Wednesday, September 30, 2015

THE STRIPPER 1963

This forgotten little film has long been a favorite of mine and used to show up fairly regularly on late night television when I was a kid. Until it resurfaced recently on YouTube, I can say it’s easily been 40 years since I last saw this last-gasp effort in Hollywood’s love affair with the works of Faulkner, O’Neill, Williams, & Inge.  

Adapted by Meade Roberts (The Fugitive Kind, Summer & Smoke) from William Inge’s little-known 1959 play, A Loss of Roses and directed by Franklin J Schaffner (Patton, The Planet of the Apes, Sphinx); The Stripper is, like a great many of my favorite films from the 50s – especially those written in the Southern Gothic / Midwest Melodrama tradition,  a heavy slice of mordant Americana served up with plenty of lost illusions and broken dreams on the side.
Joanne Woodward as Lila Green
Richard Beymer as Kenny Baird
Claire Trevor as Helen Baird
Robert Webber as Ricky Powers
Shot in somber black and white (then de rigueur for contemplatively downbeat movies), The Stripper is the so-familiar-you’ll-swear-you’ve-seen-it-before story of Lila Green (Woodward); a down-on-her-luck wannabe actress touring with a seedy theatrical troupe (The Great Renaldo & Madame Olga: Magic & Mirth Par Excellence). Abandoned mid-tour in a small Kansas town by her equally seedy boyfriend, Ricky (Webber), Lila is forced to depend on the kindness of strangers. Not literal strangers, mind you, for Lila grew up in this town before a Betty Grable look-alike-contest was her second-class ticket to Hollywood. Merely friends from the past to whom Lila now appears as gaudy and out of place as a fur coat in July.
Kenny Thinks Lila Is Hot. She Is...It's Mid-Summer in Kansas
Before settling on the grossly misleading The Stripper, other titles considered for this screen adaptation
of A Loss of Roses were: Celebration, Woman of Summer, and A Woman in July

Lila secures temporary lodgings with Helen Baird (Trevor), a widow for whom she once babysat in her youth. Helen, now a fulltime nurse pulling swing shift as a fault-finding, overprotective mother-hen to her only son, Kenny (Beymer), is initially glad to be of help. She begins to doubt the soundness of her philanthropy when it becomes clear that the restless son she has such high hopes for has developed a major infatuation on the glamourous, at least ten-years-older, new tenant in stretch pants.

Just as the arrival of a train-hopping drifter shook up the small-town residents in William Inge’s Picnic, the emotional (and sexual) disruption instigated by the intrusion of Lila – a peroxided, emotionally-wounded, aging starlet with a squalid past and a childlike disposition – into the vaguely oedipal Baird household, is the source of The Stripper’s central conflict.
For Lila, the return to the birthplace of so many of her unrealized dreams rekindles a desire to reclaim her lost innocence. For Kenny, irresolute in his manhood over failing to fill the idealized shoes of his late father; Lila’s age and superficially worldly charms are like a beacon of maturity. Helen, conflicted in wanting Kenny to grow up and stand on his own two feet, yet saying things like, "You're all I have to live for," grows concerned when Kenny's intensifying infatuation with Lila turns to mutual attraction. She fears that Lila's bad influence will corrupt her son's interest in "good" girls like neighbor, Miriam Caswell (Carol Lynley), while hastening his inevitable departure. 
In this environment, everyone seems to be looking to someone else for salvation, rescue, liberation or redemption.
Carol Lynley as Miriam Caswell

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
The Stripper is something of a “Best of” collection of what had become, by 1963, the over-familiar clich├ęs in the Tennessee Williams/William Inge oeuvre (it was Williams’ The Glass Menagerie which inspired Inge to write his first play). Set in the fictional small town of Salinson, Kansas (the same town Kansas-born William Inge chose for his play, Picnic), The Stripper has it all: the emotionally fragile fallen woman; familial discord; small town provincialism; sexual restlessness; Freudian psychology; and the eternal battle between idealism and truth. And, of course, heat and summer used as a metaphor for passion.

Seeing the film again after so many years, it’s so clear to me why I was all over this genre of movie when I was young. First, they were accessible to my limited frame of knowledge and experience. Unlike James Bond movies that took place all over the world, or action adventures featuring acts of derring-do and non-stop danger; these films took place in familiar, low-tech settings of town and neighborhood. The drama was often operatically over-the-top, yet human-scale in that it concerned itself with relationships, family tensions, and the applicable-at-any-age struggle with how our character flaws work to keep happiness at bay. 
Legendary real-life stripper Gypsy Rose Lee as Madam Olga St. Valentine
Louis Nye as Ronnie "The Great Renaldo" Cavendish
On the more “entertaining” side, not only were these films “daring” and “sex-obsessed” in ways suitable to a young person’s comprehension level (aka: all talk and no action), but the main characters were invariably women who could just as well have been gay men. Overwrought, theatrically histrionic gay men. I of course wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Williams and Inge (both closeted gay playwrights), were only able to express their truth through their female characters. Thus, their female protagonists were often imbued with a depth and dimensionality lacking in most roles for women written during this period.
As a youngster, the stoic, heteronormative macho leading man never spoke to any reality I knew. But I did recognize parts of myself in the bruised, vulnerable, idealistic outsiders Inge and Williams wrote so empathetically about.
Dreamers
Lila shows Kenny her prized possession: Film clips of her failed Hollywood screen test
 for the 1955 Fred Astaire musical, Daddy Long Legs

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
As much as I enjoy this film, I’m inclined to agree when I encounter reviews labeling this movie “lesser Inge.” The Stripper has a lack of subtlety and obviousness of intent that made me think it was early William Inge (it's a little like an episode from one of those 60s anthology TV programs like Playhouse 90). In reality, it’s based on the playwright’s first Broadway flop following a string of unbroken successes starting with Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1945), Come Back Little Sheba (1950), Picnic (1953), and Bus Stop (1955). 
Indeed, as A Loss of Roses signaled the beginning of a reversal trend in Inge’s career, the problematic work play has a legacy of misfortune surrounding it rivaling that of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Michael J. Pollard as Geoffrey "Jelly" Beamis
Pollard and Webber are the only members er of the original Broadway cast to recreate their roles in the film
The first victim was Shirley Booth, who had previously won both a Tony and an Oscar with Inge’s Come Back Little Sheba, and accepted the role when promised the role of Helen would be made more prominent. Alas, Booth wound up quitting the show just days before its Broadway debut for the rumored reason that Inge was shifting the production to favor a Broadway neophyte he had a crush on. An actor by the name of Warren Beatty, making his Broadway debut.

The second victim was William Inge himself. For although he had faith in the play and expressed the belief that A Loss of Roses was a “Sure thing,” the play opened to disastrous reviews and closed after a mere 25 performances. It was Inge’s first flop, and one that so devastated him, he never had another stage success again.

The third victim was Warren Beatty. For although he was nominated for a Tony Award, the experience was so unpleasant, he never again appeared onstage. On the plus side, Inge's enduring crush gave Beatty (when Jane Fonda met Beatty for the first time in New York, she thought he was Inge's boyfriend) a foot-up in Hollywood. He made his film debut in Inge's Splendor in the Grass, and starred in the Inge-penned, All Fall Down, a 1962 film with an older woman/younger man theme similar to The Stripper.

Victim number four was 20th Century Fox production head, Buddy Adler, who purchased the rights to A Loss of Roses for a whopping $400,000 (in 50s dollars!) before it opened strictly on the strength of Inge’s reputation. As he told columnist Louella Parsons “Yes, we paid a big price, but Inge writes only hits. He wrote 'Bus Stop' , 'Picnic,' and 'Dark at the Top of the Stairs.' There were a number of producers trying to get 'A Loss of Roses' so we were lucky to get it.” 
Something's Gotta Give
As she strips, Lila sings the 1954 Johnny Mercer song Fred Astaire introduced in Daddy Long Legs - the movie she unsuccessfully screen-tested for. Ironically, the song is also the title (as Something's Got to Give)  of Marilyn Monroe's last film. The Stripper was released a year after Monroe's death in August  of 1962, and the movie is loaded with reminders of its being a vehicle originally intended for her.

Victim number five was Fox Studios. Adler purchased A Loss of Roses for then-under contract Marilyn Monroe, and teen heartthrob Pat Boone (!). Both turned the film down. Monroe (who enjoyed a great success with the film version of Inge’s Bus Stop in 1956) likely found the Lila character (a stripper with lousy taste in men, who at one time tried to kill herself and was institutionalized) a tad too close to home; while Boone objected on moral grounds, finding the illicit affair between the young man and slightly pathetic stripper all wrong for his image.

Victim number six was actor Richard Beymer. Boosted to leading man stardom after West Side Story (1961), The Stripper jinx apparently hit, because this was his last major motion picture.

Finally, victim number 7, Joanne Woodward. An Academy Award winner for The Three Faces of Eve (1957) , Woodward retired from the screen not long after marrying Paul Newman and having two children. The Stripper was her to be her comeback vehicle, but its DOA arrival at the boxoffice got her career reemergence off to a rocky start from which it never fully recovered.
Helen Interprets Kenny's Birthday Gift as a Gesture to Replace his Father
A great many of the more unhealthier aspects of the mother-son relationship in
A Loss of Roses were excised when it became The Stripper

PERFORMANCES
While many found fault with Inge’s original play and Meade Robert’s considerably less sordid adaptation, critics were largely in agreement over the quality of Joanne Woodward’s performance. Overcoming a blonde, cotton candy wig that hovers at least an inch over her head, Woodward has some really remarkable moments playing character who’s part Blanche DuBois and part Charity Hope Valentine (and one can’t help but detect a bit of Ellen Green from Little Shop of Horrors).

Looking pretty spectacular in her Travilla wardrobe (Monroe’s designer), Woodward occasionally falls prey to the gimmicky tricks of smart actors trying to play dumb, but she truly shines in the film’s final scenes and achieves several moments of heartrending poignancy.
"I want my roses back."
Promotional stills of several sequences not in the film suggest the already problematic storyline
of The Stripper underwent a significant amount of post-production editing.
Below, a segment of an 1891 Emily Dickinson poem quoted in the film: 
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Then there’s a pair of us - don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

The rest of the cast is solid, if perhaps let down a bit by a script which doesn't offer supporting characters much beyond a quick surface impression. Richard Beymer is good as the juvenile, but never succeeds in getting me to understand Kenny's darker, brooding side. The always-welcome Claire Trevor is a standout as the mother fills an empty life with overconcern for her nearly adult son.
Carol Lynley doesn't get much of a chance to be anything but gorgeous in a thankless "girlfriend" role, and there really is far too little of the quirky Michael J Pollard and the Auntie Mame-ish Gypsy Rose Lee. TV stalwart Robert Webber is convincingly oily.
In spite of the film's sensationalist title, Woodward makes for a very covered-up stripper.
Happily, the same can't be said for her co-star


THE STUFF OF FANTASY 
In all these years I have never forgotten the The Stripper's opening, pre-title sequence. It's just that terrific. It promises a level camp sleaze the movie never delivers, but how can you loose with a movie that opens with a shot of the original, iconic Myra Breckinridge showgirl billboard?

Bus Driver: "We are approaching the world famous Sunset Strip! Here You may see in the flesh the great names of show business you've only watched on the screen before!"
Tourist #1: "Look! There's Jayne Mansfield!"
Tourist #2: "No it isn't...it's Kim Novak!"
Bus Driver: "No it isn't, lady."
Tourist #1: "Then who is it?"
Bus Driver: "Nobody."

BONUS MATERIAL
"The Stripper" Watch the complete film on YouTube. HERE


The Stripper's sole Oscar nomination was for the costume designs of William Travilla (Valley of the Dolls, Black Widow, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). Visit the blog: 50 Years of Film & Fashion Travilla Style to read more about his costumes for this film.


"It's what I want more than anything. More than winning contests or being a movie star,
or anything like that.. 'Cause if you know you've got one person who loves and respects you,
then you don't need love from a lot of people, do you?"


Copyright © Ken Anderson

19 comments:

  1. Golly, I wish I had something substantive to say about this film, but I don't. Maybe after I watch it on YouTube....

    However, back in about 1980, I was ushering at the now defunct Playhouse Theater on West 48th Street in NYC for Harold Pinter's "The Hothouse." (Where I had my first run in with Lauren Bacall. Ugh.) At that same time, a production of "A Loss of Roses" came and went very quickly in the small downstairs theater. It may never have gotten out of previews. The "star" of the show was Elizabeth Ray, the woman at the epicenter of a 1970"s Congressional sex scandal that forced at least one representative to resign. When it all blew up, she freely admitted that she was on the Representative's Congressional payroll just to provide sex. "I can't type, I can't file, I can't even answer the phone."

    For a few weeks, I saw her around the theater, sort of quietly going in and out, always looking lost and greatly uncomfortable. But she was being promoted as the show's star with her face on all the promotional material. Being brand new to NYC and a serious artist as only a 23 year old can be a serious artist, I thought that having Harold Pinter upstairs and Elizabeth Ray downstairs was just about the most scandalous thing ever to offend the Gods of the Theater. Young fool that I was. I've always regretted not going in to see the show. It would be something to have seen, if not exactly something to see in the usual meaning of the phrase.

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    1. Hey George
      Yikes! I'd forgotten (let's be honest...everyone's forgotten) about Elizabeth Ray. Who knew then that her type would be coming out the woodwork and getting their own reality shows in a few years?

      I must say, the casting of Ms. Ray is exploitatively apt. At least it wasn't some obvious Monroe thing like Bust Stop or Seven Year Itch. I hope she enjoyed herself.
      A Bacall run in at a young age? You poor man. Always so odd about her being so famously crabby. She really should have been grateful and gracious as hell given her limited range and that singing voice.

      Anyhow, I told you "A Loss of Roses" was cursed!.

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  2. Thanks for posting the link to the film, which I was curious to see. Having watched it, I thought Joanne Woodward was affecting in her performance, if not exactly...I dunno, "great," I suppose. I was reminded of a phrase that the famous film critic Stanley Kaufmann would use in his reviews: "small truths." That's kind of the feeling I got from watching, that everything was small-scaled and a little insignificant. Since I don't know the play, I can't compare, but it seemed that Lila's drama in the movie really could have been done, as you mention, as one of those 1950s TV productions, with a small cast tucked into an hour-long time slot. While the story is rather sad and tawdry, there wasn't anything terribly dramatic or gripping about its plot or characters or dialogue; and the finale, with Lila declaring her independence, seemed out of nowhere (as if the producers didn't want to end it on too down a note). Inge, or the adapters, kept it a little too predictable. I actually was a bit more curious about the characters played by Louis Nye and Gypsy Rose Lee, wondering what kind of life they led with their dim little magic show on the road--and Gypsy has such an odd, stately, commanding presence (just that reverberating voice!), she seems the campiest part of the film. I felt the same about Michael J. Pollard, who's such a quirky little actor, with a face like an aging Cabbage Patch doll. That one little scene he had with Woodward, when he doesn't want to leave the kitchen until she bribes him with cigarettes, had more tension and spontaneity to it than anything else.

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    1. I think the word "insignificant" plagues "A Loss of Roses" to this day (it seems to be a favorite for local revivals [small cast] and Lila's monologue is a [bad] acting class staple).
      The emotionally bruised fallen woman was quite the cliche even in the 50s, but by 1963 I imagine audiences were stumped by the film not having more to impart on the subject beyond "small truths" regarding self-esteem and feeling worthy of love.
      If you've only just seen the film, you have some marvelous insight into where it fell short for you. Especially in feeling that the ending felt somehow unearned. I read the play years ago and the ending is actually such a downer that, even if more realistic, feels unearned as well.
      If I remember correctly, in the play the homosexuality of the Louis Nye character is made clearer (although the foppish way Nye plays him is certainly coded gay, 60s style). And I so agree with you about Pollard and Miss Gypsy. They're underutilized. I adore her voice and bearing. What a scene stealer!

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  3. Ken, haven't thought about this flick in years! Will YouTube it this weekend.

    You mentioned "The Fugitive Kind," which I watched recently. Have you ever seen that adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Battle of Angels/Orpheus Descending? Woodward plays a partying beatnik in that one...like here, not altogether well-cast, though Joanne gives it her all. What's really fascinating is Anna Magnani as the bitter shopkeeper's wife. And Brando as the slightly bloated drifter...I was fascinated by the strong lighting on his face and contouring around his jawline, the likes usually reserved for a latter day Crawford! Seriously, there's some lovely lines from one of Williams' earliest efforts and there's some stunning moments...

    Meanwhile, will check out "The Stripper," another could have been Marilyn flick before she checked out...of which there seemed to be many!

    Rick

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    1. Hi Rick
      "The Fugitive Kind" is one of my partner's favorite movies, but it's almost too sad for me. I've seen it only twice. I love Anna Magnani, but there seems to be something dark Williams was going through with this piece. I tend to like dark films, actually, and the language is indeed very poetic. But something in the film's triumph of the brutish over the vulnerable (made more bearable in “Streetcar” for some reason) is too rough for me in “The Fugitive Kind.” I do need to see it again to check out Brando’s lighting.
      And it does strike me as a kind of unusual role for Woodward, I thought.

      Watching “The Stripper” made me wonder if there were a rash of “tragic blonde” movies made after Monroe's death. Did you ever see Mansfield in "Single Room Furnished"? Or her particularly effective reteaming Tony Randall in a dramatic Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode?
      Would love to hear what you think after re-watching The Stripper!
      Thanks, Rick

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  4. Dear Ken: Hi!

    I see you're continuing your "1950s Broadway playwrights of family dysfunction" series this week. :)

    I've never seen "The Stripper" but I have heard of it. I was surprised to see it's not out on DVD through the Fox movie-on-demand series.

    I have a "Joanne Woodward problem," and in your post you touch on what it is: she often (unintentionally, I think) telegraphs that she's smarter than the character she is playing. I think she is most effective as intelligent women, such as her shrewd "spinster" in "The Long Hot Summer" or especially, her wise and compassionate psychotherapist in "Sybil" (which may be her best performance). She also was fine as Tom Hanks' mother in "Philadelphia." But when she tries to play someone who is dreamy, not-too-bright or lost in fantasy, she doesn't do too well (I thought her Amanda Wingfield in the 1980s "Glass Menagerie" was an especially bad performance--too externalized and mannered).

    I also have a Richard Beymer problem--I think he can't act! He was bad in "West Side Story," in "Five Finger Exercise," etc. etc. (Although he does OK as a young teen in one of my favorite passionate 1950s romances, "Indiscretion of an American Wife," where he plays Jennifer Jones' young nephew.)

    Although as I said I haven't seen "The Stripper," there was another fine too-experienced/beaten-down-by-life older woman and sheltered younger man movie from around this same time: "Cold Wind in August," with Lola Albright. I can't remember if you've mentioned having seen that one. It's a much more heterosexual take on the situation and quite sensual for its day.

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    1. Hi David!
      "1950s Broadway playwrights of family dysfunction"
      Ha! Don't think I haven't thought of devoting an entire month to such a topic. Next to musicals, and suspense thrillers, they might be my favorite film genre.

      You articulate beautifully what stands in your way of enjoying some of Woodward's performances. It being particularly helpful in your being able to note those instances in which she comes across more effectively (I forgot she was in "Philadelphia"). I like her a great deal in "Rachel Rachel" and "The Long Hot Summer".

      Physically, Woodward has always looked how I imagined the character in
      "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" grew up to be. So seeing her as a blonde bombshell in this was/is a bit of a shock. I think it does take a smart actress to play dumb, but it’s like playing a villain. Bad people don’t see themselves as bad; and often stupid people (like Donald Trump) never see themselves as dumb. I think Woodward is good here, but she does seem to be trying to make herself appear blank, and her eyes are too smart.
      I agree with you about Richard Beymer, he’s small town clean-cut, but a somewhat flat screen presence.
      Someone else recommended “Cold Wind in August” to me. I’ve yet to see it, but it sounds like it’s up my alley.
      Thanks for the recommendation, and should you check out "The Stripper" - the Woodward/Beymer thin is a big hurdle, i know. Please let me know your thoughts!

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  5. Ken, I just watched "The Stripper" and as always, your comments informed the viewing.

    The real head-scratcher for me: "The Stripper" was intended as a Monroe vehicle, but why on earth did they try to remake Woodward, the antithesis of an MM movie star, in Marilyn's image? Why not Joanne more like her realistic self instead of flouncing around Kansas in all-white cocktail dresses? It was even more jarring than the similar Kim Stanley trying to play a Marilyn type in "The Goddess." Acting-wise, Joanne has her moment, for sure. The scene where Lila revisits her old school and recalls her first day in class was lovely.

    Richard Beymer seems so uncomfortable on-screen it's painful to watch! Whereas Claire Trevor is a great screen presence, as always.

    Robert Webber played an identical sleaze in "The Sandpiper," who Liz Taylor chases off her hippie shack with an ax! No belt-whippings for E.T.!

    I hope to God that the hideous MM "do" that Monroe hairstylist George Masters created for Woodward was a wig! The platinum bubble practically hid Joanne's face and had no shape, unlike the similar but more shapely tease Monroe sported in the unfinished "Something's Got to Give." Seriously, I don't know what was more distracting, Beymer's stiff performance or Woodward's pouf!

    This movie would make a great double feature with "Bus Riley's Back in Town," sort of the male version of this story.

    Finally, I think Inge's title of this work, "A Loss of Roses" is rather lovely and has a point...whereas the title of this film "The Stripper," which Lila doesn't do to the end of the film, is kinda tacky...

    Thanks, Ken. This movie used to play on the afternoon movie a lot but my sole memory of it was Joanne getting her balloons popped by sleazy businessmen!

    Rick

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    1. Yay! That was swift! And I had a ball reading your comments.
      You reiterated virtually word for word my partner's reaction to the film when you referenced Woodward's wig (which so distracted him he had to watch the movie twice), and the incongruity of casting such a non-Monroe type and not taking advantage of what SHE could bring to the role, instead of fashioning her into a Monroe type. That's a great observation.
      I've never made it through The Sandpiper, so I had no idea that Webber was sort of the go-to sleaze guy of the 60s.

      I agree with you about the film's title. "The Stripper" is not only misleading, but serious misdirection for such a character-based drama.
      Anyhow, I so enjoyed your comments, and even as I re-read your reaction to Woodward's hair I have to laugh.

      I made a big point of stating to my partner how spectacular Woodward looked in her stretch pants and how cool it was that she eschewed the use of falsies or breast enhancement devices to recreate a bombshell figure. he then pointed out that on the Travilla site that breast supports (or whatever they called them) were made to "boost" her performance.
      This of course put me in the odd position (for a gay man, anyway) of having to re-watch the film with my eyes trained on Woodward's bosom.
      Thanks so much Rick! You made it feel like we were all watching the film with you!

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    2. I just watched "Some Came Running" last night, another small-town melodrama about a prodigal returning home (GI Frank Sinatra). Ever see it?

      Watching Shirley MacLaine tear up the place as the good-hearted floozy made me think of "The Stripper!" And just to show you what a small world show biz is, Shirley was Carol Haney's understudy in "The Pajama Game!"

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    3. Hi Rick
      Yes, I actually own a copy of "Some Came Running," it's that much of a favorite. I don't suppose she could be tempted, but I wonder if MacLaine was ever discussed for The Stripper?
      I forget what year that was, but I suspect by 1963 and The Stripper, the kind-hearted floozy cliche held few surprises for audiences.
      And yes, the Carol Haney/MacLaine connection is another instance of MacLaine in essence stepping into Haney's career after her "42nd Street" -like bust out.

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  6. Thanks for reviewing this. I haven't seen it yet even though I am a big Joanne Woodward fan, so it's good to know it's on Youtube. It's always been a bit jarring to know the movie was intended as a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe and then Joanne of all people ended up with the role. They're just worlds apart... even though one of Ms. Woodward's strengths was always her malleability, being able to portray anything between a siren (From the Terrace) and a harpy (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the Moon Marigolds). I do hope you'll one day write about Rachel, Rachel, one of my all time favorite movies and performances.

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    1. Hi Sandra
      I just watched "From the Terrace" last night (It's such a glossy soap-but I love Woodward in it)!
      I agree with you that one of the things that's great about Woodward is that she brings something unique to a role. When i was young, I was most impressed how she could look so glamorous in one role (said "Terrace" and then so ordinary in another (Rachel, Rachel). Yet even in the glossy roles she had an authenticity about her .

      Given that the woman who initially played the role of Lila In "A Loss of Roses" on Broadway was nothing like Marilyn (Carol Haney of "The Pajama Game) it's too bad the filmmakers just didn't go for another look for Woodward in "The Stripper" -because Woodward's too good to need the ghost of Marilyn haunting her costuming and performance like it does. I suspect it's rooted in Fox studios wanting to exploit the Monroe factor, but it undermines what could have worked as a character piece a bit, because at various junctures you can't help but imagine what Monroe would have done with the part. And as you say she and Woodward are worlds apart.
      Thanks for reading the post and commenting. Also, glad to hear you're a fan of "Rachel, Rachel" too!

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    1. Hi Gregory
      I love the term "Natural Glamour Deficit!" There's something very John Simon about it.
      But you make a good point. My partner had never seen the film before, and after watching it, asked me if Woodward was "supposed" to be pretty. Meaning, was Woodward's lack of Monroe, or even Carol Lynley glamour intentional, hinting at her being delusional about her dreams of being a movie star.
      I honestly couldn't answer it. She's obviously a fine looking woman, but she has always had a more Julie Harris type of appeal in my eyes. Plain but attractive.
      I'm not sure what the filmmakers were after in having her adhere so closely to Marilyn's image, but t does create (for lack of a better word) a level of uncomfortableness to her character that works in the film's favor.
      Kind of like when you hear about girls who go into porn: they were the prettiest girls in their small home towns, but rather average on the Hollywood glamour scale.
      My partner will be glad to know he wasn't alone in his observation.
      Nice to hear from you again, Gregory!

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  8. Julie Harris, YES! Another "Plain (Unadorned), Sensible and Permanent" Actress. She and Woodward don't need the Glamour because they have something other.
    Saw Harris as the titular .THE LAST OF MRS. LINCOLN onstage. Wow and double WOW! There's a video ???somewhere??? well worth seeking out though the production's been a bit truncated and it overall loses something in the translation of mediums.

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  9. Hello Ken, Thanks for the great review of this forgotten film. I've never seen it but what little I had heard of it, it seemed like Hollywood was trying to make a racy film without being allowed to actually show anything daring. There were so many early 60's Hollywood films made before the fall of the censorship code that are totally forgotten today. They quickly became dated as they were so tame! But those old films with characters who could be gay are fascinating to watch.

    I'm intrigued by the idea of Joanne Woodward playing a loose woman. I agree, she just does not seem like the right actress for such a part. I like her in other movies but she seems to plain for a Marilyn-type character. I did not know that she was a big actress before retiring to take care of her family and that she wanted a comeback vehicle to change her image.

    Another film Joanne made the same year was a hopeless comedy with her husband called "A New Kind of Loving". Both of them were miscast in it and not particularly funny. Again, they were trying to make her look glamourous which didn't really work.

    I feel compelled to see "The Stripper" after reading your review.
    -Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      You're right. In the sixties, the world was becoming more progressive and movies were still somewhat stuck in the past. They needed sex to sell, but they could show or say anything. In instances like "The Stripper" you're left wondering why they even went near the material if they couldn't do it justice.
      I wonder how the film might have fared had they kept the original title. "The Stripper" sets you up for a totally different kind of movie.
      I saw Woodward in "A New Kind of Love" and really hated it. hopeless is a perfect description.
      One movie i would recommend id Woodward and newman in "From The Terrace" - directed by the guy who gave us Peyton Place and valley of the Dolls, it's a camp delight. And Woodward is rather glamorous in it.
      Thanks for reading, Wille!

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