Betsy Palmer

All posts tagged Betsy Palmer

Triumvirate of Horror: Queen Bee (1955)

Published September 10, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

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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. Wray

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.

Queen Bee 2Naturally, 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!

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In Remembrance: Betsy Palmer

Published June 3, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

Betsy Palmer1Those who were lucky enough to meet actress Betsy Palmer, who died at the age of 88 this past weekend, in person, often found themselves inundated with delightful information. Mention her role in a production of Countess Dracula in 1979, at the Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, and she’d blush with love for that particular character and then swiftly reminisce about how she had to make the quickest and most difficult costume changes ever imagined during its run. Producing a leggy, cheesecake photo for her to sign, would elicit a remembrance of how all the young starlets in the 1950s, no matter how serious their intentions, were required to pose for such seductive publicity images. Inquire about her long run as a game show guest during television’s golden years and she’d reveal how she never got to see herself in any of those productions as they were all performed live.

For those who didn’t make Ms. Palmer’s acquaintance, and even for those who had, director S. Shane Marr does the world a great service with Betsy Palmer: A Scream Queen Legend in Her Own Words. Marr, who worked with Palmer on Bell Witch: The Movie, was so enchanted by Palmer’s show biz stories that he ingeniously decided to have her sit before his camera and talk to it as if it were an eager new friend.betsy palmer madame dracula

We get the familiar Friday the 13th story. Palmer’s car broke down and needing the $10,000, she accepted the role of Mrs. Voorhees even though she hated the script. Palmer delights in the irony that while this killer mommy is her best known role, her decision was initially made because she thought that no one would ever see the film. It is interesting to watch her make sense of her place in film history and hear her analyzing the appeal of her most popular character.

More than that, we learn of Palmer’s humble beginnings and her gradual indoctrination into an acting career.
She regales us with stories of working with famed director John Ford and the behind the scenes controversies of one of her earliest, best known films Mister Roberts. We are, also, told that she actually got along with the combative Joan Crawford on the set of their film Queen Bee. One of the most interesting stories is about her adventures making the obscure, low budget The True Story of Lynn Stuart with Hawaii Five-0′s Jack Lord. Apparently, the real Lynn Stuart visited the set and brought more attention to her presence by elaborately masking herself then if she had just shown up and silently observed.

betsy2It would have been nice to have learned something about Palmer’s other genre credits (1999’s The Fear: Resurrection and 2005’s Penny Dreadful) yet she does speak glowingly of the Bell Witch: The Movie and of her then hopes to be involved in any sequels.

Overall, Marr allows us to see Palmer as she truly was – warm and sharply inviting. Here, she, ultimately, proves herself to be that lively aunt or grandmotherly figure that has lived a life that most could only dream of. It’s a visual document that makes her passing all the more bittersweet.

Betsy Palmer: A Scream Queen Legend in Her Own Words is available for free viewing on YouTube and for purchase from Amazon in various formats.

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

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