Peter Gunn, the ultra cool private eye series created by Blake Edwards, definitely featured its share of shady ladies over its 3 often irresistible seasons (1958-1961). Of course, all of these women radiated spunk and beauty. But the most dynamic of those varied and capable performers has to be Margarita Cordova who, over the course of two episodes, skillfully danced, sang and played guitar along with the other expected prerequisites of her acting assignments.
Granted, her last appearance in the show’s Cry Love, Cry Murder offering found her in more valiant territory, portraying a character that exposes the schemes of a cunning family member with a firm yet tear stained heart.
Her first runaround with Craig Stevens’ unflappable Gunn was a bit more insidious, though. As Elena, the mistress of a two timing scoundrel in the Mask of Murderoffering, Cordova willing delivers the series’ titular hero to death’s door. Gunn, naturally, survives…as the alert Elena slinks off to presumably charm other suckers. Cordova fills this determined schemer with a strong survivor’s instinct mixed with a sly bit of seductive minx, providing for a most memorable villainess with plenty of (the above mentioned) va-va-voom to spare.
Decades later, Cordova found her biggest fame as a regular on two NBC soap operas. As the matriarchal Rosa Andrade on Santa Barbara, she provided a noble sternness. She was given even more creative freedom, though, as Sunset Beach’s truly memorable Carmen Torres. Vengefully opposing the romantic union of her beloved (former priest) son with his brother’s ex-fiancée, Cordova took the mother in law from hell act to deliciously glorious heights.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
Her specialized take on honorable, suffering women made the distinguished Kay Francis one of the highest paid female stars of the ‘30s. Considered to be “as a responsive as a violin” (by none other than William Powell), Francis used this versatility to expand her career as that decade came to a close.
Cast as Cary Grant’s manipulative wife in 1939’s In Name Only, Francis’ Maida Walker was a woman who could – and did – drive men to suicide. Subtly maneuvering the family of Grant’s unhappy Alec into her corner, Francis’ character almost destroys his future with Carole Lombard’s loving and artistic Julie Eden. A final confrontation with Julie reveals Maida’s true motivations to all, though, and Francis slinks off with shocked elegance at the film’s close out. Subtly underplaying her character’s flint hard anger, Francis shines with sense of brittle control mixed with an acidic softness here, allowing the audience to feel a bit of sympathy for her while also delighting in her downfall.
Taking the vengefulness of Maida a step further, Francis’ dominating Sheila Seymour is a crime boss extraordinaire in 1945’s Allotment Wives. The head of a ring of women determined to milk soldiers of their savings, Francis is coldly charming once again here. Even when gunning down her opposition in cold blood, Francis shines with a hypnotic allure. As with In Name Only, Francis connects fully with the character’s emotional softness, manifested by this character’s beloved daughter, allowing the audience to feel a twinge of compassion for her actions even when they are homicidal in nature.
While not as well remembered as Bette Davis, her professional rival at Warner Brothers, Francis still has her devoted fans and a number of books and a website dedicated to her career and life.