Myrna Loy

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Days of Horror: The Thrillers of Doris Day

Published January 12, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

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Known primarily as a musical comedy star and cotton candy-like romantic siren, film legend Doris Day also managed to work up a nerve wracking scream or two when the screenplay required it. In fact, her startled yelp in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much should, justifiably, be considered one of film land’s most iconic moments. Still, Day (ascertained to be one of the most naturally proficient un-trained film actresses by many scholars) often got so emotionally involved with her character’s inner lives that she limited her thrilled based appearances to just a few.

day julie posterHer entrance into the scare sweepstakes was in a 1956 wife-in-peril feature called Julie. The film opens up with Day, frantically, running from danger. Nicely, the film’s lush yet pulsing theme song, naturally sung by Day, plays in the background, as she sprints for her life. Unfortunately, Day’s Julia is soon nabbed by the suave Louis Jourdan, who plays her conniving husband. Taken on a ride from hell, Julia barely escapes with her life. Of course, Jourdan’s villainous Lyle is far from done with her. By the production’s end, Day’s plucky stewardess heroine, foreshadowing Karen Black by twenty years, must help land the aircraft she is stationed on as Lyle has emasculated all of the crew.

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 In The Man Who Knew Too Much, filmed in the same year as Julie, Day is placed in familiar territory, character wise.  Here, she is Jo, a former singing sensation, living a low-key life with her doctor husband (James Stewart) and their lively son. While on vacation in Morocco, Stewart’s character receives details of an assassination plot from a dying acquaintance. Soon the duo’s son is mysteriously kidnapped to buy a measure of silence. Unaware, Day’s character is drugged into calmness and then told of her son’s disappearance. Day’s multi-leveled portrayal in this scene is matched only by her subtle reactions in the film’s final sequence. Here, Jo has to play piano and sing for a gathering of London diplomats while simultaneously trying to rescue her son with nothing more than the sound of her voice. This is almost inconceivably amazing performing on Day’s part. Along with Hitchcock’s storytelling skill and the quirkily enjoyable performances from genre icons Reggie Nalder (Mark of the Devil, Zoltan) and Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family, House of Wax), it is the primary reason for indulging in this suspenseful, beautifully photographed picture.

day lace posterIn 1960’s Midnight Lace, Day actually became so involved in the travails of her wealthy Kit that she was rumored to have had a nervous breakdown on the set. In fact, several acquaintances (and a gossip columnist or two) reported that Day did not want to do the picture, but was strong armed into doing it by her then husband, the film’s producer Marty Melcher.

 While Lace (unreasonably dismissed by several Day biographers) centers around a fairly standard Gaslight plot, it is also lushly filmed and contains many moments of true suspense.  In fact, anyone who has been spooked when walking alone in the dark or has felt the claustrophobic fear of being caught in an enclosed space will have much to relate to in the film’s tensest moments. While the opening credits pass by, Day’s Kit is stalked down a foggy London street. The dense cinematography and Day’s realistic reactions make it a strikingly suspenseful sequence…and an electric start to the feature as a whole. Day’s escalating terror as Kit is eventually trapped in an elevator and frantically fights for her life, leaves no doubt to her attentiveness to detail as a performer and, on a more lurid note, is strong evidence for the multiple reports of Day’s subsequent collapse on set. day lace

Worthy of multiple viewings for its atmospheric attention to detail alone, this film also features John Gavin of Psycho fame, the legendary Myrna Loy (Ants) as Kit’s kindly aunt and Roddy McDowall, whose many genre credits include the original Planet of the Apes films and the blackly disturbing (and often ridiculous) killer baboon project Shakma.

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All of these Day dominated films feature subtle elements of terror and are definitely recommended for those rare nights when another bloodbath just seems too much for your system to take or when your non-horror loving companion needs a little break from all those scenes of relentless gore.

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

Hopelessly Devoted to: Myrna Loy

Published March 4, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

Myrna Ants 2No one could underplay a line like Myrna Loy (1905-1993). In fact, her subtle intonations on the simplest statements in the classic The Thin Man series have insured peals of appreciative laughter from multiple eras of cinema fans.

Of course, Loy started out, like many a starlet, in the B-Movie wasteland. While this supposedly pleased her little, her appearances in such early terror gems as Thirteen Women and The Mask of Fu Manchu, both from 1932, have thrilled sophisticated terror connoisseurs for decades. While her seductive and deadly Fah Lo See in Manchu is obviously influenced by her evil father, played by a severely made up Boris Karloff, her Ursula Georgi in Thirteen Women is definitely a woman of her own mind.

A surprisingly potent statement against bullying as well as being an early, female empowered variation on the slasher film, Thirteen Women finds Georgi, a mistress of hypnotism and revenge fueled mayhem, making her way, murderously, through the college classmates who taunted her and ruined her life. Loy, radiating cool menace, eventually finds herself face-to-face with the creamy voiced Irene Dunne, who plays Laura Stanhope, the most successful and most sympathetic of her rivals. As is expected, good soon wins out over evil, but not before Ursula has facilitated the deaths (and/or downfalls) of three women, as well as manipulating her primary cohort, a slick astrologist, into throwing himself off of a subway platform, one of this 60 minute film’s most chilling and effective scenes. Myrna 13 2

Unfortunately, due to poor test audiences, fourteen minutes of the film were cut out before its initial release, leaving two characters in absentia and a decided lack of fatalities in the film’s second half. The film’s ending also seems abrupt with Georgi’s penultimate death leap seeming too arbitrary, but throughout Loy is as chilling as a January morning frost in the Arctic. She makes Ursula into one of the most compelling horror film villainesses of all time.

Creating a perfect, blood red circle, Loy also eked out an appearance in a terror film during the twilight of her career. In the 1977 television movie Ants (AKA It Happened at Lakewood Manor), Loy brought charm and magnitude to the role of Ethel, the proud proprietress of a boutique hotel. Even with her character confined to a wheelchair, Loy compels with independence and determination here.

Myrna Ants 3Most importantly, Loy seems to attack the circumstances of the role with good humor and grit. As her property is overwhelmed by deadly ants, Loy’s Ethel is carried up stairs, into rooms and even onto a wobbling gurney. Ever the pro, Loy displays no remorse but seems to be having a ball being gracefully manhandled by such handsome TV stalwarts as Robert Foxworth and Barry Van Dyke.

Even without the longstanding power of Thirteen Women, Loy’s good natured participation in Ants, which features some of the most squirm worthy moments of any of the small screen terrors, would be reason enough to declare that she should be as popular with lovers as fright as she is with admirers of classic screwball comedy and sophisticated women’s pictures. So, get appreciating!!

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

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