The comedy world lost one of the funniest men to ever grace the screen. He didn’t have to say a single word…once he walked into the shot, you felt like laughing, even if he didn’t do anything.
He was also one of the first “sploitation” actors–if you’ve heard the term “Fake Shemp,” this is what they mean. There were four films created with the Fake Shemp (Joe Palma), and since Jules White could direct and produce a film in a matter of HOURS with footage of Shemp from an old short, throw in some new footage of Moe and Larry, and voila! You’ve got a new film to fool theatre managers made for the fraction of the price of a new one! It’s win-win…until Moe and Larry (and even Harry Cohn) realized they couldn’t run the Shempsploitation Express forever…so along came EVERYONE’S favorite Stooge replacement, Joe Besser!
(I actually liked Besser–he was such a totally different comedian that you just went “WHAT?!” when you saw him with the rough and tumble Moe and Larry. No, I’m not giving up my Stooge card–I’ve had it since 1975!)
Femme fatal film icon VERONICA LAKE fell from Hollywood heights to waiting tables in a sleazy women’s only hotel before succumbing to the ravages of alcoholism and mental illness at only age 50.
Veronica Lake was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 14, 1922 as Constance Frances Marie Ockleman. Her father worked for an oil company as a ship employee and died in a tragic oil tanker explosion.
Her ethereal beauty, natural charm coupled with a talent for acting prompted her mother and tubercular step-father to move to Beverly Hills, California, where they enrolled her in the Bliss Hayden School of Acting in Hollywood.
Although Connie had been previously diagnosed as a classic schizophrenic her parents saw acting as a form of treatment for her condition. She soon found work as a bit player in several unremarkable pictures but “Sorority House” director John Farrow (Mia Farrow’s father) saw how her long flowing hair always covered her right eye, creating an hint of allure and mystery. While still a teenager, Farrow introduced her to Paramount producer Arthur Hornblow who promptly changed her name to Veronica Lake.
Veronica’s breakthrough film was “I Wanted Wings” in 1941, a major box office hit.
She then became Paramount’s top female star toplining such classics as “Sullivan’s Travels”, “This Gun for Hire”, The Glass Key”, “So Proudly We Hail” and “I Married A Witch”.
“She was a very gifted girl, but shedidn’t believe she was gifted,” director Rene Clair recalled.
Often paired with diminutive star Alan Ladd, the couple made seven films together. At first it was out of necessity as Ladd was just 5 feet five while Lake was 4 feet 11 inch but the pair had undeniable on-screen chemistry
For a short time during the early 1940s, Veronica was at the height of Hollywood stardom.
During World War Two, the rage for her peek-a-boo bangs became a hazard when women in the defense industry would get their hair caught in machinery. Lake was staged in a publicity picture in which she reacted painfully to her hair getting “caught” in a drill press illustrating her hazardous ‘do. Finally, Lake famously cut her hair and, sadly, her popularity diminished.
By the early 1950’s Lake’s career had hit the skids.
Still battling schizophrenia, and in a state of paranoia, she began drinking heavily. As her mental state deteriorated further, with two failed marriages, Veronica became manic-depressive as her self-destructive addiction to booze pushed her over the edge.
Soon, with no film career and little alimony after an IRS forced bankruptcy, Lake drifted between cheap hotels in New York City. She was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
In 1963, a reporter found her working as a barmaid/waitress while living at the seedy all-women’s $7-a-night Martha Washington Hotel in Manhattan. In the hotel bar, Lake was working under an alias — Connie De Toth (“House of Wax” director Andre DeToth had been her second hubby).
Lake had never revealed her true name to her co-workers nor customers although her boss Joe Rauji at the Colonnade Bar knew who she was. “She’s a good girl but she’s had a hard time,” he told a reporter.
Lake later toiled at other bars including Greenwich Village’s famed One Fifth getting a steady paycheck and a never ending stream of booze.
The widely circulated news reports of her plight led to some minor TV and film work but Lake soon made a financial comeback by penning her memoirs.
With the profits from her best selling tell-all, Lake co-produced and starred in her last film, “Flesh Feast” (1970), a micro-budget horror movie with a Nazi-myth storyline. It bombed.
After another failed marriage and brief sojourn in England, Lake returned home.
She was already “pretty far along” when she was admitted to the Fletcher Allen Hospital in Vermont, doctors said.
Finally, in the early morning hours of July 7, 1973, Veronica Lake died from hepatitis and acute renal failure — seemingly alone and forgotten at the age of 50.
That is, until the news broke, when suddenly EVERYONE remembered.
May as well end the month on a “list.” This time, it’s the 5 worst monsters of the 1970s…in horror. It’s from the folks at Flashbak, so you know it’s good. Enjoy, and make sure you watch the best worst movie you can think of this weekend. It’s been a pretty fun ride, but if I ever do this again, I will try to talk myself out of it. Blogging is harder than I thought! 😉 But it was fun to add to my bad movie repertoire, and I may do it for the various Halloween blogathons that dot the interwebs. To quote one of the movies listed above, “Well…”
How did Ed Wood get the title of “World’s Worst Director?” (Then again, we’d also have to ask how William “One Shot” Beaudine was at least the runner-up, even though he was once a highly regarded director.) Of course, we can put most of the blame on the doorstep of the Medveds, who deemed Ed “the worst” with their Golden Turkey tome. I can only imagine that they hadn’t seen very many movies from the period they were in, because NONE of the Dolomite movies made the cut, but Trouble Man did?! Why not just throw Super Fly and Shaft in there too, since we’re complaining about blaxploitation films with kick-ass soundtracks…
Anyhoo, where was I going with this? Oh, that Ed Wood wasn’t the world’s worst director–far from it. I can name at least THREE worse directors off the top of my head: Bill Rebane/Herschell Gordon Lewis (Monster-A-Go-Go/Terror at Half Day); Larry Buchanan (Zontar: The Thing From Venus); Coleman Francis (all three of his films); Doris Wishman (Double Agent 73, Let Me Die a Woman); Ted V. Mikels (The Girl in Gold Boots, The Doll Squad)…the list is literally endless!
I think the problem lies with Ed Wood’s films being better than “so bad they’re good.” There’s something about Wood’s films, even the cringetastic Orgy of the Dead and The Revenge of Dr. X that makes them watchable. You’re not yelling at the screen at the stupidity of the writing. (The CLUNKINESS, maybe, but not the stupidity!)
Anyhoo, take a look around the site and enjoy the Den of Geek!
If you have lots of free time on your hands, take a look at the wonderful time-wasting site The Worst Movies Ever Made. Now, “worst” is in the eye of the beholder, but holy gee whiz…this one’s bad. Not even the ever-present John Agar or Richard Jaeckel can help this turkey. And when you finally get to see the title character, look out!
Hagsploitation: a term that I possibly just thought up or I stole it from someone else (but can’t remember who it was). Either way, it’s a term that usually brings to mind actresses “of a certain age,” like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Shelley Winters or even Debbie Reynolds (when she and Winters starred in What’s the Matter With Helen, she was all of 38 years old!)
However, hagsploitation wasn’t just for women—any time you saw an old vaudevillian like George Jessel in Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, it was hagsploitation. Sure, it was said to be a cameo, but come on, we know what it was, and it was hagsploitation, pure and simple.
Now this may sound like I’m knocking older actors for appearing in films long past their “prime.” Come on—I’m a Stooge fan that wanted to see Howard, Sitka and DeRita in Blazing Stewardesses—I can hardly be called anti-hag! Interestingly, it was director Al Adamson’s leitmotif—giving older actors a chance to get in front of new audiences. Whether or not the vehicles used for that chance were any good or not…well, work is work!
Enjoy these sites and their reviews of hagsploitation films!
What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971) from Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For… it’s got repressed lesbianism, murderous sons, and religious fundamentalism.
You knew it was coming–there was no way I could talk about Flesh Feast, Hitler, and anti-aging maggots without bringing up #Nazisploitation!
I’d love to think that Flesh Feast (1967, released in 1970) was the first film to explore Nazisploitation, but that would make me forget this…
They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1962)
The Great Dictator
The Nazty Nuisance
And of course, You Nazty Spy!
Of course, it goes without saying…Stooges did it first! But seriously, Nazisploitation was going on even before the world knew of most of the atrocities Hitler (and the allies, but we’re focusing on Hitler/Nazisploitation now) were committing. The “Throw him in a concentrative camp!” joke Moe makes is odd–people were using black humor as the war was going on to stay sane? Granted, that joke was better than the Stooges’ other war efforts, in particular 1944’s No Dough, Boys and The Yoke’s On Me. (That one is particularly ugggggggggggg….)
So, IS there a “true” beginning of Nazisploitation, or is it a case of many people having the same idea at roughly the same time? I’m thinking a little of both, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a Poverty Poverty Poverty Row studio out there that somehow managed to beat Columbia to the punch and released a short in 1938!
We return to the wonderful And You Call Yourself A Scientist! to take a look at yet ANOTHER Frankenstein’s Monster…Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein. I’d bet $3 (half of the movie’s budget once they finished paying the actors) that this was patched together from even more movies than Adamson admitted. Of course, it began as a biker film, just as the gloriously theme songed “The Fakers.” That film had a theme song by Nelson “I worked with Sinatra” Riddle, but there was something a bit “off” about the lyrics. A little digging, and it turns out that my instinct was right–the music was Riddle’s, but the oddly off lyrics were pure Adamson (he may have had some help). My point–and I do have one–is that I’m fairly certain that this type of movie (the patched together remnants of at least 3 other films) couldn’t have gotten any play except in the 1970s (and earlier). Jules White did it with the Three Stooges, turning out “new” shorts in a matter of HOURS. Who’d notice that Creeps was almost exactly the same as The Ghost Talks? No one, that’s who. Little attention was being paid to short subjects, and the same goes for these types of movies for the drive-in circuit. Who was really paying much attention to what was going on? You were either necking, getting high, drinking, or getting high while necking and drinking.
Anyhoo, enjoy another fine review from And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
How ’bout a bit o’ the Irish with a look at Larry Buchanan? No bad movie blog can ignore the self-proclaimed Schlockmeister of Texas. With established stars like John “How did I get myself into this mess?” Agar and Tommy “Damn Disney–where was their LGBTQ love when I needed it?” Kirk.
No doubt about it—none of Buchanan’s films were any good. A few fell into the “so bad they’re good” category (Zontar—the Thing From Venus and Mars Needs Women), but the others (It’s Alive) comes to mind as being so bad that you end up hate watching them just for spite.
Take a gander at what The Uranium Café has to say about Der Schlockmeister and his movies!