Wednesday 10 June 2020

Lockdown Ladies from my Facebook posts: Week Three

Day 15 Ann-Margret

Here is Ann-Margret in cinema's ultimate baby doll nightie in the Dean Martin Matt Helm film Murderer's Row (1966). Martin was a long time friend of hers.  Born Ann-Margret Olsson in Stockholm, she moved to the US when she was five.

I suspect she may be more well known in the US than in Britain where Las Vegas residency doesn't hold the save profile or cachet here but it was in Las Vegas she got her big break, being a dancer and a singer.

Early on, when she still had her natural brunette hair colour (above, aged twenty), she was more known as a pop singer and had a number of albums released.  She carried on recording for the next four decades.

She has had a nearly sixty year film career but, other than Murderer's Row I don't think I have seen any of her films!


Day 16 Dahlia Lavi

Israeli actress Dahlia Lavi (born Lewinbuk, in Palestine) was discovered as a ten year old by Kirk Douglas when he was filming in Israel.  As a result of his help she went to study ballet in Stockholm, getting her first film role there.

After military service she started to appear in a number of European films and  her international film career was helped by the fact hat she spoke six languages. Lord Jim (1865) was supposed to be her big break in Hollywood but the film flopped and she returned to Europe

A series of spy films followed, including The Silencers (1966), The Spy with a Cold Nose (1966), Casino Royale (1967), Nobody Runs Forever (1968) and Some Girls Do (1969).

Her last film was the western Catlow (1971) but she went on to have a successful singing career in Germany, returning to TV, there, briefly, in the nineties.


Day 17 Edwige Fenech

Edwige Fenech was born in Algeria to a Maltese father and a Sicilian mother. She won a beauty contest in France and competed for that country in the Miss Europe competition when she was eighteen.

She moved to Rome and started appearing in films the same year. Most of her films were in the  commedia sexy all'italiana genre and later the giallo horror genre.

In February 1968 she was the centrefold (above) in the February issue of Playmen, Italy's first monthly men's magazine. She appeared in the magazine many times, as she did in nearly all of Italy's later men's magazines, as well as in film and glamour magazines across Europe.

Italian men's magazines were less youth obsessed than those in the UK and US and she carried on posing naked well into her late thirties and still looked fantastic.

Like in most of her films, she was rarely burdened by too many clothes in her magazine appearances.  She became one of the most famous actresses in Italy and later a well known personality and chat show host alongside another Lockdown Lovely, Barbara Bouchet.

I met her once, in Milan, though an aristocratic friend, as we had a friend in common, when I worked in Italy in the late eighties and early nineties. I found her quite charming, although I had no idea who she was at the time as her European fame never really crossed to the English speaking world. 


Day 18 Marie Devereaux

Another lesser known actress today in the impressive shape of English actress and model Marie Devereaux who appeared in the Hammer films The Stranglers of Bombay (1959) ) (from which this still comes) and Brides of Dracula (1960). 

Born Patricia Sutcliffe in North London in 1940, she got into films via modelling; deploying her outrageous teenage figure for photographers like Harrison Marks (the man who invented the term glamour photography) in the late fifties.  

She was also, at this time, one of the famous nude girls appearing in the Windmill Theatre in London where they could take off their clothes but weren't allowed to move by the censors. It's actually quite difficult to find any pictures of her with her clothes on, understandably.

After a number of British films, she travelled to Italy to work as Elizaberth Taylor's stand-in on Cleopatra (1963).  She was due to co-star on another epic, Cassandra's Iliad, starring Marlon Brando but the film was never made. It could have made her a star.

Instead, after Cleopatra she went to Hollywood and did some TV and made two, later, cult films there: Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964)

After this she stopped making films, married an American and brought up a family in the US.


Day 19 Honor Blackman

Still best known for her roles in The Avengers and Goldfinger (1964) Honor Blackman had a more than sixty five year film career, with lots of TV roles as well, the last being in 2015, at the age of 89.

She started acting lessons at fifteen and had her first film role in 1947.  Before this, during WW2 she was a motorcycle dispatch rider for the Home Office (above) and maintained her interest in motorbikes.

She remains one of the oldest Bond girls and was thirty eight when Goldfinger was made; five years older than Sean Connery at the time. When she was younger she had studied judo, which certainly helped for her The Avengers and Goldfinger roles.

She appeared as Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) which was filmed during the time she was playing Cathy Gale in The Avengers. She was also in the later Hammer horror To the Devil a Daughter (1976).

Some of her other varied TV appearances include The Saint. Dr Who, Colombo and more recently Hotel Babylon and Casualty.

Vroom! Vroom!

Day 20 Shirley Eaton

Shirley Eaton's golden personification of Jill Masterson in Goldfinger (1964) even got her onto the cover of Life magazine in November 1964. 

Born in Middlesex, she went to a stage school and her first performance was in Benjamin's Britten's Lets's make an opera in 1954. Initially, she was known as a singer more than an actress, although combined the two in variety shows on stage as well as straight films and TV (including the pilot of The Saint).

Here she is in an on set shot of the balcony of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. This was recreated in the studio and Eaton did not travel to Florida. Some years ago I stayed in the Fontainbleau (or Fountain Blue as the Americans insist on calling it) and had a similar balcony but no golden ladies were in sight (only a Canadian one with  a lot of shopping bags).

Goldfinger actually came towards the end of her career and after making two films for Jess Franco based on the Sax Rohmer character of Sumuru (very much a female Fu Manchu), for which she had dark hair, she decided to stop acting and concentrate on bringing up her family.

She appeared in one more film, Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) in a sequence using footage shot for the  earlier Sumuru films which director Jess Franco had inserted without her permission or, indeed, any payment. 


Day 21 Daniela Bianchi

Daniela Bianchi was born in Rome, the daughter of a senior Italian army officer and an aristocratic mother. 

She studied ballet for eight years and wanted to become a ballerina but her figure developed in very un-ballet like ways and she had to give it up. She worked as a model before making her film debut in 1958, at the age of sixteen.

In 1960, as Miss Rome, she was runner up in the Miss Universe competition (Runner up? Seriously?) but did win the most photogenic prize.  Here she is second from the right.

She beat two hundred other women to get her role as Tatiana Romanova in From Russia with Love (1963) including other Lockdown Lovelies, Tania Mallet (later to appear in Goldfinger), Magda Konopka, and Sylva Koscina.

She is still the youngest actress to play the principal Bond Girl (at twenty-one) and the only Italian actress to play the main Bond Girl.  She didn't make a lot of films and retired in 1968 to marry a shipping magnate.


Again, I counted the number of likes each lady got and tied at 13 was Marie Devereaux and Dahlia Lavi. Also tying were Shirley Eaton and Edwige Fenech on 12 each.

Seven more Lockdown Lovelies soon!

Friday 15 May 2020

Lockdown Ladies from my Facebook posts. Week Two.

Day 8 Julie Ege

Julie Ege was born in Norway in 1943 and started working as a model at the age of sixteen.  She became Miss Norway in 1962 which helped her profile and in 1967 appeared in her first film in Norway.

She moved to London and was the Penthouse Pet of the Month for May 1967 (where they called her Julie Edge),  still sporting her natural brown hair.

She also appeared naked in King magazine in Italy in 1969 (above). As a result of this, er, exposure, she came to the attention of the producers of the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) where she played one of Blofeld's international angels of death

She actually didn't appear in that many films in the UK, her next major role being in Up Pompeii (1971) from which our statuesque publicity still comes.

By this time she had become much blonder, as she would remain, which no doubt helped her get a string of sexy Scandinavian girl roles.

She appeared in The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971) a supposed comedy with seven (obviously) separate stories. Julie was in the 'gluttony' section and had a nude scene with Leslie Phillips, of all people. This section also featured Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, playing a photographer.

She became one of those international dolly-birds of the era and she was always appearing in newspapers like the News of the World, falling out of her clothes, as well as some European magazines.

I remember one newspaper feature in the early seventies where they stranded her on a desert island where she had to fend for herself, usually without the benefit of clothes (above). I actually cut this picture our of the newspaper at the time.

She appeared in the Hammer dinosaur film Creatures the World Forgot (1971) and Hammer, hoping she would be another Raquel Welch, launched a big publicity campaign around her.  By the time the film was made, though, she had just had a baby, was given a terrible dark wig to wear, wasn't feeling well and the crew and cast thought she was being difficult, so they did everything they could to keep her out of shot.

After appearing in one of my favourite seventies films, The Final Programme (1974), she went back to Norway and appeared in films and TV there for a number of years. Later she became a nurse


Day 9 Madeline Smith

Lovely English actress Madeline Smith was working in the trendy store Biba in the sixties when the boss of the store suggested she became a model.

Modellng soon led to some small parts in films at the age of eighteen. Here she is as a fresh faced eighteen year old at home in Kew.

But little girls get bigger every day, as Hammer films soon noticed, casting her in Taste the Blood of Dracula in 1969.  She later claimed that she never went topless in a film but she was a fibber as she did in The Vampire Lovers (1970), a film  made by Hammer to deliberately take advantage of the new 'X' certificate in Britain.

She had a lesbian sex scene with Ingrid Pitt, in the latter but convent educated Madeline later admitted she was a virgin at the time and had no idea how to simulate arousal.

Producers got her to strip for a bath scene in Up Pompeii (1971), as featured in the top picture in this section, much to the delight of all my school friends when this was later shown on TV.

She had a nice line in wide-eyed but big busted innocence in a number of other films and TV shows in the seventies and early eighties, including The Two Ronnies, The Persuaders, Doctor at Large and Jason King.  It was comedy she mainly focussed on and appeared on the big screen in Carry on Matron (1972).

A better actress than many of the other dolly-birds we have featured, she is internationally best known for her appearance in the pre-title sequence of the first Roger Moore Bond, Live and Let Die (1973). She retired in 1985 but in the last few years has had a few more roles.


Day 10 Lesley-Anne Down

One of my mother's favourite TV shows was Upstairs, Downstairs which I endured every week, until a young Lesley-Anne Down joined the cast in 1973 as a very pert nineteen year old.

I remember a scene where her character was making a saucy film dressed in this fetching nineteen twenties outfit, This perky picture of her in that episode actually appeared in TV Times magazine (I know because I cut it out), which you certainly wouldn't get today.

She had won several beauty contests and was voted Britain's Most Beautiful Teenager when she was fifteen.

Before Upstairs Downstairs, she posed for some amateur nude photos for a friend, Peter Douglas (one of Kirk Douglas' sons). She was so nervous at having agreed to pose that she ate constantly beforehand and put on twenty pounds as a result. Mayfair magazine published the pictures without her permission in 1975 on the back of her new fame and a lawsuit soon followed.

Hammer spotted her early on and as a sixteen year old she had a small role in Countess Dracula (1971). She made a number of fairly well known films, my favourite of which was The First Great Train Robbery (1978) where she wore some very anachronistic but entertaining lingerie.

The poor reception to her lead role in Sphinx (1981) knocked her career back but gave us some utterly splendid publicity shots which saw her nearly arrested for posing in Egypt in such a way.

Afterwards, although she did make more films her career was rather more focussed on TV, especially mini-series in the US and I remember a particularly scenery chewing turn in the civil war drama North and South (1985).

I also remember her in The Last Days of Pompeii (1984) but she then appeared in Dallas and this led to a number of American day time soap operas.


Day 11 Valerie Leon

To follow on with our Egyptian theme, here is the magnificent Valerie Leon in a publicity shot from Hammer's Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971). 

She was working in Harrod's department store when she auditioned for a small part in a musical and began working as a chorus girl on stage. This led to film extra work and her first film was the Morecambe and Wise comedy That Riviera Touch (1966) in which she played a girl in a bikini. Interestingly, another of our Lockdown Ladies, Alexandra Bastedo, had an early, uncredited, role in this.

She was a harem girl in Carry on up the Khyber (1968), the first of  six Carry on films she would appear in, with her largest role being in Carry on up the Jungle as a fur clad jungle queen,

Most of her roles were small ones, such as a hotel receptionist in The Italian Job (1969) and she played another hotel receptionist in The Spy who Loved Me (1977). Sh also appeared in the alternative Bond, Never Say Never Again (1983).

Her biggest role was in Hammer's Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) in which she played two parts. Her reluctance to strip off effected her further use by Hammer at the time and in British sex comedies of the period which her contemporaries appeared in.

See did a lot of TV work, including The Persuaders,  Special Branch and Space:1999 but mainly appeared in comedy shows.

For me she is best remembered as the girl from the Hai Karate aftershave TV advertisements which ran every Christmas for seven years in the seventies and provided her with a significant income due to repeat fees.


Day 12 Gabrielle Drake

British actress Gabrielle Drake was actually born in Lahore, India, where her father was an engineer but the family moved back to Britain when she was eight. Having studied at RADA she began a stage career in the mid sixties.

She made her first big impact in UFO in 1970 and, despite many other roles, it is this that she is probably still best known for. making a striking entrance in the first episode where she does a semi striptease on Moonbase.

In the early seventies, unlike Valerie Leon, as mentioned above, she appeared in a number of British sex comedies including Connecting Rooms (1970) where she played an artist's model, as seen in our first picture and above.

She had a bigger rle in Au Pair Girls (1972) (above) which was directed by Hammer stalwart Val Guest who had directed when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and parts of Casino Royale (1967).

She only made a couple more film appearances after Au Pair Girls and mainly did stage work, with some TV work in the seventies and eighties including a two year stint on the soap Crossroads in the mid-eighties.


Day 13 Jenny Agutter

I first became aware of Miss Agutter when she appeared in the BBC adaption of The Railway Children in 1968 and the family all went to the cinema, unusually for a a non-Bond film, to see the film version, two years later.

I remember seeing trailers for Logan's Run (1977) at the cinema but didn't see it at the time and really only knew is from all the SF cinema books that were published in the wake of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.  

I must have seen it on TV some time later and think I have only seen it once.  I don't have it in my DVD collection and should give it another viewing, if only for Miss Agutter's outfits.

She spent a decade in America after this, making Hollywood films and TV and I do remember going to see An American Werewolf in London (1981) with a girlfriend in Oxford but she didn't like it at all, even though it was her choice.  It was the first time I had seen Agutter in anything since The Railway Children so was something of a surprise!

She returned to England in the nineties and fitted TV roles around family life and in 2000 appeared in another version of The Railway Children, this time playing the mother.  I think the last thing I saw her in was an episode of Poirot from about fifteen years ago.

Latterly she has had a regular role in the BBC's Call the Midwife which I have never seen, as it is a girl's programme.


Day 14 Elke Sommer

Elke Sommer is one of those European actresses whose name you know but you then struggle to remember any of the films she has appeared in. Von Ryan's Express (1965), from which this publicity shot comes, is one of those films that always seemed to be on TV at Christmas but I don't think I have ever seen it.

For our purposes it was her appearance in the Matt Helm film The Wrecking Crew (1969) that saw her appear as a Lockdown Lady and she appeared in a number of similar spy films in the sixties, including Deadlier than the Male (1967) with Sylva Koscini.

She certainly had a number of Hollywood generic European roles although she was discovered in Italy by film director Vittorio De Sica, when she was on holiday, as a teenager.  She soon changed her name from the very Teutonic Elke Baronin von Schletz. 

Most of her work in the seventies was back in European films although she became the highest paid actress to appear in a Carry On film in 1975's Carry on Behind.

Since the eighties she has concentrated more on painting than acting and now lives in Los Angeles. As you can see, she was always happy to pose for revealing photographs for magazines and appeared in Playboy pictorials several times.