Broadway

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Hopelessly Devoted To: James Mitchell

Published March 14, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan


Not only did the handsomely eclectic James Mitchell enact one of soap opera’s most hiss worthy villains for decades, but this lucky performer was also one of the cast of thousands, as that film’s tag line so boldly highlighted, to appear in the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera. 


Granted, in Phantom, the always attention stealing Mitchell appears for mere moments as a reporter logging the details of the catastrophes that have haunted a local music hall. Thankfully, his turn as the diabolical Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children was a bit more substantial. There, his character continually made life hell for his often revolving spouses and judiciously tender offspring – all storyline subtext that Mitchell fully embraced, resulting in 7 Emmy nominations for the dedicated actor. 

Mitchell, who seemingly never hid his devotion to costume designer Albert Wolksy, his romantic partner for 39 years, also held dear his substantial pedigree as a theatrical artist. Humbly describing himself as an actor with strong movement skills, he actually was one of the Broadway stage’s most powerfully athletic dancers. Those who saw him perform never forgot it and his close collaborators included such mavericks as Agnes DeMille, Jerome Robbins and Gower Champion.

With DeMille, he famously essayed Dream Curly in the ballet sequence of 1955’s Oklahoma, where one of his partners was the beefy, animated character actor Rod Steiger. 

Thankfully, just like in that particular scenario, Mitchell always seemed to come off as unique and individualistic. So, while his one Gothic credit might only encompass a couple of minutes of screen time, the breadth of his career definitely speaks to the multiple achievements that one of our queer brothers could make – justifiably earning him a place in every gay horror lover’s heart forever. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and PINK Grue, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Betty Hutton

Published March 7, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

While definitely played for comic effect, the effervescent Betty Hutton gamely enacted out some prime soap opera villainy against herself in 1942’s Here Come the Waves.

Here, playing twin sisters, Rosemary and Susan, Hutton is given ample opportunity to perform her rubbery, vaudeville loving heart out. In the interest of celluloid intrigue, the two characters she portrays are, naturally, radically different. The (12 minutes) older Rosemary presents as a stern and uncompromising force of practicality. Meanwhile, the (slightly) younger Susan is the loudly scattered, romantically ambitious one.  While Susan’s outlandish crush on pop singer Johnny Cabot (Bing Crosby) drives the majority of the plot here, her manic overtures, ultimately, repel him. The initially uninterested Rosemary, though, quickly steals his heart.

Catching onto the duo’s attraction to each other, the devious Susan decides to take matters into her own hands. Dressing up exactly like her look-a-like sibling, Susan arranges for Bing’s shocked Cabot to catch her in another’s embrace – momentarily derailing his relationship with Rosemary.

But by the closing frames, order has been restored with the chastened Susan realizing that Cabot is actually perfect brother-in-law material and that her own yearnings have found their unsurprising outlet with Sonny Tufts’ Windy, Cabot’s rascally friend and her co-conspirator in crimes of the heart.

Meanwhile, more information about Hutton and her extraordinary life and career s available at https://www.bettyhuttonestate.com/.

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Linda Purl

Published February 22, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

One perk of being a freelance entertainment writer is being able to spend a moment or two with performers who have meant something to you over the years. Illustrating this concept, I grew up watching actress Linda Purl on various movies of the week and television shows. As with many of the artists that I followed in my small-town youth, she personified hope. She was living proof that creative worlds existed far outside the seemingly narrow confines of my very sheltered, seemingly unworldly circumstances. Nicely, during my stint as the Midwest online theater editor for Sheridan Road Magazine, I was able to briefly interview Purl.

Of course, one of the negatives of journalism is that, over the years, certain online pieces are archived or erased completely from existence. This was the case with my mini-chat with Purl. But with another birthday approaching and the isolation of COVID still maintaining a strangle hold on most socialization efforts, my nostalgia has, unsurprisingly, been in full bloom. Thus, I have decided to revive that long ago conversation here.

This feels especially appropriate as Purl has given strong performances in two of my favored terror efforts. The clipped strength she provides as Nurse Sheila Monroe in the 1982 slasher effort Visiting Hours nicely balances out the misogynistically violent actions of Michael Ironside’s villain with a powerful feministic glow. Interestingly, she, herself, provided a sense of delicious glee, ten years later, in a role that completely reversed the more honorable characteristics of Monroe. As Norma in Body Language, she archly presents that character’s over-the-top psychotic energy, seducing and bludgeoning her victims with succinct forthrightness.

As a lover of the arts, I probably admire this fine performer’s dedication to traditional thespianism the most, though. Therefore, I am glad to present this exploration of her show business roots from the fall of 2012, here, in its (short but sweet) entirety.

From Sheridan Road Magazine – 10/2012.

“Meanwhile, the news of the Goodman Theatre’s (www.goodmantheatre.org) upcoming production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, starring Diane Lane, is proving to be one of Chicago’s hottest tickets of the fall theatre season. Williams, best known for uncovering the emotional ravages of the heart, dealt with class issues in his prime works, as well. Sheridan Road was lucky enough to catch up with deservedly popular actress Linda Purl at the Hollywood Show (www.hollywoodshow.com) in Rosemont, this past weekend. The amazingly eclectic Purl, currently enjoying success with her versatile roles on The Office and True Blood, revealed she is a theater artist, at heart, in our brief conversation. The generous singer-actress also, mentions a very personal connection with Williams, one of history’s greatest playwrights.

Sheridan Road: It’s very apparent from your detailed, layered work on camera that the theater is very close to your heart.

Linda Purl: True. I grew up in Japan and my parents and I attended a lot of theatre. We would perform summer stock in the living room together – that was our family glue.

SR: That’s an amazing memory. Is there a particular play that you’ve done that stands out as a favorite?

LP: I have two. (Thinking a moment. Then, happily -) No. Three! There’s a beautiful play called the Baby Dance. We performed it in LA at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. We, eventually, got it to Off-Broadway.  Then there’s The Road to Mecca – with Julie Harris! – Which speaks for itself. Then – playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

SR: Tennessee Williams’ master work!

LP: I knew him. Tennessee Williams had lived with us, briefly, when I was a child. – It’s a perfect play, as close to doing opera as you can get with a drama.

SR: Were the emotional places that Blanche descends into challenging for you as an actress?

LP: The play supports you fully on your journey. But, it’s daunting – you have to dig down deep.

SR: How long did you perform the role?

LP: Three months…I wasn’t ready for it to close.

SR: That’s understandable. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness your perfect, tender take on the ballad “This Time Tomorrow” from Tom Sawyer on Broadway knows you are a cabaret artist of note. I understand that you have a new show opening this fall.

LP: Yes, Midnight Caravans…Travels Through the Great New York Nightclubs will open at Feinstein’s in New York City on September 30th. We have Tedd Firth, a brilliant young musical director, and Desi Arnaz, Jr, is flying into do percussion. He is just so talented, so gifted and I am so grateful that he willing to be a part of this project with me. The first night, a portion of the proceeds will go the Actors Fund, a charity that is very close to my heart, as well.

SR: A perfect example of how art can entertain and benefit society, as well. You have such a vast body of work – from mini-series to comedies to drama – and every person probably has their personal favorite. Is there a television or film project that is close your heart?

LP; I loved doing Like Normal People.

SR: The television film with Shaun Cassidy! You’re amazing in that. It’s, also, a project about the social injustice of the handicapped that everyone should check it out, if they haven’t!”

Fortunately, while it is too late to attend that version of Midnight Caravans, Purl does offer up a recorded tribute to that show at Linda Purl – An American Actress & Singer. You can sign up there to receive notifications of all her future projects, as well.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Carol Douglas

Published February 14, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

With her take on Doctor’s Orders, the well-rounded Carol Douglas found herself swimming through the upper echelons of disco ballrooms, worldwide. The popularity of that song earned her a special mention in the background of Saturday Night Fever, but her preceding stints on television shows like The Patty Duke Show and several appearances in off-Broadway productions already proved she was a talent to be reckoned with.

Nicely, one of her more interesting assignments during her ‘70s heyday was providing the dance tune for the truly eclectic soundtrack of Haunted, a dusty look at the revenge that a ghost of a Civil War witch takes on the ancestors of those who murdered her.

Like the film itself, which mixed such Hollywood notables as Virginia Mayo co-starring with such newcomers as Playboy model Ann Michelle, the music here features dramatic story songs like Billy Vera’s Indian Woman, Freya Cayne’s gooey love ballad A Distant Time and Douglas’ exuberant vocalizing on the club ready You Make Me Feel the Music.

Thankfully, for all fans of that Summers’ Era of Boogying, Douglas is still making those bright lights shine positively at Carol Douglas | Facebook.

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

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Larry Kert

Published February 6, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

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The irreplaceably talented Larry Kert definitely knew the glaring disparities involved with a career in show business. Exploding into the pubic consciousness as Tony in the original Broadway production of West Side Story, he ultimately found that role would be the one that he was best known for despite decades of fine portrayals and other significant career highs.

Truly eclectic, he counterbalanced the glaring romanticism of his most famous work as the heavy drinking, casually seductive acrobat George in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an enjoyable 1962 horror outing from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Written by terror wunderkind Robert Bloch and featuring a notorious shock ending, this outing has a lot in common with such carnival themed shockers as Circus of Horrors and Berserk.

Paired with the voluptuous Diana Dors, who also played a similar role in the previously mentioned Berserk, Kert radiates with a subtle cockiness and bravado here. But as he discovers that Dors’ schemes contain an inherently murderous malice, this musically toned pro shows his character’s true humanity and concern, creating a complex portrait of a tortured soul.

While winning further acclaim for his work in such theater projects as Cabaret and Company, replacing both male leads in their initial runs to great renown, Kert was also spoken about highly by colleagues who admired his courage in being openly gay in a period of time when that was considered unacceptable. Although, it has been noted that he was called out by some closeted gay creatives for being too carefree and obvious about his orientation, a double-edged sword that he seemingly rode with great finesse and steely resolve.

Sadly, this strong willed and courageous performer lost his life to AIDS at the age of 60 in 1991. His memory, though, lives on through all the proud gay horror fans who appreciate his small contribution to the art of fear and the even bigger ones he made to our visibility in the fields of creativity and beyond.

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Thelma Carpenter

Published January 29, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Broadway. Hollywood. The Apollo. Radio. From the recording studio to smoky night clubs, the diminutive, nearly indestructible Thelma Carpenter made her mark with sophisticated ease. Of special note, her 1963 album Thinking of You Tonight not only appealed to discerning jazz and sophisticated pop aficionados, but to directors like Bob Fosse and Sidney Lumet. These mavericks cast her in shows like Pippin and films like The Wiz, where her appearance as Miss One earned her a true-blue regent of fans.

Euro dynamo Jeannot Szwarz (Jaws 2, Supergirl, Night Gallery) also recognized her uniqueness by utilizing her talents as one of the mysterious Poole Sisters in 1973’s Rosemary’s Baby inspired The Devil’s Daughter. Paired with the equally interesting Lucille Benson (Private Parts, Halloween 2), Carpenter brings a unique and calming menace to her role as a friendly spinster who seems just a little too interested in the origins of Diane Show, an innocent career woman played by Belinda J. Montgomery.

Acting much like the clan of witches that terrorized Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse in the Polanski classic, Carpenter and Benson are joined here by such show biz notables as Shelley Winters, Joseph Cotten, Dark Shadows‘ eternal Jonathan Frid and Abe Vigoda in making sure that Montgomery submits to her reluctant character’s predetermined satanic fate. Nicely acting off each other’s unique energy, this duo also invests their interactions with a quirky sense of humor, as well.

Indeed, Carpenter’s quiet weirdness ultimately causes Show/Montgomery to claim, as she herself so authoritatively did in the golden age of television, that You’re Driving Me Crazy!

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Elisabeth Welch

Published November 15, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The stunning Elisabeth Welch is a major part of the success of the classic 1945 anthology Dead of Night. As the fun and vibrant Beulah in the film’s most popular segment, The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, she is one of the first characters to react to the fact that something is off with Michael Redgrave’s Maxwell and his devious puppet partner Hugo.

Welch was much more than a sympathetic terror conspirator, though. One of the most sophisticated stars of the British theater and Broadway, she often introduced songs that went on to be classics.

Cementing her status as a cult icon, Welch also fabulously worked with auteur Derek Jarman in the late ‘70s.

More can, but need not be said!

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Reta Shaw

Published November 9, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The grand Reta Shaw has rooted herself in the minds of many burgeoning filmgoers from her classic turns in such Disney projects as Mary Poppins and Escape to Witch Mountain.

Nicely, with roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (as a nosy neighborhood woman), Thriller (as a childish middle-aged bride turned unrelenting domestic shrew) and Bewitched (as two different senior relatives of prime witch Samantha), she also gave golden genre television lovers something to talk about over the water coolers, as well.

In the honey-in-our-ears category, as a Broadway veteran, Shaw reprised her comic, singing role of Mabel in The Pajama Game to grand effect in the film version of the popular musical – truly making all those who haven’t witnessed her comic brilliance here jealous of those who have.

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

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(Photos – Top, Bewitched. Middle, Thriller. Bottom, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.)

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Vanessa Williams

Published November 1, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Initially gaining fame as a model and television actress, the uber talented Vanessa Williams eventually branched out into the worlds of pop music…and Broadway stardom! Grimm’s Brothers aficionados were probably awestruck by her witch in the revival of Into the Woods, while the rest of the world may have still been reeling from her sexy attack on the pop laced numbers from her debut album.

Nicely, this number even made it into a Perry Mason television film. (Talk about a flashy take on recycling!)

Most recently, this modern day diva brought her years of performing experience to a gloriously demented fruition in Bad Hair, a delightfully twisted original Hulu horror extravaganza.

https://www.vanessawilliams.com/

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Elaine Stritch

Published October 9, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

She put the BROAD in Broadway, carving out an extraordinary career for herself on the stage. But those blinded by the sheen of her Tony and Emmy wins (and her association with such theatrical legends as Noel Coward and Stephen Sondheim) may not be aware that the magnificent Elaine Stritch has a couple grizzly genre credits to her name.

Significantly, in a time when the world was still afraid of lesbians, Stritch bravely enacted the role of Sapphic minded club owner Marian Freeman in the 1965 psycho-stalker thriller Who Killed Teddy Bear? Interestingly, the presence of the openly gay Sal Mineo as the disturbed busboy that the story focuses upon adds another lavender component to this gritty look at obsession and murder. Granted, Marian’s advances on Juliet Prowse’s Norah, the film’s heroine, are unwanted, affording her preferences the stereotypical ring of the perverse. But Stritch fills the character with as much dignity as she is able to while simultaneously applying her noted and uniquely salty perspective to the mix.

10 years later, Stritch sarcastically zapped her way through the second theatrical remake of The Spiral Staircase, as well. While a mysterious killer hunts down Jacqueline Bissett’s plucky mute adventuress, Stritch’s world weary nurse tends to the needs of Mildred Dunnock’s uncooperative matriarch character. Gravitating to the movie’s theatrical set-up of a winding mansion on a dark and stormy night, she ultimately provides the necessary diva antics while still remaining true to the take no bullshit essence of her character.  

With two appearances in the British genre anthology series Tales of the Unexpected, an arc on the murder-mystery based soap Edge of Night and the effective voicing of the grandmother in the animated favorite ParaNorman among her further credits, the truly singular Elaine Stritch definitely earned her place among the notoriously unsung heroines of horror before her passing at the age of 89 in 2014.

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

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