Gloria DeHaven

All posts tagged Gloria DeHaven

Shark Bait Retro Village: Who is the Black Dahlia?

Published July 13, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

According to online speculation, the legendary Lucille Ball did not want her daughter Lucie Arnaz to take the title role in the 1975 television film Who is the Black Dahlia? Based on the notorious 1947 murder case in which a young woman named Elizabeth Short was brutally bisected and left in an abandoned field, this film took a highly fictionalized look at the proceedings – which Ball, a Hollywood stalwart, had obviously been aware of in real time. Arnaz, smartly, was not about to turn down the title role in a compelling project, though, and her sensitive performance definitely highlights the film’s emotional truths. Unfortunately, those intimated facts haven’t changed much in the decades since this film was made – discrimination and real dangers still, overwhelmingly, lurk for young women in the world on a daily basis.

Interestingly though, since so much of Short’s life was shadowed in after-the-fact hearsay, once this television film is over, viewers still don’t have a clear view of who the title character was on a personal level. Writer Robert W. Lenski often paints her as a good person abandoned by her father, consistently threatened by rowdy soldiers and gangster types who do not understand her. But, despite Arnaz’s multi-layered work, he never finds a consistent thread to her behavior. Her actions often make no sense – engaging with people and then mysteriously evading them…acting grateful to her benefactors and then resorting to thievery. Painting her as a full-blown master of manipulation might have been inaccurate but could have ultimately created a more comprehensive narrative here.

Still, this work radiates with both a bit of a smoky film noir vibe and the sincere charms of the classic movie of the week format. This is particularly interesting as Arnaz has recalled in interviews that the entire creative process was completed in a quick two weeks. Even more impressive are the variety of well-known performers who deliver layered characterizations as the events unfold. Mercedes McCambridge, who committed fully to her demon-centric vocalizing in The Exorcist, shows her versatility here by giving her role as Short’s grandmother a vibrantly wounded heart. Donna Mills, the queen of the tele-flick genre at the period of time, adds venomous charm as one of Short’s rivals and Gloria DeHaven, who often played petulant romantic rivals in classic musicals, radiates with kindness as a prison matron who encourages Elizabeth to stay on the right track. The appearance of horror movie veteran Sid Haig as a roadside tattooist might cause a shout of surprised joy to erupt from any genre enthusiast watching, as well.

 Nicely, Arnaz would continue this based on a real horror vibe with her next project, Death Scream, another movie-of-the-week outing inspired by an actual crime. Showing up in the film’s last quarter as the late arriving final girl, Arnaz manages to outsmart the killer this time and share a second or two of screen time with Raul Julia, that project’s leading man, to boot!

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

Hopelessly Devoted to: Gloria DeHaven!

Published March 11, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

DeHaven & Thompson

DeHaven & Thompson

Filmed in Harshaw, Wisconsin in 1978 (but not seeing the light of day until the early 1980s), Bog allows Hollywood musical royalty Gloria DeHaven (whom appeared in Step Lively with Frank Sinatra and played her own entertainer mother, Flora Parker DeHaven, in Three Little Words) to add a true (‘n truly goofy) monster flick to her aged coterie of television dramas, soap operas and afternoon hosting appearances.

In her dual roles, hyphenate Ginny Glenn (described as a coroner, pathologist and biologist by various sources from within the film) and ageless woods hag Adrianna, DeHaven simply and authoritatively illiterates scientific jargon as the former and adds a sense of mysterious menace as the former. Still lushly attractive at 53, the flaming haired singer grounds the film’s outrageous occurrences with quiet dignity and honesty. A bit of Hollywood posing does leak in when Ginny’s romance with the local sawbones (Marshall Thompson – late of It! The Terror From Beyond) reaches its peak and as she Fay Wray’s it in the fish-beast’s arms during the final moments, but as a whole DeHaven is restrained and powerful never sinking to ‘how did my career come to this?’ pathos.bog

DeHaven’s thankful subtlety grounds the film itself, which concerns a (supposedly) prehistoric sea creature brought to the surface of a small country town by illegal dynamite fishing, with a professionalism and sense of fun that allows the audience, fully, into the proceedings. Filmed almost documentary-style (like many 1970s swampland creature features such as Creature from Black Lake and Return to Boggy Creek with Dawn Wells from Gilligan’s Island) by director Don Keeslar (whom obviously embraced the outdoors – his only other directing credit is The Capture of Grizzly Adams), Bog, also, serves as a historical document – allowing one to experience small town life circa the late 70s as many locals, both professional (such as Carol Terry, of low budget cult film god Ted V. Mikels’ The Doll Squad) and not, are used in the proceedings).

In fact, the vicious creature is enacted by a 6’7”, 247 pound resident, Thomas “Jeff” Schwad. Of course, Schwad’s creature, when fully revealed, looks like a flapping, winged Creature of the Black Lagoon prototype with a massive fish for a head – making it one of the most hysterical and oddly memorable creatures of the mutant beast genre. Designed as part ecological statement (don’t blow up the fishies!) and part horny aberration (the creature survives on the blood of women and somehow, utilizes them to conjure up a boatload of fertilized, ocean bottom caviar), Bog is outrageous, choppily edited and a wonderful document of the drive-in cinema of its time. In between its bouts of monster mania, it is, also, as laid back and slow going as a long country day in the summer. If said day included a comical shot of a deputy’s hand, sinking into the drink, a la Excalibur, with a wrinkled fish’s mouth wrapped around his elbow, that is!

Classic DeHaven!

Classic DeHaven!

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