Va-Va-Villainess: Dolores Gray

Published June 13, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

The sultry Dolores Gray (1922-2002) had a unique career. She will probably go down in history as the only actress to win a Tony Award for a show that lasted only 6 performances (1954’s Carnival in Flanders). She also lit up the MGM Studios in the mid-fifties with her personal brand of glossy sophistication, but, ultimately, only had major roles in four films.

Thankfully, those celluloid adventures offered her the chance to often play game seductresses and extremely glamourous, catty rivals to her (generally more innocent and trustworthy) female co-stars.

She, perhaps, made her most significant performing mark as the vindictive, backstabbing Sylvia Fowler in 1956’S The Opposite Sex, a remake of Clare Booth Luce’s zing worthy The Women. This project found her going arched eyebrow to arched eyebrow (with some exuberant fisticuffs thrown in for good measure) with such cinematic notables as June Allyson, Ann Sheridan and Ann Miller.

Her most popular public offering, though, was perhaps 1957’s Designing Woman, directed by the diva loving Vincente Minnelli. Here, as theater starlet Lori Shannon, Gray provided competition for Lauren Bacall’s sensitive fashionista Marilla. While her character is more of a victim of circumstance here than in the previous effort, Gray still puts in a good show as a majorly distracting influence upon the whirlwind romance and marriage of Bacall’s fashion queen and Gregory Peck’s beleaguered sports writer, Mike Hagen.

While Gray was quoted, by certain sources, as wishing that she had a more extensive filmography, one cannot deny the quality of the cool charm that she provided in the credits that she did have.

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Virginia Mayo

Published June 6, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Perhaps only rivalled, credit-wise, by Yvonne De Carlo, her luscious raven haired cinematic counterpart, the delicious Virginia Mayo spent the moonlight years of her career occupying space in a number of horror projects. Granted, with major roles in projects like Silent Scream, Cellar Dweller, American Gothic and Play Dead (along with her overpowering The Munsters cache), De Carlo was certainly the Queen Bee of the Former Technicolor Starlets set. But Mayo definitely gave her a run for her money. 

While the ’60s and ’70s found Mayo decorating such cinematic fare as Castle of Evil (1966) and Haunted (1977) (with 1990 cheapie Evil Spirits providing her employment during the VHS invasion), she is perhaps at her most effective (and eternally beautiful) as the sympathetic Carrie Crane in The Diary (1971), a second season episode of Rod Serling’s early ’70s spook show Night Gallery. As Crane, a faded, scandal plagued actress, Mayo radiates with a bruised and tender strength of purpose here. Digging her shiny yet well-trod heels into her scenes with Patty Duke’s venomous Holly Schaeffer, a gossip journalist who is out to destroy her, Mayo’s years in the Hollywood trenches are given a resourceful workout during the various character beats in this revenge fueled tale. 

Indeed, Crane’s gifting of a mysterious journal to Schaeffer soon sends that pesky muckracker into a gothic downward spiral full of death and despair – proving what many diva-worshipping fellas already know, that Mayo will forever be a prominent force in every style of cinema – terror fueled and otherwise.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Jan Howard

Published May 31, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Move over, Patty McCormack! Your Rhoda Penmark may have been the littlest devil around in that classic 1956 genre flick, but famed country singer Jan Howard understood something about being a Bad Seed, as well. Of course, while Penmark often caused grievous bodily harm to her cinematic targets, Howard was more concerned about matters of the heart in her well-loved country song.

Interestingly, a quick background check on Howard, a long standing member of the Grand Ole Opry, reveals that she knew, intimately, the heartaches she sang about as a popular singer and songwriter — and, thusly, she lives on in the memories of devoted music lovers, dementedly childlike and otherwise, forevermore.

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

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Shark Bait Retro Village: As The World Turns (The Willows)

Published May 9, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

From satanic possessions and trouble making clones to distressed heroines being buried alive, daytime dramas have been utilizing elements from horror (and science fiction) novels and films for decades. During the ’60s and ’70s (and into the ’80s and ’90s), their daily format also bested all suspenseful movie of the week offerings by being able to truly concentrate on in depth plotlines that often took months to unfold. This, ultimately, allowed for layered character development and truly intense homages to other works. As a specific case in point, the classic Procter and Gamble soap As The World Turns, carried out an elaborate reconstruction of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca throughout the many months of 1979.

Here, though, it was Eileen Fulton’s worldly and often notorious villainess Lisa who was offered up as the stand-in for du Maurier’s innocent Mrs. de Winter. Known for her romantic manipulations, often involving the show’s steadfast Dr. Bob, this long running antagonist found herself on the receiving end of some dark and stormy conniving during this gothic adventure which, proudly and lovingly, carried the huge imprint of its source material. 

Finding romance with a seemingly kind, but often volatile author named Bennett (Doug Higgins), Lisa ventured away from Oakdale, the standard suburban setting of the melodrama, and settled into a remote country lodge known as The Willows with her new paramour. But Hester (Ann Stanchfield), Bennett’s demandingly loyal housekeeper, and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ruth, Bennett’s adulterous former wife, almost immediately started playing havoc with the new calm in this beloved anti-heroine’s life. Slashed family portraits, hidden hallways and candle drenched evenings soon became the norm for her – and as marriage bells started to knoll for this hopeful yet mismatched twosome, acquaintances, including one of Bennett’s publishing buddies, began to meet their bloody ends. 

With the serial’s writing staff smartly playing up the fact that either suspected party – Bennett, a man capable of blind rages and compulsive jealousies, and Hester, a woman radiating with a quiet and shrewd devotion to her handsome employer – could be the one responsible for trying to secretly dispatch with one of its most popular creations, Fulton was able to add softer layers to her often acerbic character. Radiating with curiosity, fear and sorrow, she encapsulated why audiences developed such a strong attachment to her nuanced dramatis personae, a situation that continued until the show’s sad ending in September of 2010. 

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Jeri Southern

Published May 2, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Late fall and early spring often find me, in some sharp sense of contemplative bliss, immersed in the music of numerous husky voiced jazz dames. This year, as the March days in Chicago alternated between gray & windy and unseasonably warm, I took special comfort in the seemingly casual, throaty stylings of Peggy Lee, Chris Connor and Jeri Southern. Their smoky tempos seemed to perfectly echo the prospect of winter’s slow yet hopeful fade.

Southern, a favorite of Frank Sinatra who retired in her late 30s due to paralyzing stage fright, became my favored discovery. Her albums like Southern Comfort not only feature amusing titular word play, but tend to highlight obscure, inventive material. Her take on Cole Porter’s well-known Dancing on the Ceiling, meanwhile, is near perfection – an expert blending of smart tune and adept stylist. 

Of course, I was soon researching her life and happily discovered that her filmography included vocalizing on A Taste of Ivory, the theme song from the twisted 1978 psychological horror show Die Sister, Die. While that performance is difficult to track down, her simple, haunting version of Every Time We Say Goodbye is sure to delight both lovers of the finely romantic and the lushly gothic, as well.

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

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Great Performances in Horror: Dinah Shore

Published April 25, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Okay, okay…it’s not necessarily a great performance per se, but the affable Dinah Shore definitely adds a sunny and unique presence to the 1979 TV Terror Death Car on the Freeway. Nicely, her take on helpful tennis pro Lynn Bernheimer also ties in a bit with the lesbian community as it references the famed singer-actress’ athletic ties and her (in namesake) involvement with The Dinah, a queer woman’s golfing event and music celebration. 

With this particular outing, though, Shore’s Bernheimer is more concerned with a specific divinity in danger as opposed to a Sapphic sisterhood as a whole. Here, Shelley Hack, in the same year that she joined Charlie’s Angels as the ultra efficient Tiffany Welles, plays an ambitious news anchor named Jan who believes that her coverage of a vehicular based serial killer may be her ticket to the big time. Fighting disbelief from her peers and sexism from up on high, she revels in the support that Shore’s character, one of the titular marauder’s first intended victims, unilaterally gives her. Indeed, with warm southern twang fully intact, the former Frances Rose* pops up several times to add pertinent details to the puzzle that Hack is slowly solving. Shore’s natural, feministic glow invigorates Hack’s portrayal and when the younger woman  finally goes after the killer, fender to fender, it is not surprising due to the atmospheric tutelage that she has received. 

Directed by famed stunt coordinator Hal Needham, Death Car ultimately doesn’t have the stylistic tension of Duel, the famed Steven Spielberg piece about a maniacal trucker, but there are a number of shackle raising chases involving such familiar horror faces as Dallas’ Morgan Brittany (The Initiation of Sarah, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat), Tara Buckman (Silent Night, Deadly Night, Night Killer) and Nancy Stephens (Halloween, Halloween H20).

Significantly, Shore, whose music has been used in various episodes of American Horror Story, Fear the Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries, continued to appear in unusual and cult-centric projects for the rest of her career. Many youngsters learned of her through her participation in a holiday episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and she, gladly, welcomed such alt-culture, heavy duty guests as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Andy Kaufman and Tina Turner on her various talk shows over the years, as well.

*Frances Rose was the name that Shore was given at birth.

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Agnes Moorehead

Published April 4, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Noted for her acerbic antagonism as Endora on Bewitched, arguably her most famous role, the significant, always striking Agnes Moorehead resonated with a much more slithery, maliciously evil context in the noted 1947 film noir Dark Passage. Indeed, Madge Rapf, the character portrayed by Moorehead, undermines and manipulates the lives of Humphrey Bogart’s maligned Vincent and Lauren Bacall’s overly supportive Irene with such devious finesse that, even at the film’s semi-happy fade-out, their lives have been irreparably altered by her sadistic manipulations.

In fact, with the strategic aid of Bernard Newman’s glorious costumes, Moorehead’s Rapf may be one of celluloid’s most notoriously nasty characters. And while some casual fans may be surprised at the ferocious energy that she ultimately exhibits here, she is definitely this film’s most uninhibited pleasure.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

With credits like The Bat, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Night Gallery and Dear Dead Delilah, this one of a kind performer has irrevocably earned her stripes as a dignified goddess of terror, 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: Hadda Brooks

Published March 21, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan


She was justifiably crowned “Queen of the Boogie” due to her rambunctious, athletic piano stylings and her hit song Swingin’ the Boogie, but the irreplaceable Hadda Brooks also knew how to work a ballad down to its silvery existential core. 

Long beloved by music connoisseurs, Brooks is probably best remembered by genre fans for her appearance in the cult science fiction thriller The Thirteenth Floor. But this beloved artist also made her mark in such TMC classics as The Bad and the Beautiful, In a Lonely Place and the above referenced screwball comedy Out of the Blue

With these various sonic displays as evidence, it would be wonderful if, much like in the mid-8os when wily jazz promoters brought her out of retirement, modern aural punks would prime themselves to rediscover this eclectic, genre bopping wonder —- and place her on the charts of cultural importance once again.

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

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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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