford soon discovers the mysteries behind her seeming suicide. Crawford’s every over-telegraphed reaction is perfect (even after multiple viewings) and the masculine, frequently shirtless Chandler isn’t half bad to look at either.

Of course, Evelyn’s most recognizable role to terror teens came in 1959’s The Tingler. Recommended by Vincent Price, whose admiration of her stemmed from a stage production in which both had appeared, Evelyn brings a proud bearing to her mute Martha Higgins. Higgins, of course, meets her fate at the ‘hands’ of the titular Tingler because she cannot scream in fear.Judith_Evelyn_in_The_Tingler_trailer

The 1961 “What Beckoning Ghost” episode of the Boris Karloff hosted Thriller also ended badly for the consistent Ms. Evelyn. Her Mildred Beaumont is a classical pianist with a bad heart. Ringing with devotion for her husband, Evelyn’s eyes soon rim with petrified despair. Beaumont’s husband and seemingly devoted sister soon drive her out of her mind and into her grave. But, as with most Thriller episodes, their wicked victory is short lived.

Evelyn, herself, passed away at 54 from cancer. But avid cine-maniacs can spot her ageless grace and sophisticated delicacy in any home theater from a mile away.

Check back frequently as Big Gay Horror (also available at https://facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan) often explores the worlds of femmes of gothic majesty.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!