Posts Tagged ‘Miss Dixie’

Movie Moment: Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman

July 10, 2010

Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman (Nathan Juran, 1958).


Credit for all these great screencaps is due to meltdownclown on the lj.

Oh, no, it’s a giant lady and is she pissed. I think everyone should see this movie so I will only give you the barest bones of the lowdown and let the caps do the convincing, here. I think I’ll blather about Allison Hayes after a brief plot summary.

Allison Hayes plays Nancy Archer, a wealthy but unhappy wife with a dick of a husband who drives her to drink. All that dandy Harry, played by William Hudson, wants to do is hang out at the bar with his trampy girlfriend named (wait for it) Honey.

Honey is played by the lovely and talented Yvette Vickers, who we will see much more of, well, ALL of, later this month in her Girls of Summer appearance.

Besides Honey and Harry pissing her family money away on gin and poorly rolled cigarettes in a van down by the river, Nancy has other troubles too, as ladies sometimes do, such as spending time in sanitariums and getting hit with rays from alien orbs that make her huge.

When Nancy sees evidence of aliens landing and insists on her story’s truth, Harry decides it’s the perfect opportunity to get her committed for good, the better to spend her money and bang Honey free of nagging.

Because it’s hard to ask your husband where he’s going or how come a check bounced when you’ve got that clampy-downy-so-you-don’t-bite-off-your-tongue-while-the-jokers-make-an-epileptic-of-you electroshock mouth guard thingy in your mouth. Better living through electricity. Tell a friend.

Honey and Harry, because they are good and god-fearing people, flirt with the idea of just o’d’ing Nance on her sedatives, but it’s too late! The most repressed and angry drunk in town, pretty much the last person you’d ever want to grow into a strong super-giant, has — grown into a strong super-giant!

Oh, shit, you did NOT expect her to come down to the bar and wreck the joint. And even if you thought it was a dim possibility, you probably didn’t picture her 50 feet tall.

Nancy’s well-deserved rampage doesn’t come until nearly the end of the film and is sadly brief at that, but she does manage to kill both Honey and Harry, so that’s a check in the win column.

Allison Hayes (née Mary Jane) was labeled by Life magazine in one of the few other before Fifty Foot Woman pics I found of her as “Miss Washington 1949,” confusing all the way around because she was really Miss District of Columbia and it was as a Miss USA candidate, NOT Miss America. More on Miss USA in a sec.

According to the wiki she was also crowned Miss Dixie in 1951, which pageant has come up before in our Valentine Vixen post on Nancy Jo Hooper. The lovely and talented Sophia Loren lookalike Ms. Hooper was runner-up in the 1962 Miss Dixie pageant. Remember?

To refresh your memory on the super-fair and reasonable rules of the beauty contest, via pageantopolis: “Each contestant was judged on five qualities: intellect (5%), personality (10%), appearance in evening gown (15%), talent (30%), and appearance in swim suit (30%).”

“The judges each picked the girls they rated from first to seventh in each classification of competition. The girl with the highest cumulative point score became Miss Dixie.”

You may sneer at the low rating of intellect on the judging scale and I agree it’s not entirely amiss. But if you are ruffled by the equal weight of “talent” and “appearance in a swimsuit” please remember that the Miss USA pageant continues not to have a “talent” portion at all.

Let’s give credit where credit is due: kudos to the Miss USA organization for not sugar-coating the fact that this is a contest where what really matters is bikinis.* Let’s call a spade a spade and make no bones of this thing — leave your cello at home, honey, because what we want to know about you is how you look in a “formal” dress that would make a pimp blush.

*The Miss USA pageant organization and its sister organization, Miss Universe, provide women with the opportunity to travel, further their education and serve the international community through philanthropy. Charities aligned with the Miss USA organization include the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Foundation, the USO, and, most importantly to me, Gilda’s Club.

I’m not knocking Miss USA herself nor any titleholders or competitors past or present. They’re hard working good looking gals and that’s great. I’m just saying — a talent portion would make the pageant look better. Also, no more Donald Trump and reality television programs built around it would help.

Ms. Hayes was lifelong close personal friends with the quietly wonderful fag of our fathers Mr. Raymond “Perry Mason” Burr, beginning with the time of filming 1954’s Western film Count Three and Pray. After her own tv and screen careers started petering out, Burr wrangled her 5 separate guest appearances on Perry Mason.

That makes so much sense cause everyone knows that gay guys love beauty pageants, am I right. Hey everybody it’s mildly-hateful generalization day! mildly-hatefully generalize with me! Black guys like purple. Chicks like shoes. Irish people unilaterally drink.

I’m sure you will be shocked, given the care and craft evidenced in these photos, to learn that Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman was made for only around $88,000. The picture was a huge hit and talk of a sequel was shopped about but never materialized.

There was a 1993 remake by Christopher Guest (Best in Show, Spinal Tap) for HBO that was rated a critical failure. I disagree but I am widely known for my devotion to its star, one Miss Daryl Christine Flyass Mothafuckin’ Hannah!!!, so I admit to enormous bias.**

**Flyass Mothafuckin’ is a family name. If she was a boy it would have been her first name, not her middle. Girls in the family are named Daryl and boys are named Flyass Mothafuckin’. Did You Know?***

***This is the opposite of true.

In the 1993 update, the Nancy character is not so much an alcoholic, though she is neurotic and repressed. There is also the addition of a really overbearing father and her husband is bossier with her too. As with the original, when she gets her “day,” you are pumped as shit for her.

I like this type of story. I always liked to see the quiet kid with glasses ignoring his lunchroom tormentors just up and flip the fuck out and go nuts and bloody noses and make rich kids cry. But the truth is, the couple times I’ve seen something similar, and I am this way as well, come to think of it so I’ll switch to “we” on this one — it never quite works out.

We hold-it-all-in types are so out of practice at being expressively furious that we tend to sputter when we try to swear at our oppressors, and somehow we do not entirely break things that we throw at the wall even if we thought we threw it pretty hard.

Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman has been widely satirized and paid homage to, I hope I am convincing you justly.

As a few examples, the image of Nancy in her white dress from the poster pops up on album covers for alternative bands now and again, and on people’s walls in movies a lot. The shot of her next to the power lines (to demonstrate her shocking height!!) has become fairly iconic because it’s a great composition.

In the recent animated film Monsters vs. Aliens, the character of Susan, voiced by Reese Witherspoon, is an obvious parody of Nancy Archer. When Susan first becomes Ginormica, she is exactly fifty feet tall, although she grows slightly larger a few times throughout the film.

Susan/Ginormica’s character backstory is also similar to Nancy’s. She is a sweet, self-sacrificing girl who is put upon by her arrogant, grandstanding fiance, and frequently represses her own feelings in favor of giving his primacy. She does not consider herself strong and generally relies on others to rescue and advise her.

By the end of the film, she has become resolutely strong and self-sufficient, and it’s a very enjoyable transition to watch. I think I might have to give it its own Movie Moment one of these days, because it is also hilarious.

Subject jump. The mind is such an extraordinary thing. My grandmother has been having a terrible Bad Day, and keeps insisting I take her home and that we are in Idaho and not California, and that I am her cousin and not myself and she is sad because she keeps remembering that all of her brothers and sisters are dead and she just wants to see her dogs, and it has basically been a heartbreaking afternoon —- but as I was putting this post together and selecting the pictures for it, she came by and stood behind me (probably to ask me again to take her home, which we are driving to Washington/Idaho next week to do but likely only to clean it up and sell it, I hope to God that does not sink in).

She saw the pictures on the monitor and said immediately, “Oh, Lord, I remember that at the drive-in! That must have played all Summer after it first came out. What’s her name? Hayes, Hayward?”

I said, “You got it. Allison Hayes.”

She laughed and shook her head and said, “Fifty foot woman. My word. I think everyone in Spokane probably saw it three times each.”

Now she is on the phone with my mother patiently explaining that when she comes home from work, could she please just run her home because Priest River is not so far from Spokane and then she could sleep with her dogs tonight.

I hate what’s happening to her. I think I hate it enough to maybe need a book about how to deal with it or a meeting to go to or something.

Valentine Vixen — Nancy Jo Hooper, Miss February 1964

February 28, 2010

The lovely and talented Nancy Jo Hooper was, in addition to being a born model and Playboy‘s Miss February 1964, several other “Misses” as well. We will get there.


Photographed by Pompeo Posar.

I say she was a born model because she knows what she is supposed to be selling here — but, like any good model, she is “selling” it by dint of excellent effort, and not necessarily because she “feels” it.

Though she oozes that kind of satisfied, curvy, cat-like sexuality that made Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor famous, Pompeo Posar said in the Playmate Book that, when he asked Nancy to give him a pose that was “a little more sexy,” she responded immediately, “But I don’t know anything about sex!” a disarmingly nervous and virginal response from a practical woman with some chutzpah and a good gift for acting, but a more bookish actual personality.


From the heart of the old Confederacy we recently received a pair of candid snapshots and a few hopeful words, enticing enough for us to send a staffer to Savannah to meet Nancy Jo Hooper, the walnut-haired 20-year-old who was to become this February’s Playmate. Hazel-eyed Nancy Jo has lived all her life with her parents and younger sister in the same Georgia town, so small that she asked us not to name it, because if six visitors arrived at once they’d cause a traffic jam. (“Georgia Peach.” Playboy, February 1964.)

Actually, I’m pretty sure that is bullshit and she was from Spartanburg, South Carolina. The small-town thing is true, but the Georgia part is a smokescreen, just like the name she is modeling under — it’s similar enough to her real facts to have the ring of truth, but is not quite the truth itself. Understandable subterfuge in a person trying to make a national name for herself under her real name. But I’ll get to there.


Now a telephone-company employee, this Southern bell ringer previously clerked in a drugstore, there heard Playboy purchasers tell her she was Playmate material herself.

Discarding daydreams of discovery, she took the initiative by sending us snapshots of herself, because, as she explained in a caramel drawl, “It occurred to me that no one from Playboy would ever find me here on his own.” (Ibid.)


Nancy Jo’s flight to Chicago for test shots marked her first airplane trip, and her first visit to any city besides Savannah. Soft-mannered, soft-spoken and shy (“I really enjoy walking alone in the park”), well-read Nancy Jo offers the sort of attractions that could once more set armies marching through Georgia. (Ibid.)

Also they would march to a second Civil War because of Nancy’s controversial positions on state’s rights and slave ownership. (Joke. I just thought the write-up got a little overreaching there.)


AMBITIONS: To become a wife and mother.
TURN-ONS: Shoes of all kinds.
TURNOFFS: Insincerity, rudeness.
I LOVE BEING A PLAYMATE: Because I’ll look back on it as an important experience of my youth.

(Playmate data sheet)


PLAY ME SOME: Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt.
GREAT FLICKS: “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights.”
THEY SAY I RESEMBLE: Sophia Loren. Do you think?

Always a fan of a Brontë-loving girl. And Satchmo, too? Right on! And yes. She looks like Sophia Loren. Keep that in mind as I go on, here. Because it comes up again.

Okay, so in a search for Nancy Jo Hooper, I ran across a post at “If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger (There’d be a lot of dead copycats),” to which I already link in my blogroll but I’m happy to provide a specific post link here. It was a critique of the lovely lighting and photography done in her spread.

A gentleman commented to that post that he was looking for Nancy for a class reunion. He said her real name was Nancy Ann Harrison, and she was from Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Now, if you’ve been following the comments today, you’ll see I was way off base about thinking I’d turned up the modern incarnation of a former Playmate, although I am happy to report about it because I stand by being pleased to have discovered the work of the nonetheless wonderful Ms. L. F. (at whose request posts pertaining to her have been removed.) Sure, it ended up good because I got to read some new stuff and learn some new ideas, but I was understandably gun-shy about turning up a false lead again.

Being wrong is cool and it’s important because we are forced outside our comfort zones, given the opportunity to uncover something new and to show humility and the ability to learn from our mistakes, but, cheeseballs! I don’t want to always be the chump ringing in my buzzer only to stammer out the “incorrect” answer — being right sometimes is nice too.

So, I dug as hard as I could this time, much more strictly with myself than last time. And I turned up the following clipping from the Spartanburg, South Carolina Herald-Journal, an article dated July 8, 1962.

Yeah, she is the same girl, and yep, she still looks like Sophia — although the weight they give in the article is heavier than the one she listed two years later in Playboy. Either she went on a diet or the same fact-wrangler that invented her alternate name for her Playboy appearance also took liberties with her already-admirable figure.

Ms. Harrison placed as second runner-up in the Miss Dixie pageant; first place was Rita Wilson of Humbold, Tennessee (center in the above picture), and first runner-up was Susan Woodall of Weldon, North Carolina. There were twenty girls who competed altogether in the 1962 Miss Dixie pageant.

If you are like me and have been forced in your life, often against your will, to take your pageants seriously, or even if you are lucky enough to be unlike me and have never accidentally called the city of Patterson “a shithole” into an open mic during the Miss Apricot Fiesta competition, you may still be interested to read a little run-down of the Miss Dixie pageant rules.

Via the amazing Pageantopolis:

Miss Dixie (“Queen of the South”)

This southern states regional pageant was held annually during the Fourth of July holiday in Daytona Beach (FL) since 1946. It was held by the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce. It seemed to have been discontinued in 1968.

To be eligible for the Miss Dixie contest, the girls had to have placed first or second in another major contest and be from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas or the District of Columbia.

They must be unmarried & between the ages of 17 and 26. Eligible Southern beauties had until June 18 (2 weeks prior) to file their applications. From 1957 onwards, the first 20 successful applications were accepted for the pageant. There were a Top 7, from which the Top 3 were announced.

Each contestant was judged on five qualities: intellect (5%), personality (10%), appearance in evening gown (15%), talent (30%), and appearance in swim suit (30%). The judges each picked the girls they rated from first to seventh in each classification of competition. The girl with the highest cumulative point score became Miss Dixie. (source)

Nancy qualified to enter the Miss Dixie contest by earning the title of Miss Sun Fun South Carolina, a pageant held at Myrtle Beach. She came in second in the national competition about a month before the Miss Dixie pageant, on June 9, 1962 — the winner was Ginger Poitevint of Huntsville, Alabama. Nancy made an impressive showing at the Miss Sun Fun USA contest; besides being first runner-up in the pageant as a whole, she also took top honors in the Swimsuit and Photogenic categories.

As they are rather obviously the same gal, I can only conjecture that all that pretty airy nonsense about Georgia was malarkey the same way Nancy’s name was, although it’s easy to see how they came up with it. I assume the strategy went, keep the first name, Nancy, because it is common and easy enough to keep track of, then use Jo (like Jo-Ann) instead of Ann, though as far as Harrison instead of Hooper — actually, that one I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. I’m out of gas on thinking I knew how this went!

Dig the little trumpet hand puppet — super-cute. I would like to as a final grateful thought link once more to Pageantopolis , without which most of this post would’ve been boring and impossible, and the site is really great and tons of fun — I think I am going to have to start featuring more links to the work and online scrapbook of the very fun Donald West. Thanks!