Endowed with incredible beauty, Rhonda Fleming graced dozens of major studio programmers and noir potboilers with feminine precision. While her credits include such well regarded features as Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and dark classic Out of the Past, her legacy is peppered with such fun semi-notables as The Great Lover, Strictly Scarlet, Inferno and Yankee Pasha. Thus, despite her talent, she is perhaps best known as the ‘Queen of Technicolor’ (due to her glorious red mane and creamy complexion) rather than for one break-out role.
She does have a delicious horror pedigree, though, due to her longingly evinced Blanche in the 1945 classic chiller The Spiral Staircase. As secretary (a role she would play often) to upstanding Professor Warren (played with stuffy resolve by George Brent), in early 20th century New England, Fleming’s Blanche is pursued by a charming lothario. Of course, she grandly suffers the degradations inherent in such infatuations. Making matters worse, Blanche may be staying in the same house as the person murdering young crippled woman. (In one red-herring inspired moment, Fleming’s full hearted Blanche is even tossed out as a possible suspect in the crimes.)
Stylishly directed by Robert Siodmak (Son of Dracula, Cobra Woman), this charming thriller displays a devise that would be used in future films such as Wait Until Dark, See No Evil, Eyes of A Stranger and Blood Song – the handicapped woman as final girl-heroine. In this case, it is the mute Helen (played with full hearted resolve by Dorothy McGuire) who exposes the killer and eventually outwits his homicidal advances.
Notably, such illustrious performers as Elsa Lanchester (Bride of Frankenstein, Willard) and Ethel Barrymore (nominated for an Academy Award for work here) join Fleming in the supporting player ranks, here.
The film’s masterful opening – including one of cinema’s most simply chilling murder scenes – can be viewed here:
Meanwhile, the 89 year old Fleming is still kicking up a glorious storm at www.rhondafleming.com.
Big Gay Horror, meanwhile, is always keeping it crimson at https://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!