People often ask me, "Tallulah, we know you are the most glamorous movie star in the world, but who would you say is the second most glamorous movie star in the world, second only to you?" Well that's an easy question. There's only one possible candidate, the most overwhelmingly beautiful and glamorous actress on the planet after me, the magnificent former Miss Jamaica herself, Bond Girl and Hammer Horror Queen extraordinaire, Martine Beswick.
The black and white photo at the top of the page is a fairly recent picture of Miss Beswick. The color shot in the adorable and modest bathing suit with my trademark zebra-stripes (which I gave her) is from her days as a Bond girl. (Yes, she's wearing a hand-me-down. Even stars have them.) She is an old friend of mine, as she made her film debut as Skreek in my 1961 dinosaur spectacle 1,000,000 Years Ago, a film often incorrectly omitted from her filmographies. Here's a picture of Little Dougie and I with the lovely Martine, taken back in 1985.
Here's a much more recent shot of the three of us, taken in Burbank just two weeks ago. Martine is very sweet to put up with Little Douglas and his constant fawning over her when she visits me, as she did earlier this month, staying here at Morehead Heights with me. (By the way, for those of you watching the Malibu Conflagration on TV this week and shaking with terror that my magnificent home might be threatened, relax. I live several miles up PCH from the fire, and besides, the churning breakers constantly crashing against the twin giant boulders that flank the base of mighty Tumescent Tor keeps the air around Morehead Heights constantly full of spray, to the point that my house is always too moist and damp to catch fire. Mold and mildew I have to contend with, but you couldn't set my house on fire using napalm.)
Here's a picture of Martine and I in our dinosaur opus. It was set so many weeks in the past that mankind was still a matriarchy, so hair color was the main bone of contention, and the film covered my efforts, as Queen of the Blonds, to subdue and subjugate all the brunettes.
Martine soon became the first Bond Girl. Yes, the first! No, not Ursula Andress, that Julia-Cum-Lately, Martine beat her by almost an hour. You see, Martine is the silhouetted dancing girl in the opening credits of Dr. No, making her the first female seen in any James Bond movie!
Martine had a larger role in From Russia With Love, where she played one of the gypsy girls who have the big girl fight at the gypsy camp. In the poster below, Martine is the woman in the panel with "Bond" written on it.
She had a still-larger role in Thunderball, after sitting Goldfinger out to give Shirley Eaton a break. This time she was Paula, Bond's Jamaican "Assistant". She was killed in that one, so she dropped out of the Bond series, having by then established herself at Hammer Studios.
At Hammer she made another dinosaur opus, this one with Raquel Welch, and I'm afraid they had such a terrific fight (That Raquel is an impossible bee-yotch to work with.) that they turned on the cameras and filmed it, sticking it into the finished film, so she appears in two of the most famous girl fights in the history of movies. Of course, Ray Harryhausen takes all the credit, claiming to have hand-animated the whole fight. As if.
She starred in a movie released both as Prehistoric Women and as Slave Girls of the White Rhinoceros. Whatever you call it, it is one of the silliest and funniest movies ever made, a true Idiot's Delight. And Martine would be the first person to tell you so, if I hadn't beaten her to it. One critic who shall remain nameless (Rex Reed) said it was so awful that, for a moment, he thought I starred in it. Well what do you expect from him? Slice his balls off and what do you have? Raquel Welch!
More pleasing by far is Martine's 1972 classic Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde, in which grungy Ralph Bates drinks a potion that turns him into Martine. Darlings, that stuff would sell! For additional fun. listen to Martine's commentary track on the DVD. Martine and I re-teamed for Hammer's Frankenstein's Reason for Living, a Peter Cushing horror story in which I stabbed her to death. She never held a grudge, since she committed many a movie murder herself.
Martine came to America to live in the 70s and 80s, and appeared on many TV shows, from Buffalo Bill to Falcon Crest, which is when she and Little Douglas became friends. She played Xaviera Hollander, the so-called "Happy Hooker," a role she researched by interviewing me at length! She also starred in Seizure, the first movie directed by Oliver Stone. Sadly for art, Martine has retired from acting now, and merely produces. But her glamour lives on forever. And, as you can see from the picture two weeks ago, she still looks almost as fabulous as I do. Dougie may be younger than both of us, but doesn't he look like our grandfather, a few years after he died? Here's a last look at her, from Thunderball, at the height of her 60s glamour.
Little Debbie Kerr died this past week. A fair actress I suppose, if you can take those repressed, genteel British types. Unfortunately, her inability to sing led 20th Century Fox to hire Richard Nixon's sister Marni to dub all her singing in The King & I, which led directly to the presidency of Richard Nixon. One evil always inevitably leads to another. My singing, over the years, has been called everything from "Catastrophic Caterwauling" to "Inhuman Ear Torture," but at least I always did my own warbling rather than give employment to a Nixon. If only Little Debbie had been as professional as I was, we might never have had Watergate.
My favorite Debbie Kerr movie is, no, not Casino Royale (Pictured above. Debbie wasn't so much a Bond Girl as a Bond Middle-Aged Woman, and later in the film, the only Bond Nun.), it's the spine-tingling ghost story The Innocents. This movie was based on the classic novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Don't get your hopes up. The story isn't at all as exciting as the title makes it sound. It's not about screwing, or even about a nice, frosty screwdriver, which is not just for breakfast anymore.
Rather it's a spook show. The Headless Indian Brave hates the picture, saying it perpetuates negative stereotypes about ghosts, how they're all supposedly scary and malevolent. Certainly this scene pictured below, in which Debbie encounters a particularly hideous and repellent ghost at the window, is a moment of chilling horror if ever there was one. Just this still can freeze the blood with utter terror. (Little Douglas informs me he played the ghost of Peter Quint in a stage production of The Innocents back in 1971. Well that one can't have been too scary. More like hilarious.)
And now that she's dead, it can be told. She didn't even shoot the most famous scene in her career! When she was filming From Here to Eternity, and Burt Lancaster had to play his famous love scene in the surf with her, he found her such a cold, damp fish, way too British, that he said to the producers, "Get me a woman people will believe I can fuck!" As it happened, the scene was shot on the beach in Malibu, just a few yards from my home, so it was no trouble at all for me to come down and shag Burt on the sand. In fact, given how it was Burt, I'd have shagged him even if it was trouble. Burt took one look at me and said, "That's more like it. She looks completely fucked!" Here's a rare still where you can see who really acted this scene.
Joey Bishop passed away this week as well, although I'd be hard-pressed to say how you could tell. How well I remember The Joey Bishop Show. It was the show you always watched if Johnny Carson was having an off-night, or if Joan Rivers was the guest host, or Jackie Mason was a guest. Don't feel too bad for Joey. At least The Pack of Rats are all together again now, in Rodent Heaven, which coincidentally, is also what they call Las Vegas. I believe they now could call his movie Ocean's 0. Look at it this way: Joey was a dead-pan comic. So now, he's just a dead comic. He'll never be panned again. And he and his longtime love, Milton "I'm-The-Pretty-One" Berle are reunited forever. It brings a tear to my eye, even as I throw up just a little.
Oh, and speaking of throwing up a little: if you live in Los Angeles, you'll want to avoid the A DIFFERENT LIGHT BOOKSTORE, 8853 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069, phone # 310-854-6601, this coming Thursday evening, October 25, at 7:30 PM, as that is when Little Dougie will be doing a reading/signing of his new book, The Q Guide to Classic Monster Movies, there. This book, which I must remind all is not about me, or even about Martine, is on sale now, so that's the place to get your book signed, though I'll be damned if I can imagine why you'd want to. I will not be there! Only Douglas. I'd come, but Survivor, 30 Rock and The Office are on that night, so I'll pass.