Monday, March 24, 2014

Five Babes Who Coulda Been Stars! from Classic Films and TV Cafe

Five Babes Who Coulda Been Stars!

Timing and looks are almost as important as talent when it comes to becoming a star of the silver screen. Editing room floors have been littered for years with actors that may have had the talent--and definitely had the looks--to earn star status. But alas, their timing was wrong for one reason or another. Today, we pay tribute to five beautiful actresses who never achieved headline status. Some of them had solid careers; others made just a handful of films. And, yes, we will devote a similar post to five handsome hunks later this week.

Helen Gilbert. Except for an early lead role opposite Robert Young and Charles Coburn in the horse film Florian, this blonde beauty spent her career in "B" films. She logged appearances in the Andy Hardy, Dr. Kildare, and Falcon series. Her most memorable role was as the femme fatale in The Falcon Takes Over, a solid revamped version of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe mystery Farewell, My Lovely. She acted sporadically in the 1940s before moving to television in the 1950s. She was married six times! Johnny Stompanato was one of her husbands--if only for six months. A bodyguard for gangster Mickey Cohen, Stompanato later dated Lana Turner, whose daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed and killed him after she claimed Stompanato had attacked her mother.
Susan Hart. American International Pictures was grooming this stunning brunette for bigger roles--until she retired from acting a few years after marrying the company's co-founder. Susan Hart appeared in several Beach Party movies as one of "the gang" and played the title character inThe Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. None of these films did much for her career. She fared better as Tab Hunter's love interest in Ride the Wild Surf, a Beach Party-like flick released by Columbia Pictures. She also showed her comedy chops as a robot created by mad scientist Vincent Price in the wacky Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. In 1964, she married producer James H. Nicholson; she was 24, he was 49. When he died in 1972, she helped complete his films Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and The Legend of Hell House. Susan Hart spent her later years helping to raise funds for the UCLA Medical Center. She owns the rights to several of her husband's films, which have never been released on video--much to the dismay of many "B" movie fans.

Diane McBain. Signed by Warner Bros. while still a teen, Diane McBain appeared to be on the fast track to stardom in 1960-61. First, she got a plum supporting role in the big-budget Richard Burton-Robert Ryan film Ice Palace. She followed that with a juicy part as a "bad girl" in Parrish and as the "poor white trash" heroine of Claudelle Inglish (both 1961). Concurrently, Warners cast her as a blonde-haired socialite opposite Troy Donahue (hisParrish co-star) in the lighthearted detective TV series Surfside 6. Although the TV series provided steady work, it may also have overexposed her. The once-promising actress soon became typecast as the flighty socialite or bad girl. She worked steadily as a television guest star for the next few decades and in occasional movies--but never appeared in another "A" picture.

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