Related to the last post, since we’re on the subject of GG —
Mata Hari (George Fitzmaurice, 1931.)
Since my unexpected New Years’ acquisition of two of them, my uke playing is going swimmingly, not that you asked. I’d love to have the courage to be one of those people who records and accompanies herself covering songs with their ukulele on YouTube but I doubt I’ll ever follow through. Scrutiny of my physical self terrifies me. But I’ll tell the Internet all kinds of private shit about my emotions. Contradiiiictoryyy …
Valley of the Dolls (Mark Robson, 1963). Jennifer North (Sharon Tate) appears in a French art house film to get enough money to get her clingy, vampiric mother off her back and hopefully resolve other financial entanglements in her life. She becames a moderate success and something of a sex symbol in Europe, but continues to grapple with success in America. All the while, what the Jennifer North character wants more than anything is to have a child to whom she can show the affection and provide the loving stability she, herself, never received.
Travilla, Costume Designer: Sharon Tate is divine, a real find. Just wait and see what happens when the critics and public see her in Valley of the Dolls. Sharon has everything Marilyn Monroe had and more. She has the fascinating, yet wholly feminine strength of a Dietrich or a Garbo….a classically beautiful face, an exciting figure, the kind of sex appeal and personality appeal to become as glittering a star as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor.
(“Valley of the Dolls.” Screen Stories. December 1967.)
Robert Viharo: Everybody [on set] was competitive with everybody. The only one that I felt was above it, was Sharon Tate. The sweetest, purest, most open spirit.
(Viharo, Robert. AMC’s “Backstory: Valley of the Dolls.” Original airdate: April 23, 2001.)
Jennifer North’s dislike of her career being centered around her body and her desire for a husband and children mirrors Sharon Tate’s own ambitions in life, and discomfort with being viewed only as a sex symbol and not recognized for her free spirit and comedic timing. (Of course, a major difference is Sharon had a very close relationship with her family and a positive upbringing.) Ms. Tate threw herself in to this part and received very good reviews, best of the cast and much better than her far more famous co-star Patty Duke. However, given her unique style and love for others, she would probably dislike that I wrote that comparison out. So I’m sorry, Ms. Tate — I merely wanted to point out that Travilla’s prediction came true!
From her name and slyly amused, distinctly un-cheesecakey pose and expressions, I figured that the lovely and talented Linné Nanette Ahlstrand would be that rare beast, the international Playmate.
Color me all wrong. Ms. Ahlstrand was actually born in Chicago, Illinois, the hometown of Playboy and a city from which a substantial number of early and heyday Playmates hailed. The text which accompanied Ms. Ahlstrand’s pictorial alluded to having discovered her on the beach in Los Angeles but it is rich with malarkey and does not even bother to feature an interview with her, so I have my doubts.
The title of her write-up was “The Laziest Girl in Town,” which also lead me to expect to find her of some German or Swedish extraction. The title comes from the song “The Laziest Gal in Town” a Cole Porter tune, which was a longtime staple of Marlene Dietrich’s performing repertoire.
Ms. Dietrich was a famously German-American international treasure who kept on ticking unlike her early celebrity companions such as Joan Crawford and the great Garbo and she had begun to tour live around this time (1958) in addition to continuing to appear in movies.
As an example, she made her biggest pictures after age 35, something like an early model of Meryl Streep. Witness for the Prosecution, Judgment at Nuremberg, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright were all made when Marlene was over 40 years old. That is nothing to sneeze at. I have an album on which she sings “The Laziest Girl in Town” and she still has such a wonderful husky strong accent that it sounds like “lay-zeh-est gell een tone.” Love it.
With that in mind, I figured they were establishing with the title of Ms. Ahlstrand’s article a link to Marlene and particularly one of her former screen characters to parallel Ms. Ahlstrand bieng of foreign extraction and languishing in the Western sun. See, Dietrich played diverse roles in her youngest years under Josef von Sternberg but became indelibly known by larger and more modern audiences for portraying a sexy bargirl in the Old West named Frenchy — despite her outrageously strong German accent — in the sweeping frontier film Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 1939).
The posters for the film claimed that it had “Corralled the greatest cast in cinema history!” Dietrich’s career-making part in Destry Rides Again was parodied by Madeline Kahn, departed queen of all that’s wonderful, in the 1974 Mel Brooks satire Blazing Saddles as the saloon singer Lili Von Schtupp (R.I.P., MK).
Of course all this conjecture came to nothing, like I said, when I realized that Ms. Ahlstrand was from Chicago and not of any exotic blonde overseas extraction. She moved from Chicago to New York to pursue modeling when she was younger, then out to L.A. and environs to dig in to acting in film and television.
Though Linné was best known by audiences for her work in television as a dispatcher on the program Highway Rescue, she was also in several films throughout the late 50′s and early 60′s, including Senior Prom, Beast from Haunted Cave, and Holiday for Lovers. Her most substantial big screen role was in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Living Venus, in which she played Diane.
Unlike the gory funfests for which Lewis later became known, Living Venus is more of a biopic. Related to this post, the subject of Living Venus‘s rise-and-fall story is a publisher very much like Hugh Hefner. Jack Norwall, the fictionalized Hef played by Bill Kerwin, starts a magazine called Pagan.
Pagan’s success leads him to leave his loving fiancee and take up with his lovely and talented model, a waitress he discovered while hatching the idea for the magazine. Ms. Ahlstrand does not play the model, but rather the jilted good girl. The model ends up leaving him and killing herself as he becomes increasingly arrogant and tyrannical due to his success, and Norwall comes to realize that being on top was not all he cracked it up to be. But too late, as he has lost for good his fiancee, best friend, and soul.
I’d like to point out that in my opinion the only part of Living Venus that really parallels Hef is Jack Norwall starting a successful nudie mag. Hef did not leave his wife for another woman; quite the opposite actually. So, no.
A little looker, Ms. Ahlstrand was 5’2″ at the time of her appearance in Playboy, which I believe puts her on an equal footing with Kai Brendlinger (bleah) for shortest Playmate until feisty pocket rocket Joni Mattis’s famously not-nude appearance (love her forever) and eventual eclipsement by Sue Williams who at 4’11″ at the time of her appearance in 1965 is the pocketiest rocket of them all, aww — that we know of. It’s tough to say for sure because, prior to September of 1959, the Playmates were not required to complete a data sheet. So unless their height came up in the article or their contemporaneous stats appeared in parallel work elsewhere, the math is fuzzy.
Click below for scans of the original article.
Tragically Ms. Ahlstrand died of cancer in January of 1967. She was only 30 years old and had been married less than a year and a half. R.I.P. to such a young talent.
Death Becomes Her (Robert Zemeckis, 1992).
Anna: How about a nice collagen buff?
Madeline: “A collagen buff”? You might as well ask me to wash with soap and water!
Anna: I could do your make-up myself…
Madeline: Make-up is pointless. It does nothing anymore! Are you even listening to me? Do you even care? You stand there with your 22-year-old skin and your tits like … like ROCKS and laugh at me…
This is a noteworthy film for me because, besides being hilarious and featuring fun performances by some of my favorite actors, it’s the first movie in which I ever saw Isabella Rossellini.
When I found out that on top of being crazy-beautiful, she is Ingrid Bergman’s daughter (she and her twin resulted from a marriage whose scandalous origins nearly got the great Bergman blackballed), I was totally blown away.
However, today’s brief research turned up a surprising fact about what was, for me, one of the more memorable scenes in the movie, when Isabella in the role of Lisle von Rhuman, the sorceress who provides eternal youth to the materialistic L.A. clientele shown in the film, emerges naked from a pool in a rear view.
Come to find out all these years later, it was not Isabella. A body double was used in the scene. It was a chick named Catherine Bell. Even today, at 57, the lovely and talented Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini still makes annual lists of “Most beautiful women,” so I can only guess that either (a) Ms. Rossellini’s modesty forbade her to bare all and she requested the body double because she had enough clout between her talent and her lineage to demand that kind of thing, or, (b) her actual ass was so mind-meltingly terrific that the studio felt it would be irresponsible to expose it to the viewing public, fearing it might spark riots, mind control, and catatonia. Almost definitely (b), wouldn’t you say?
edit: So, despite having had a huge lady-crush on Isabella Rossellini since I was 13, I somehow missed the fact that she had scoliosis as a kid and underwent painful bone grafts, braces, stretching, and spinal surgery to correct it which left her with a network of scars. Thus, no back-side-nudity for Isa, now or ever. Still predict her ass was mind-meltingly terrific, tho.