Saturday, March 30, 2024

Veteran MacMurray & Newcomer Novak in ‘Pushover’ 1954

 

Veteran star Fred MacMurray & starlet Kim Novak in 1954's film noir, "Pushover."


The tale of an authority figure going bad for big bucks and a beautiful broad is nothing new. In its time, Pushover was a B+ movie with a veteran star who was a leading man for two decades, cast opposite a newcomer starlet with no acting experience. Luckily, Pushover had a strong story taken from two novels, a snappy, adult script and direction, and those stars happened to be Fred MacMurray and Kim Novak. MacMurray was in the process from going from leading man to character roles to future family star via Disney and sitcom My Three Sons. Novak went from minor model to major film star with the release of Pushover. A sleeper hit at the time, Pushover is considered by many a noir classic today.

Note how Kim Novak's outfit and makeup differ in this p.r. photo
than the actual scene depicted at the top from 1954's "Pushover."

Richard Quine directed this crime noir tautly and stylishly. He went from acting to directing about this time, and got praise for handling another B+ film noir with a veteran star: Ride a Crooked Mile with Mickey Rooney. After Pushover, he surprisingly went on to direct mostly romantic comedies. Quine began a professional and occasionally personal association with Kim, and handled her quite well as an actress. Kim was a model with two film credits as an extra to her resume. He worked with her strengths, which was her beauty, sensuality, and vulnerability, which pretty much remained her calling card as an actress. 

Kim Novak spends much screen time silently as Lona McLane in 1954's "Pushover."

Kim Novak, like the later Tippi Hedren, became a star before she developed skills as an actress. Director Quine gave her as little dialogue as possible, photographing her viewed by cops through binoculars, or silently driving in the night, and gazing at herself in mirrors. From the get-go, Kim's first role as Lona McLane was as an object of desire, which Hitchcock utilized best four years in Vertigo. In less voyeuristic ways, Kim was the pretty prize in her breakout star role in Picnic, Jeanne Eagels, Strangers When We Meet, and even her final big movie, The Legend of Lylah Clare. Novak was on the eve of turning 21 during filming of Pushover. Kim is slim, yet curvy and very pretty, though stuck with studio assembly line makeup and hair that make her look a bit tarty—however, it fit the role. Soon after, she'd get the big studio makeover. Despite her trance-like performance, Kim elicits empathy as she goes from a kept woman who schemes to get her bank robber boyfriend’s loot, to a woman who genuinely cares about a crooked cop, played by Fred MacMurray.

Fred MacMurray looked frankly midde-aged as dirty cop Paul Sheridan
in 1954's "Pushover."

Most actors wouldn't want to be cast as middle-aged, even if they actually were. But Fred MacMurray plays the role of Paul Sheridan with no script or visual camouflage. His veteran cop is a bitter about his lot in life, compared to his younger partner, played by Phil Carey. Paul wants to get his hands on the bank robber’s cash stash. MacMurray is photographed jowls and all in his mid-40s, compared to 25 years younger Novak, who get the lovely close-ups. Fred's dirty cop first plays Kim's kept girl, only to fall in love with her. Later, you find out the feeling is gradually mutual from Lona. MacMurray plays basically an older version of his character from Double Indemnity, but more realistically than his previous cad. I never found Fred the most exciting actor in the world, but always thought him more interesting as the bad guy.

Before he was soap bad guy Asa Buchanan, Philip Carey was a good & good-looking
 cop partner in 1954's "Pushover."

As for Philip Carey as McAllister, I wonder why he didn't become a big, mid-century movie star. He was talented, masculine, charismatic, and good-looking. I can think of a number of young actors from the late '40s and early '50s who were given the leading man treatment, but ended up character actors because audiences weren't buying. Carey always worked, but often in westerns and TV guest shots. Much later, Carey became a star, as daytime's version of J.R. Ewing, Asa Buchanan on One Life to Live.

Before Dorothy Malone went platinum, she was the nice nurse next door to sex bomb
 Kim Novak in 1954's "Pushover." With nice cop Phil Carey!

Dorothy Malone, who had been kicking around Hollywood for a decade, as opposed to Kim's instant rise, played the brunette neighbor nurse of Novak’s kept woman. A decade older than Novak, Malone makes the most of her second female lead. It's also amusing that Carey’s good cop is peeping on her Ann Stewart, while bad cop MacMurray is peeping on Novak’s Lona. An easy way to change a golden era actress' image was to dye her hair. Lana and Marilyn's careers took off once they went platinum, and Joan Bennett got a new career by going brunette. This was Malone's last role as with dark hair. She went platinum for 1955's Young at Heart. Her career took off, winning an Oscar for her bad girl in Written on the Wind

Like Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak didn't have much use for bras, either!
With Fred MacMurray as the cop who falls for her, in 1954's "Pushover."

One thing that surprised me was how much got past the censors in Pushover. The production code was starting to erode, but still very much in place. But some of the double entendre dialogue, ala Double Indemnity, is not very subtle. Plus, Kim is obviously bra-less in several outfits, on which the camera lingers. Both Novak and Malone's characters get some fresh attention directed at them, rather blatantly. Not that I'm complaining! I roll my eyes at old movies where prostitutes had to be called hostesses or models, but it’s just surprising here.

Who's playin' who? In film noir, it can be hard to tell! Fred MacMurray & Kim Novak
 in 1954's crime drama, "Pushover."


The bottom line with 1954’s Pushover is that while it's nothing new, it was filmed and performed in fine noir style. The story is told in a very adult way for its time, which is one of the reasons it still holds up. Another reason Pushover still appeals is it’s the first time audiences got to see Kim Novak on film.

Kim Novak's last close-up as the bad girl gone good, in 1954's "Pushover."

Here’s an excellent adult soap, starring Kim Novak and Kirk Douglas, directed by Richard Quine: https://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/2019/02/kim-kirk-team-for-suburban-soap-opera.html

 

 

 

Friday, March 22, 2024

The Two Faces of Joan Fontaine: ‘Born to Be Bad’ 1950

 

(L) Joan Fontaine as conniver Christabel in 1950's "Born to Be Bad."
(R) Carol Burnett from her TV show, spoofed this noir soap as "Raised to Be Rotten!"

By the end of "Born to Be Bad," everyone wants to strangle Christabel, even herself!


Born to Be Bad is a film noir soap opera that toys with Joan Fontaine's on-screen persona. In the role referenced in the title, Joan's seemingly demure miss recalls the cinematic bouquet of shy English roses that Fontaine played in the '40s. Here, this rose reveals her thorns, as the poor relation who’s a two-faced schemer. Fontaine's memoir was titled No Bed of Roses, ironic since a Bad character sneeringly refers to her schemer’s life in a rich marriage as such. Fontaine was also known off-screen for her sharp-tongued wit. On-screen, her characters were usually soft, wide-eyed, one brow raised, with a Mona Lisa smile. 

Christabel Caine comes to San Fran! "Born to Be Bad's" Joan Fontaine with her
go-to expression, the arched eyebrow, slight smile, and "Who, me?" expression!

As conniving Christabel Caine, Joan and director Nicholas Ray use the Fontaine image very cleverly. As other movie fans have noted, Christabel's tactics are much like the same year's passive/aggressive villain, Eve Harrington, in 1950’s All About Eve. Fontaine's acting style is also similar to Anne Baxter’s, but much more dialed down. There's the same raised eyebrow, deer in the headlights looks, and lowered voice, but Baxter often went big!  They even have the same severe curled bob that was mysteriously popular post-war. Christabel wants a rich husband and Eve wants to be a star, and anyone in the way gets steamrollered.

Christabel seems to be the bad seed, an orphan raised by a meek relative. She leaves her Aunt Clara in Santa Flora and moves up to San Francisco to go to business school, and live with career girl Donna, who works for Christabel’s uncle. At first, family and friends are taken by the poor "girl"—it’s amusing to think of over-30 Fontaine’s goal to be a secretary. Not to mention the poor relation arrives with a gaggle of Hattie Carnegie dresses, swanned throughout Born to Be Bad

Joan Fontaine's Christabel feigns innocence in 1950's "Born to Be Bad." 

Joan Fontaine plays the part in perfect studio era style. The demure diva smirks as the supposedly sophisticated city folk fall for her manipulations. Or the left eyebrow that gets an aerobic workout every time Christabel gets away with her latest scheme. While Joan Fontaine was naturally pretty, it's an eye roll that men are falling all over her or that she's so charismatic that others are blinded by her blatant insincerity. The film’s posters describe Christabel as man-bait and a female savage! Rita Hayworth or Vivien Leigh, she ain’t. The spinster bob, plus a series of shoulderless gowns that accentuate her slightly hunched posture and modest bosom don’t help at all, either.

"Born to Be Bad" hardly lives up to the poster's captions or depicted cup size of Joan!

As Donna, Joan Leslie is natural and surprisingly holds her own. Just 25 at the time, and while no Janet Leigh or Eva Marie Saint, Leslie's playing is straightforward and strong. 

Joan Leslie's Donna realizes that scheming Christabel is "Born to Be Bad!

As the men in Christabel's life, there's Mel Ferrer as Gabriel Broome, the young artist who paints her portrait. Nicknamed “Gobby,” he’s more of a frenemy, and some film fans think he was a coded gay character. No wonder he didn’t fall prey to this perilous mantrap! Then there's Robert Ryan, well-cast as rugged author Nick Bradley, who sees through Christabel but can't help but be captivated by her alleged charms. I loved it when Ryan’s Nick declares he won’t be the vixen’s “backstreet boy!” Another staple of this era's type of film is the "smart" dialogue that comes off campy. And Ferrer and Ryan get the best/worst of the cheesy zingers, usually directed at that devil in disguise, Christabel.

A young Mel Ferrer plays a glib, gay young artist in 1950's "Born to Be Bad."
Robert Ryan is the rugged writer who charms himself & Joan Fontaine
in 1950's "Born to Be Bad."
Zachary Scott, at home in a tux or ascot, is the millionaire in 1950's "Born to Be Bad."

Zachary Scott played many characters who were either charmers, creeps, or both. Remember him as the cad Monty in Mildred Pierce? As Donna's rich fiancé Curtis Carey, he's sympathetic, but falls for Christabel's conniving. In the 90 minute film, Donna's out and Christabel is in by the half way mark! But, she still hankers for that rough-hewn Ryan. Natch, Christabel overplays her hand and soon enough gets caught and tossed out on her ear. Donna and the millionaire are reunited, natch. And Christabel contentedly drives off with a carload of furs. 

Carol Burnett as "Christinabelle" in her takeoff of "Born to Be Bad," called
"Raised to Be Rotten!" With Harvey Korman, so good at spoofing Scott's rich guys.

Carol Burnett was famed for her television show’s film takeoffs and she lampooned this type of film perfectly. Here, Born to Be Bad is called Raised to Be Rotten. Carol kicks it up a few notches, playing crafty "Christinabelle!" By the end of the skit, she’s a pickpocket to everyone along the way out. Burnett's spoof cleverly skewers every time Christinabelle and the rugged writer go into a clinch, she swoops into his arms, and the music swells. Or when guest star Richard Crenna as Ryan's writer tells Christinabelle to shorten her name! Carol's got Joan's arched eyebrows and smirk down pat and her bad girl aptly tells Crenna’s bad boy to “take your cheap repartee and get out!” This parody is so close to the bone it reminds me of Carol’s take off of Joan Crawford’s Torch Song.

One thing that makes me laugh about Robert Ryan's rugged artsy type is his proclamations about Christabel as a woman. It reminds me of Dane Clark as the opinionated artist giving Bette Davis guff in A Stolen Life or Steven Boyd's editor to new girl Hope Lange in The Best of Everything. The gist of which is generally: "You know what your problem is? You're afraid of being a real woman!" And their characters surely had a solution for what ailed the leading ladies’ “problem.”

"Read any good books lately?" Joan Fontaine's schemer is feeling Zachary Scott
but looking at Robert Ryan, in 1950's "Born to Be Bad."

Born to Be Bad is one of those post-war film noir soaps that served as showcases for its leading lady. Monster hit Mildred Pierce in '45 was surely the inspiration. Joan Crawford herself did a series of such films in the late '40s through the '50s, as did many established female stars. The formula was the film diva was either a woman in jeopardy or a scheming vixen. The latter usually afforded a film fashion show for the star. The supporting cast was usually a bevy of leading men who were knocked over like bowling pins by the star's feminine wiles. Any women in the movies, while usually younger than the star diva, were no competition. Even if the star's character paid for her sins at the finale, she had a lot of fun along the way. And so it is with Born to Be Bad. Enjoy!

Here’s the film that mixed film noir and soap opera, brought Joan Crawford back and created a subgenre for strong female stars.  My look at Mildred Pierce: https://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/2020/03/how-joan-crawford-became-mildred-pierce.html

"Portrait of Joanie?" Mel Ferrer's artist creates this masterpiece
of Joan Fontaine's charismatic schemer in 1950's "Born to Be Bad."


Monday, March 4, 2024

Soapy Showbiz Fun: ‘Hollywood Wives’ 1985

 

Jackie Collins' "Hollywood Wives" was a mini-series hit for ABC in 1985.


Hollywood Wives was Jackie Collins’ most popular novel, of the many that she churned out for decades. With Dynasty then riding high on TV with Jackie’s sister Joan, producer Aaron Spelling snapped up the bestseller for a 1985 ABC mini-series. Like the book, Wives got bad reviews but was a big ratings hit.

I recall reading an interview with Jackie Collins, claiming that her showbiz stories were more authentic because she was part of the Hollywood scene, as opposed to outsider writers looking in. Maybe, but Jackie’s books were still one-dimensional, with little credibility. I love a good trashy read about the rich and famous and Jackie Susann’s Valley of the Dolls set the dirty suds standard. Hollywood columnist Joyce Haber’s The Users, which Collins pilfered the main plot for her Hollywood Wives, was much more realistic and sleazy. Dominick Dunne wrote page-turners that were much more juicy and authentic.

Did the costumes of "Hollywood Wives" get mixed up with those of "Golden Girls?"

A big reason for watching Hollywood Wives was the clothes. At his peak, designer Nolan Miller was hailed as an arbiter of old-time Hollywood glamour. When Dynasty came along, he and Joan Collins had a field day with increasingly over the top costumes. It set the style dial of the ‘80s, which was “Glitz is good.” Well, none of that has aged well. Miller’s glam outfits from that era look more drag queen than the real diva deal. Miller’s strong suit was dressing aging icons simply, like Barbara Stanwyck and Elizabeth Taylor, rather than his gaudy soap stars. Nearly all the power-dressing outfits of Hollywood Wives are laughably ugly: Shoulder pads galore, tassels and beads, oversized tops and gaudy sequined gowns, and so much more, more, more. As for the hair styles, it’s amusing to guess which star, male and female, are wearing their own hair, or sporting a wig, weave, or rug!

Nolan Miller's gown for "Hollywood Wives" seems inspired by a NYC taxi seat cover!

Laura Branigan’s convulsive wailing tries to bring pathos to the on the nose lyrics of the Hollywood Wives theme. Warning: If you listen, you’ll have this Tinseltown tune in your head for days! A mix of a cautionary tale (the pitfalls of Hollywood!) and fairytale (young newcomers get makeovers and movie offers by pure chance), all of it highly unbelievable. The villains are crass and cartoonish: the self-promoting producer, the high-class pimp, the scheming star, and the sleazy bottom feeders.

Here's the ear worm theme song from Hollywood Wives! Have a hair brush handy so you can sing along!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toZEvmbevw4


***As few spoilers as possible ahead***

I will say this: though some cast members are miscast or their talents were modest, everyone tries their best. The bad writing keeps the story from being a real show biz expose. That said, Hollywood Wives is trashy fun on a soap opera level.

Robert Stack gets the '80s glam look as George Lancaster in "Hollywood Wives."

Robert Stack plays revered icon George Lancaster, a star who’s considering a coming out of retirement for a hot property, Final Reunion. At least they didn't name him Kirk Lancaster! And Steve Forrest plays a former movie idol desperate for a comeback—sorry, a return—Ross Conti. It's typical of this type of mini-series that B actors turned TV stars are cast as legendary movie stars. Robert Stack is a Kirk/Burt type of actor, Steve Forrest is a Tony Curtis type heart throb whose career is suffering from hardening of the arteries.

Steve Forrest and Robert Stack admire each other's "work" in "Hollywood Wives."

Stack was always a stiff actor and here, Bob is given the ‘80s makeover, with fluffy, highlighted hair, and face-lifted mug full of makeup. He reminds me a Madame Tussaud wax figure, with his booming voice adding to the disembodied effect. Forrest has more fun as the aging matinee idol seeking assurance from everyone, and the only self-reflection he seeks comes from his mirror. Steve Forrest is five years past his hunky “Uncle Greg” in Mommie Dearest and still looks pretty good, though he looks like he’s had work done along the way.

Steve Forrest is amusing as aging movie hunk Ross Conti in "Hollywood Wives."

Candice Bergen as Elaine Conti, in gowns that look like coverups, "Hollywood Wives."

Candice Bergen is sympathetic but miscast as Elaine Conti, longsuffering wife of aging star Ross Conti. Bergen is gorgeous at 38, smart, sexy, loving, etc. Why would her wife put up with a 60 year old man-baby like Forrest's Ross? Also, Bergen’s Elaine should probably be Ross' second, younger wife, but she's made to act like the typical Hollywood first wife. Bergen, still looking model trim and beautiful, is stuck wearing some baggy, bulky monstrosities. And what's with that mullet in the first party scene? In casual wear, Candy looks stunning and subtle, hardly the desperate Hollywood housewife.

Candice Bergen looks like her gorgeous younger self in more casual moments
of 1985's "Hollywood Wives."

Frances Bergen, Candice's equally gorgeous mom, as Pamela Lancaster.

Frances Bergen plays Pamela, George Lancaster's new wife. One look at ageless beauty Frances and you’ll know where Candice got her damned classy good looks and hair!

Mary Crosby is a willful Hollywood daughter in 1985's "Hollywood Wives."

Mary Crosby as Karen Lancaster, the bad girl who’s really good deep down, was quite good at playing sultry vixens. Crosby’s Karen and Stack’s star have one of the most icky daughter-father confrontations ever, but hey, it works for them! Also unfortunate are Crosby and Suzanne Somers as the show’s femme fatales, who are over-dressed, over-tressed, and over-tarted up.

Suzanne Somers is fictional movie sex symbol Gina Germaine, interviewed by
Mary Hart of "Entertainment Tonight," in 1985's "Hollywood Wives."

Suzanne Somers is Gina Germaine, "the most beautiful, sensuous sex symbol in the United States today," proclaims Entertainment Tonight interviewer Mary Hart. Even in 1985, that wasn’t true! Somers is a latter day Monroe blonde bombshell, who wants to be taken seriously, with her eye on a role in Final Reunion. Somers’ response to Hart seems like a sly dig at Three's Company: "Sex symbols are for television series."

Anthony Hopkins is director Neil Gray, whose sobriety and fidelity fails him
under pressure, in 1985's "Hollywood Wives."

"When you have no taste, you can do anything," uttered by Anthony Hopkins, his explanation for slumming here? Hopkins plays Neil Gray, the uncompromising director of Final Reunion, until Somers’ Gina gets him in some compromising positions!

Stephanie Powers as Montana Gray, screenwriter with integrity, but still glam,
in 1985's ABC mini-series "Hollywood Wives."

Stephanie Powers is screenwriter Montana Gray, Neil’s wife. Oh, and the writer for Final Reunion. Though her character sneers at Hollywood ways, whose name sounds like a cowboy star, yet Montana looks like a typical Hollywood diva. Despite the artifice, Powers plays with her usual no-nonsense style and doesn’t let the “Big ‘80s” look take over her own fashion style.

Joanna Cassidy as Marilee Gray, member of the first wives club in 1985's "Hollywood
 Wives." Cassidy's a redhead so she gets the shamrock green gown and Bergen rocks
a blue breast plate. Candice also sports a Joe Dirt mullet here!

Joanna Cassidy is Marilee Gray, an ex-Hollywood wife of director Neil. She’s smart, pragmatic, and has great taste in boy toys. Cassidy looks lovely here and feels the most authentic of the bunch in Hollywood Wives.

Rod Steiger, who never met a rug he didn't like, plays Oliver Easterne, blowhard
 movie producer, from 1985's "Hollywood Wives."

Rod Steiger overplays the self-aggrandizing movie producer, Oliver Easterne—surprised? Oliver gleefully uses Final Reunion as the proverbial carrot to dangle in front of all interested parties. Steiger’s character is humorously crass and he brays his lines, like the male Shelley Winters he is!

Angie Dickinson is no-nonsense talent agent Sadie LaSalle in "Hollywood Wives."

Angie Dickinson is Sadie LaSalle, the tough, top talent agent who holds a grudge against Ross Conti, when he burned her decades ago. Though Angie is stuck in similar potato sack costumes as Candice Bergen, her hair and makeup are far simpler than her tawdry Police Woman days. She looks lovely here at 54.

Roddy McDowall multi-tasks as an interior decorator and pimp, Jason Swandle,
in 1985's ABC mini-series, "Hollywood Wives."

Roddy McDowall plays interior decorator AND pimp Jason Swandle, finding young men for lonely ladies. Roddy plays him in his usual hammy way. The facial tics and vacillating between creepy charm and passive/aggressive threats made me wonder: Did Roddy and Anthony Perkins ever star in a movie together?

Andrew Stevens as Buddy Hudson, getting the Sadie LaSalle build-up in 1985's
ABC mini-series, "Hollywood Wives."

Andrew Stevens is Buddy Hudson, an aspiring actor, once a male prostitute. Stevens is square-jawed and plays the soap opera scenes with surface skill. But when his character wishes to be taken seriously, it’s an eye roll. Andrew Stevens is cute as button and a square-jawed Ken Doll, but not the next Al Pacino, as Buddy is described! Yes, he too hopes to get his big break in Final Reunion. Catherine Mary Stewart as Angel Hudson was a fairly icky ‘80s ingénue but she fits right in Hollywood Wives. She has the good luck to be discovered at the beach by creeper producer Oliver Easterne, who thinks she’d be perfect for Nicki in Final Reunion.

Catherine Mary Stewart plays naive Angel Hudson in 1985's "Hollywood Wives."

From the other side of the showbiz lens is Deke, at home watching a Hollywood gala on TV with most of these characters. He is also going berserk since he has found out that he was given up for adoption from some showbiz bigwig. Apparently a problem child, Deke turns into Mr. Hyde toward his sugary sweet adoptive parents. Deke, as the bad apple twin, is bizarrely played by Andrew Stevens. Why is he nuts? Why does he look like Lon Chaney's The Wolfman? Why does he limp? Why does he talk in a gravelly New York City accent? Why is his skin chalky white, with brown smudges? Since this is Hollywood Wives, why ask why?! Aside from knowing that he was adopted, Deke didn’t get Buddy Hudson’s blue eyes, better hair, and charming personality.

Andrew Stevens also plays (awfully) Deke, Buddy Hudson's secret twin in
1985's "Hollywood Wives." Is Lon Chaney, Jr. deranged Deke's secret father?

Though Deke wreaks havoc along the way to Hollywood to take revenge, the inept scenes with this psycho and victims are unintentionally hilarious. The worst is the first, with his adopted parents, who get the most fake beat downs and stabbing deaths ever.

I’m not even going to try to explain the convoluted plot of Hollywood Wives, except that it leaves no showbiz cliché unchecked! Basically, just about everyone involved, directly or indirectly, wants a piece of Final Reunion. Naturally, there is no synopsis given for this brilliant story—not from the writer of Hollywood Wives! The fun is watching the lengths the characters will go to get a role, for themselves or a spouse. There are even more male bimbos in this movie than women, which reflects its intended audience, women and gays. The pool boy, the tennis player, the waiters, etc.—choose your flavor!

Candice Bergen's Elaine may be the only one of "Hollywood Wives" who's so easily satisfied by an ungrateful husband with flowers! With Steven Forrest as Ross.

Most of my favorite moments happen to be the most ludicrous. Deranged Deke hitching to Hollywood, Rod Steiger’s inappropriate producer, and especially Gina Germaine’s scheming to get a coveted movie role.

"Jane Fonda got serious, why can't I?" Was Suzanne Somers writing her own dialogue as Gina Germaine? Gina wants the role of young ingénue Nicki in Final Reunion. Suzanne’s tawdry bombshell hardly fits the part. Somers sports a shit ton of makeup and the most platinum, unruly perm I’ve seen since Connie Stevens ‘70s Brillo shag! One unkind but accurate critic commented that Suzanne in Hollywood Wives looks like Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner!

You can tell Suzanne Somers is the vixen in 1985's "Hollywood Wives," because
she's seductively brushing her locks as Gina Germaine plots and schemes!

I never thought Suzanne Somers was a beauty, but her mobile features, capped with big, childlike blue eyes, reminded me a bit of Goldie Hawn. Even their voices are similar. Suzanne plays the scheming star in a likable fashion. Gina Germaine is a vision in yellow terrycloth as she lies in wait down Palm Beach way, where director Neil Gray is there for talks with George Lancaster about Final Reunion. Gina is willing to roll in the hotel hay for a role in this “serious” film. Neil has had two beautiful wives, but finds mop-topped Suzanne irresistible. Soon, stocky, dour Anthony Hopkins is making hot jungle love to Somers’ Gina. It gets better when they happen to be on the same flight home and she initiates him into the mile high club—by the coffee machines—guess the restrooms were busy! Googly-eyed Suzanne and owlish Anthony make a comic couple!

Stephanie Powers as Montana Gray, at hubby Neil's funeral, in "Hollywood Wives."
 This must have cut close to the bone for Powers, who had just lost
long-time companion William Holden three years prior.

And the guessing game of who are the natural parents of Deke (and Buddy) comes to a ludicrous finale. Though no attention is given to the trail of bodies that Deke has left across the USA, it made me think of a later real life celebrity-obsessed psychotic, Andrew Cunanan, who capped his killing spree with shooting Gianni Versace on his doorstep.

I’m surprised nobody has remade Hollywood Wives, since the showbiz game hasn’t changed a bit. The stakes are just higher and the class level of today’s participants even lower. Let’s just enjoy the soapy, sleazy ‘80s Hollywood Wives!

Steve Forrest as Ross Conti, getting the Sadie LaSalle build-up before he gave her
the brush-off, in 1985's "Hollywood Wives."