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.
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.
Naturally, 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!