Val Lewton

All posts tagged Val Lewton

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Theresa Harris

Published June 15, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Theresa Harris Main

Theresa Harris should reside fondly in the hearts of those who adore classic horror. After making bright appearances in two moody terror fests from legendary producer Val Lewton, Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie, she went on to appear on an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in such noir-flecked extravaganzas as The File on Thelma Jordan.

Unfortunately, prejudice kept her from ascending to the cinematic heights that she deserved. But those in the know recognize her as a true triple threat – a fine actress, dancer and singer!

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

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Theresa I Walked With A Zombie

Unsung Heroines of Horror: Theresa Harris

Published June 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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Creating as much captivating celluloid magic as Barbara Stanwyck in the 1933 Pre-Code classic Baby Face, actress Theresa Harris would surely have had a much bigger career if she had been born in the 21st century. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and talented Harris, akin to such filmic contemporaries as Nina Mae McKinney and Louise Beavers, often found herself playing maids and other unglorified subservient types for the thirty years that encompassed the entirety of her career.

Theresa ZombieNicely, two of the over 100 credits that distinguish her creative output include Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie. These Val Lewton masterpieces did cast Harris as a happy-go-lucky waitress and a loyal maid…typical, prejudiced fare. But she fills Zombie’s Alma with a sense of beauty and strength even when the character confides her love of domestic duties to the film’s heroine. Harris’ matter of fact essence gives the role a seriousness and sense of class, thankfully eradicating any comic qualities or unceremoniously stereotypical gestures. Theresa Cat

Minnie, the all-night café goddess of Cat People, meanwhile comes off as a friendly companion to the film’s leads when they visit her place of work. With the help of director Jacques Tourneur, Harris brings a sense of humor and equality to her exchanges with her co-stars. In fact, the pure wattage of her star power almost completely eradicates them from the proceedings, making one long for a redo wherein the roles she was given actually reflected the gloriousness of her too often overlooked personality.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0365382/bio

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

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Horror Mash-up: Bette Davis & Frances Dee

Published May 18, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

Bette Frances Duo

Though they share no screen time, 1934’s Of Human Bondage proved to be a successful project for Frances Dee, who would go on to headline Val Lewton’s classic 1943 offering I Walked With a Zombie, and Bette Davis, whose take on the spiteful Mildred Rogers finally established her as a star of significant reckoning.

davis bondageDavis, of course, would go on to become one of the queens of gothic horror with appearances in such revered projects as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Here, though, her determination to artistic truth emerged via her insistence that Mildred’s decline not be a pretty one, but a dark and realistic journey.  Her perseverance was also tested here as she was, reportedly, not treated well by her co-star Leslie Howard, who felt that a Brit should have been cast in the role in deference to the film’s English setting.

Dee has the nicer, less meaty role here. As the kind and understanding woman who eventually gains Howard’s heart, she does project a luminous quality that would bring her good stead in her most famous role of Betsey Connell, a nurse introduced to the ominous world of voodoo in (the above mentioned)  I Walked with a Zombie.frances dee bondage.jpg

This is truly Davis’ show, though. Compelling even as her repellant actions to Howard’s club footed Philip Carey make one wonder what he could ever see in her, she provides a bravura performance that has lingered in the public consciousness for decades.

Now, be sure to wipe your mouth, wipe your mouth…and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Femmes: The Corpse Vanish’s Elizabeth Russell

Published February 20, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

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My hypnotic stare has always read as catatonic. Just ask the neighbors who consistently try to call emergency services on me.

Thankfully, graceful beauty Elizabeth Russell (1916-2012) was much better at magnetism than me. Enacting a series of emotionally troubled, occasionally murderous dames in low budget genre films in the 40s, Russell often brought haughty imperviousness to mystical heights. Historically, her work at RKO, Universal and Monogram brought her into performance-contact with the monstrously popular Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., as well.

The Corpse Vanishes

The Corpse Vanishes

One of Russell’s biggest roles was in 1942’s The Corpse Vanishes. Portraying Lugosi’s evilly aging wife, Russell radiates with poisonous intentions. When she isn’t busy slapping heroine Luana Walters in the face, she spends her time encouraging Lugosi to drain young brides of their blood for their rejuvenating effects.
Curse of the Cat People

Curse of the Cat People

Weird Woman and Curse of the Cat People (both 1944) showed her off to vengeful effect, as well. But in each of these roles, Russell provides moments of true heart, bringing out these characters’ inherent emotional agony.

The 7th Victim

The 7th Victim

1943’s The 7th Victim, meanwhile, allowed her to show off a broad variety of her skills. As Mimi, a victim of agoraphobia, she withers with cautious fear. But as another character chooses to end her life, Mimi emerges from her shell. With quiet optimism, Russell grandly provides this spooky tale with its haunting denouement.
Bedlam

Bedlam

Nicely, as Karloff’s gin loving niece, Mistress Sims, in 1946’s Bedlam, Russell was able to prove her comic worth, too. With arch sauciness, she provides a number of comic interludes, easing the gravity of the film’s asylum based horror and proving, beyond a doubt, that she is one of classic horror’s unsung femmes.
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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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