Va-Va-Villainess: Rhonda Fleming

Published January 18, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Rhonda Inferno

She played feisty yet loyal lovers in a series of ‘50s action and adventure pieces like Yankee Pasha and Gunfight at O.K. Corral. Bob Hope also called upon her extravagant sense of humor in such projects as The Great Lover and Alias Jesse James. Her lush looks and rare beauty worked for her in other ways as well, giving the glorious Rhonda Fleming a delightfully tangible way to embody perfect visions of calculating evil.

InfernoLobbyEschewing her initial naivete – she and her mother had to look up what a nymphomaniac was when she was cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound – Fleming brought vivid life to a number of noir vixens. 1953’s Inferno capitalized on the 3D phase while also giving her the excuse to bring what was possibly her most evil character to the celluloid universe. As Geraldine Carson, this red headed goddess viciously plots to murder her husband, played with gruff humanity by eternally sympathetic tough guy Robert Ryan. Thus, her dry and dusty downfall here was relished by movie lovers everywhere.

rhonda-fleming-the-crowded-skyThe suave Efrem Zimbalist Jr. also was dealt a calculating blow when dealing with Fleming’s adulterous Cheryl Heath in The Crowded Sky. As a pilot facing a deadly incident, as this film is a precursor to the all star disaster films of the ‘70s, Zimbalist’s character also must deal with the emotional fallout of Cheryl’s heartless manipulations. Viewers, therefore, are not surprised when the film’s fadeout reveals his intents to leave her behind, no matter Fleming’s seemingly irresistible devious lusciousness.

Rhonda Gunfight


Horror Hall of Fame:


Besides her compelling work with Hitchcock in Spellbound, Fleming brought a steady heart and calm demeanor to her portrayal of the loyal yet doomed Blanche in 1946’s gothic horror The Spiral Staircase.

www.rhondafleming.com

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Dorothy Lamour

Published July 4, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Dorothy LaMour Lulu Belle

For someone held in regard most often for her untouchable beauty, the divine Dorothy Lamour had a surprisingly eclectic career. She jovially accompanied Bob Hope and Bing Crosby throughout the adventurous Road series while also breaking hearts as a love sick gun moll in Johnny Apollo. She was an endangered woman in the appropriately titled Manhandled and was even further victimized as an elderly shop owner in the opening segment of Creepshow II. Damn kids!!

Dorothy La Mour Lulu Belle duoBut she coolly and efficiently turned the tables on the more dominant sex as the advancement minded Lulu Belle in the 1948 film of the same name. Beguiling an up and coming lawyer to assist her in rising above the dusty barroom that she performs in; she soon finds herself bored by the mundane trappings of the life that he can offer. Flirtations with a successful boxer, a night club owner and a distinguished business man soon improve her station.  But ever the fickle minded schemer, she soon finds herself uninterested in the successful Broadway productions that she is starring in and, once again, longs for the honest man that she initially led to ruin.

Framed in flashback style and presented as a bit of a crime mystery, Lamour delights throughout the proceedings here. She nicely adds a bit of heart to her creation, evening out the character’s more self-involved edges. One truly believes that she has feelings for her first love, but just can’t help herself from trying to aim for ever glitterier heights.


Horror Hall of Fame:


Besides Creepshow II, Lamour also showed up in Death at Love House, a fun 1976 supernatural television film, as the former rival of a long-deceased Hollywood movie queen.


Dorothy La Mour Lulu Belle poster

Horror Mash-up: Grace Jones and Eartha Kitt

Published July 2, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

eartha-kitt-robin-givens-halle-berry-eddie-murphy-grace-jones-boomerang

If you ever doubted that an Eddie Murphy movie could offer something special for the gay community, please consider 1992’s Boomerang.

Here Marcus, Murphy’s advertising executive (not so) extraordinary, meets his match when confronted with Eartha Kitt’s sexually adventurous beauty queen Lady Eloise and Grace Jone’s unstoppable super model Strangé. Seeing both of these icons onscreen at the same time is an incredible delight and worth the film’s 117-minute running time. As always, these two are forces of nature and they command the proceedings whenever they are featured. scene 2

While Jones and Kitt’s outsider status automatically appeals to both the queer and the horror crowds, each of them actually do have some genre credits between them. Jones magnificently brought the title enchantress of Vamp to life while Kitt dove into the frenzied antics of Old Lady Hackmore in Earnest Scared Stupid, cult classics, depending on who you ask, both.

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grace jones boomerang

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Della Reese

Published June 28, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Della Reese

Much grittier than her Touched By An Angel persona may have suggested, the amazingly eclectic Della Reese had a vast, multi-leveled career. Her extensive credits even include an appearance in Psychic Killer, a horror effort directed by B-movie stalwart Ray Danton, the one time husband of Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Julie Adams.

Audiophiles meanwhile have embraced One More Time, a mid-60s recording effort that finds Reese at the peek of her performing powers.

A more sensual Reese is discovered on her interesting cover of Bob Dylan’s Lay, Lady, Lay, as well.

Proving herself to be a performer of many moods and textures, Reese is eternally honored at https://dellareese.com/.

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

Psychic-Killer-Neville-Brand-Della-Reese

Reese with Neville Brand in Psychic Killer

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Pride Month Crush – Michael Philip

Published June 27, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Michael CharmedGrowing up in a small farm town of 600 in the ‘80s, most of my crush material was derived from soap opera broadcasts and late-night horror flicks on HBO. Oftentimes, there was cross pollination of the genres – Steve Bond (General Hospital, The Prey), Brian Matthews (The Young and the Restless, The Burning), Kevin Bacon (Friday the 13th, Guiding Light), Christopher Goutman (The Prowler, Search for Tomorrow), David Oliver (Another World, The Horror Show), David Wallace (Days of Our Lives, Mortuary) and so many others significantly participated in both mediums.

The grave voiced Michael Philip, who played Donna Logan’s bad boy boyfriend Mark Mallory for a year on The Bold and the Beautiful, was one of my favorites of that era. With his smooth chest, masculine demeanor and deep vocal rhythms, he seemed like perfect fantasy husband material to me.

His follow-up appearances since that dramatic heyday have been sporadic, but truly unique. He pops up as a depression era protestor in the Roger Corman produced Big Bad Mama II and hosted the short-lived science fiction series Welcome to Paradox, as well. His distinctive qualities also found outlets in such comedies as Married…with Children and Police Academy: The Series. Michael Frday

Television terror aficionados are sure to recognize him from his appearances on Friday the 13th: The Series and Charmed, as well. As a murderous lifeguard beguiled by a body swapping amulet in The Long Road Home (3/15), he quickly met his end on F13:TS. His screen time as Stefan (main photo), an essence evaporating photographer, on Charmed was a bit more significant and fans of that show hold him in high regard as one of that popular production’s wiliest demons.

In the years since, Philip has continued his career as a successful voice over artist, business man and father…and would probably be very happy to know that I still own that 8×10 that he sent me decades ago!

Michael Autograph

 

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In Remembrance: Joseph Alan Johnson

Published June 25, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Joseph Main

Joseph Alan Johnson is the perfect Pride Month horror film icon. As an actor, he appeared in such ‘80s low budget efforts as the classic The Slumber Party Massacre, Berserker, which recently received a deluxe reissue by Vinegar Syndrome, and Iced, which he wrote and appeared in with his beloved TSPM co-star Debra De Liso, A few years in Europe resulted in credits with some of the masters of the giallo art form, as well.

His greatest work may have been on the stages of professional theaters in Florida, though. Settling in Saint Petersburg to attend to the needs of his ailing parents, Johnson wrote a number of plays that revolved around his experiences as a gay man in the arts and as a proud member of the LGBTQIA community. His works were often comedies, but also truly celebrated the heart and soul and the wonderful fluidity of the queer community.

https://www.tampabay.com/features/performingarts/after-misadventures-in-hollywood-theater-mainstay-joseph-alan-johnson/1215626/

Joseph, Deb, Me

When I met him in 2013, he was attending his first convention as a celebrity guest. We discovered that we had theater friends in common and had several long chats about life and the arts. In one of our first conversations, he mentioned his disappointment in how his career had unfolded, that he thought his mother had expected him to go much further than he had. I assured him that I thought he had done a lot of fascinating work and by the weekend’s end, he seemed to feel the same. It was nice to watch him discover that while celluloid buffs from all walks of life appreciated his work in TSPM, the film that was being honored at the Cinema Wasteland event that we were at, they also knew about and appreciated his other film efforts, as well.

Upon learning of his unexpected death earlier this month, I was glad to know that he left this particular coil with the knowledge that his body of work was not only appreciated by so many, but that it will also live on for ages to come. It also seemed significant to me that Slumber Party, his most recognized work, has such strong ties to feminism and, with its initial script being penned by the legendary lesbian author Rita Mae Brown, to the gay community, as well.

That is a legacy anyone could be proud of. Thus, let us all hope that he travels to future planes with joy and a true sense of accomplishment guiding his way.

Joseph Autograph

Joseph Alan Johnson (6/25/57-6/10/20)

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Great Performances: Maidie Norman

Published June 20, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

 

Maidie MainIf there was anyone who could put the fear into cinema royalty like Bette Davis it was the proudly irreplaceable Maidie Noman. As Elvira Stitt in the classic femme centered horror celebration Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Norman enacted the role of the protector of the crippled Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) with a towering strength. Indeed, the anger that flints Norman’s eyes when Stitt discovers her charge in an emaciated state is enough to make even the most ferocious opponent flinch. Maidie Bette 1

Unsurprisingly, Norman used her advanced theatrical training and keen intellect on set on a regular basis. She often helped represent real life situations by updating racist and stereotypical dialogue on the spot. Even her take on voodoo queen Mama Lou on a second season episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was filled with an unexpected sorrow and vengeful energy. Maidie Man

Because of this defined pedigree, horror fans always welcomed her presence on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Night Stalker. Significantly, the flirtatious energy and general good will that she shared with Tom Atkins in her scenes in Halloween III have made her a deserved fan favorite of that series, as well.

Maidie H3

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Theresa Harris

Published June 15, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Theresa Harris Main

Theresa Harris should reside fondly in the hearts of those who adore classic horror. After making bright appearances in two moody terror fests from legendary producer Val Lewton, Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie, she went on to appear on an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in such noir-flecked extravaganzas as The File on Thelma Jordan.

Unfortunately, prejudice kept her from ascending to the cinematic heights that she deserved. But those in the know recognize her as a true triple threat – a fine actress, dancer and singer!

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Theresa I Walked With A Zombie

Unsung Heroines of Horror: Theresa Harris

Published June 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

theresa-harris-photo_111603_3465

Creating as much captivating celluloid magic as Barbara Stanwyck in the 1933 Pre-Code classic Baby Face, actress Theresa Harris would surely have had a much bigger career if she had been born in the 21st century. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and talented Harris, akin to such filmic contemporaries as Nina Mae McKinney and Louise Beavers, often found herself playing maids and other unglorified subservient types for the thirty years that encompassed the entirety of her career.

Theresa ZombieNicely, two of the over 100 credits that distinguish her creative output include Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie. These Val Lewton masterpieces did cast Harris as a happy-go-lucky waitress and a loyal maid…typical, prejudiced fare. But she fills Zombie’s Alma with a sense of beauty and strength even when the character confides her love of domestic duties to the film’s heroine. Harris’ matter of fact essence gives the role a seriousness and sense of class, thankfully eradicating any comic qualities or unceremoniously stereotypical gestures. Theresa Cat

Minnie, the all-night café goddess of Cat People, meanwhile comes off as a friendly companion to the film’s leads when they visit her place of work. With the help of director Jacques Tourneur, Harris brings a sense of humor and equality to her exchanges with her co-stars. In fact, the pure wattage of her star power almost completely eradicates them from the proceedings, making one long for a redo wherein the roles she was given actually reflected the gloriousness of her too often overlooked personality.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0365382/bio

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Lou Rawls

Published June 7, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Lou Rawls

As protests against this country’s deadly racism rightfully rage on, it almost feels wrong to post about favorite instances of entertainment. But I thought that maybe in acknowledgement of these injustices, I could highlight some of the world’s amazing Black talent this week…those amazing individuals who have given us joy throughout the good and the bad, the fair and the (all too frequently) unfair.

Lou AutographIn the summer of 1984, I won a scholarship to study acting for the summer at Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. The students were given free passes to all of the theater and concert events that occurred throughout those two months on campus and, when I wasn’t in classes or rehearsal, I was often at the outdoor amphitheater. One night, Lou Rawls was performing his show. It was a number of years after his songs like Lady Love and You’ll Never Find had ruled the AM airways, but he was still a major star. After the show, my buddy Steve and I went to the stage door and he kindly chatted with us for a moment and signed our copies of the institute’s paper that had announced his presence for the evening. For a kid from a small farm town of 600, it was an exciting night, and Rawls has always had a special place in my memories in the many years since.

Of course, the fact that Rawls made appearances in such ‘90s genre films as Watchers Reborn, Morella and The Code Conspiracy, throws him into a special category, as well. Significantly, he also sang the theme song for Laurence Harvey’s odd 1974 cannibalism shocker Welcome to Arrow Beach. His songs have been featured in Disturbia and an episode of Ash Vs. The Evil Dead as well.

Rawls (1933-2006), an activist with a special interest in the education of minorities and the disadvantaged, performed with dignity and style for over 50 of his 72 years. I hope the songs that I have selected here not only highlight the uncertain hope of these times, but the breadth of his talent, as well.

http://www.lourawls.com/

Lou Rawls Watchers Reborn

Rawls and Mark Hamill in Watchers Reborn

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Louise Beavers

Published June 5, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Louise Beaver Bullets Main

Louise Beavers made her presence known in almost 170 celluloid adventures whether she had a dictionary’s worth of dialogue or none at all. For instance, she milks all of the comedy out of her brief bit as a sleeping washroom attendant in the Pre-Code woman’s flick The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. Nobody ever greeted old school leading man Lee Tracy with a wider smile than her cathouse maid in the sepia toned horror classic Doctor X either.

Louise ShriekBeavers, who also appeared in the early Ginger Rogers’ thriller A Shriek in the Night, nicely broke out of the stereotypical roles that Black women were assigned in those years on rare occasions, as well. Of course, the hysteria laced antics she was required to provide as a domestic who stumbles upon a dead body in Shriek were a far cry from progressive despite her animated yet subtle take on the proceedings. (Another saving grace for this particular assignment is that the white maid played by character actress Lillian Harmer here is just as emotionally flighty as Beavers’ fictional concoction.)

But as Nellie LeFleur, the founder of a numbers game, in 1936’s Ballots or Bullets, this fine actress finally played a true contemporary of the leading lady, Joan Blondell, and a very enterprising one at that. Beavers registers with a sincere slyness along the way, providing an appeal that doesn’t diminish even when the writers betray her by making LeFleur, momentarily, long to resign her high stakes position to become Blondell’s hairdresser again. Granted, her most famous role, that of Delilah Johnson in the original version of Imitation of Life, had her back in housekeeping territory, but the film’s look at racism and motherhood gave her a lot to work with, allowing her to create one of early cinema’s most sympathetic characters. Louise Beavers Bullets

In addition to her prodigious acting talent, one has to admire Beavers’ fortitude, as well. The ‘50s found her providing audiences with some of her most prominently billed roles in projects such as My Blue Heaven (with Betty Grable) and Tammy and the Bachelor (with Debbie Reynolds). Granted, one wishes that the parts she was offered afforded her more range and variety. (Harmer, her Shriek counterpart, may have most frequently been cast as landladies, but she also got to play numerous society women, business owners and stage mothers, as well.) Still, despite the racism she experienced in casting, her bright talent and eclectic energy make Beavers a heroine in my book – and truly one of my favorite performers of all time!

Louise Dr X

Beavers greeting Tracy in Doctor X.

For those interested, TCM has a fairly detailed biography of Beavers on their website, as well – http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/person/12301%7C101475/Louise-Beavers/biography.html.

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

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