Friday, 20 February 2015

"The Restless Years" - The Story Of Two Outsiders Who Find Love

Dear readers, I've been on a blogging hiatus for quite a while, so I decided to make a return by reviewing a film that has become a personal favorite of late, "The Restless Years" (1958), directed by Helmut Kautner, and produced by Ross Hunter for Universal studios.

At first glance, it appears to be something of a low-budget, watered-down version of "Peyton Place" (another book and film that I happen to love), but this effort is more intimate, providing a closer look at the main characters, and their home lives.  Filmed in black and white CinemaScope, it was based on a play entitled "Teach Me To Cry" by Patricia Joudry. Ross Hunter immediately envisioned it as a vehicle for his latest discovery, Sandra Dee. Dee, a former child model, had done a screen test with John Saxon, a young actor who was rising in popularity after his break-through role as a troubled youth in "The Unguarded Moment" (1956). Before appearing in this film, Dee was first loaned to MGM for "Until They Sail" (1957), opposite Paul Newman, Joan Fontaine, Jean Simmons and Piper Laurie.

Sandra Dee as Melinda Grant
It was 10 years ago today that Sandra Dee passed away, at a relatively young age, after battling health issues for many years. Her performance is sensitive and natural, projecting an innocence, yet seemingly wise beyond her years. Her character, Melinda Grant, is an outsider in the small town of Libertyville, where she lives with her reclusive mother, Elizabeth (Teresa Wright), who desperately tries to conceal the fact that Melinda is in fact, illegitimate, the result of a romance with a musician who once played at an old, abandoned bandstand that overlooks the town. However, the ruse that Elizabeth is widowed fools no one in town, especially Melinda's peers at the local high school. Shunned, the lonely young girl puts on a brave face for her mother and pretends that she is popular, although she is somewhat hampered by the fact that Elizabeth, the town seamstress, insists on making her daughter's clothes which makes Melinda appear younger than her age. 

John Saxon as Will Henderson
Enter Will Henderson (John Saxon), whose salesman father Ed (James Whitmore) has returned to Libertyville, hoping for a fresh start, but Will's mother, Dorothy (Margaret Lindsay) is never satisfied with Ed's attempts to support the family and always wants more.
Will is also on the outside looking in at school; he's ignored and ridiculed by Bruce Mitchell (Jody McCrea) and Polly Fisher (Luana Patten), two of the popular kids who also make a point of tormenting Melinda for her illegitimacy. At a school dance, Will and Melinda catch each other's eye and decide to go for a walk, but Will notices that Melinda is somewhat evasive, especially when he mentions the bandstand. Later, as Will is driving Melinda home, Bruce Mitchell and his friends attempt to run them off the road.

Luana Patten and Jody McCrea as Polly Fisher and Bruce Mitchell
It is inevitable of course, that Will and Melinda fall in love, stirring up gossip both in town and at school. Melinda is fearful of her mother finding out, and her fear of hurting Elizabeth causes her to refuse the lead in the school's production of "Our Town", but encouraged by Will and her teacher, Miss Robson (Virginia Grey), she reconsiders, causing Polly to seethe with jealousy since playing the role herself seems to be the only way to get her own distant and uncaring mother to show an interest in her life. Will is also dealing with his parents insisting that he drop Melinda and try to make friends with the students who come from more prominent families (it is somewhat appalling how they expect him to make friends in order to help his father's career and status).

James Whitmore and Margaret Lindsay as Will's parents
Having said that, Ed and Dorothy are not entirely unsympathetic; they do eventually see that they can't expect their son to ensure their success in business. Saxon, who was still quite new to movies at this point (his official debut came in 1955's "Runnin' Wild"), is believable as a young man trying to find his place in the world and laments that his family can't stay in one place long enough for him to feel like he belongs. In Melinda, he finds a kindred spirit who only wants to be loved and accepted.

Teresa Wright as Melinda's mother, the reclusive Elizabeth Grant
Teresa Wright gives a memorable performance as the neurotic Elizabeth, who longingly waits for a letter that never comes and fears her daughter will make the same mistakes she herself did. Wright was an ingĂ©nue in the 1940s, not to mention a fine actress to boot, an Oscar-winner who was known for her serious approach to her work and for refusing to take part in publicity that she felt was inappropriate, such as posing for cheesecake photos. She began playing mother roles far too early, and this movie is an example of that. However, she excels in the role and I can't think of another actress who could have played the part.

Will and Melinda rehearsing for the school play
One of my favorite scenes is when Will and Melinda go to the bandstand so that Melinda can rehearse her role as Emily in the upcoming play. She changes into the beautiful costume made by her mother, and as they rehearse, the kiss in the scene becomes very real. But Will, fearful because he is aroused by Melinda, stops it from going any further. It really is a powerful little scene, and Will proves that he is indeed worthy of Melinda because he doesn't want to hurt her. Unfortunately, Polly just happens to be passing by and sees what she thinks is a compromising situation and decides to use it to her advantage.

The locker room confrontation on Parents' Night
On Parents Night, confrontation ensues. Melinda, having persuaded her mother to attend, is accosted by Polly, who attempts to blackmail her into dropping out of the school play. When that fails, Polly sends Bruce after Will, and then all hell breaks loose. Do things turn out all right in the end? Does love prevail? Speaking as someone who is originally from a small town, it is true that everyone knows everything about everybody, and if they don't, they make something up. Rumors do seem to swirl in small communities much more than in other places. The movie does convey that quite well, and in spite of being shot on the Universal lot, it does seem to capture a small-town feel.
Sandra Dee and Luana Patten taking a break during filming

Luana Patten turns in a very good performance as Polly, who conceals her own personal pain behind a snobby, vindictive front. Patten was a child actress who began in Disney films, but progressed to playing love interests in Westerns, dramas and rock 'n' roll films - in 1956 she appeared alongside John Saxon and Sal Mineo in the low-budget "Rock, Pretty Baby". By 1970, she had retired, and like Sandra Dee, she died at a relatively young age, from respiratory failure in 1996. 

Sandra Dee and John Saxon
There's something special about the onscreen chemistry between John Saxon and Sandra Dee. In all, they appeared together in three films, the others being "The Reluctant Debutante" (1958) and "Portrait In Black"(1960). In 1991, they co-starred in a stage production of "Love Letters". Saxon told Dee's son Dodd Darin that he felt an immediate affinity with Sandra because they were both from the East Coast, assuming personas for their careers that was far from what their childhoods had been.  He also sensed that something was not quite right in Sandra's life, but he couldn't quite figure it out. There were things she talked about that he didn't understand at the time. Years later, when he discovered that she had suffered through sexual abuse by her stepfather, many things began to make sense.

Melinda wonders why her tormentors decide to be nice to her
I think anyone can relate the theme of "The Restless Years" and the emotions it evokes. If you ever didn't feel like you fit in, especially in those perilous years of adolescence where being accepted by your peers matters more than anything, or adults who don't understand you and assume the worst, you'll identify with this film.  By today's standards, the fact that Melinda is illegitimate doesn't seem shocking at all, but for the time it was. Even in seemingly "respectable" places there was always a dark underside, as much some tried to hide or deny it.

"Kiss me once, before it's too late"

Of course, it can also be argued that it is a product of its era, but that's also part of its charm. There didn't have to be outstanding special effects, foul language, extreme violence or explicit sex scenes to get the point across. That's the beauty of this type of film, the kind that just is not made anymore. Times have changed, but emotions and love haven't.  There will always be people who appreciate films like this, and the studios should really restore these movies and release them.

Young love blossoms on the bandstand
Universal just recently released "The Restless Years" as part of its Vault series, but unfortunately, they chose to release it in non-anamorphic widescreen, meaning if you zoom in the image is blurry. While I have a bootleg copy that is not top quality either, you would think that Universal would have done a better job with this release. Given that it was filmed in CinemaScope, more effort should have been made for the DVD print so one can appreciate the glorious black and white cinematography.

Having said that, I'm grateful that it has been given an official release; perhaps one day it will be available in a restored format on DVD. It's long overdue and it deserves that much, especially for fans of Sandra Dee and John Saxon.

The special dynamic between these two actors lights up the screen
Sandra Dee's stardom only lasted for about ten years; when the studio system ended, she found it increasingly hard to adjust to freelancing, and she was worn down emotionally from her painful past and divorce from singer/actor Bobby Darin. John Saxon has remained active as an actor and often appears at conventions. Yet, I have always sensed that he has a special place in his heart for Sandra and those early years at Universal. Judging from interviews, he respected her greatly and later tried to encourage her to get out more, and perhaps be open to love again. However, her lack of self-esteem and self-confidence prevented her from breaking free of her past. The affection and mutual respect between them is evident when watching them onscreen in those three films.

John Saxon, Sandra Dee and director Helmut Kaunter
I had wanted to see this movie for years, and when I finally did I was not disappointed. Sandra Dee was a sweet soul who had more talent and human value than she gave herself credit for. I wish she could have had a happier life,  but at least we have her films to remember her by. John Saxon is also a treasure, a man who has continued to show range and versatility. He's had  very long career of which he should be justly proud, although I'm sure he wishes that Sandra could have had the same. "The Restless Years" is an engaging time capsule and seeing the beauty of Sandra Dee and John Saxon is worth the price alone!


Sunday, 6 January 2013

And Soon The Darkness: "A Little Ride In Sunny France"

  As a fan of classic horror (including that of the 70s part of the genre) as well as a fan of Pamela Franklin, I had been wanting to see this film for several years and finally got a DVD copy. Robert Fuest, who directed another favorite of mine, "Wuthering Heights" (1970), did a masterful job at conveying the quiet menace and isolated feeling of dread. Two young British nurses, Jane (Franklin), and Cathy (Michele Dotrice, daughter of Roy, sister of Karen), are on a bicycling holiday in rural France, where, unbeknownst to them, a murder of young woman tourist took place a few years before. The assailant was never caught. They are blissfully ignorant of this fact, and a mysterious young man, Paul (Hungarian actor Sandor Eles) catches Cathy's eye when the girls make a stop at a small cafe. Of course, it becomes apparent to the viewers that Paul knows more about the murder than he lets on. He shadows the girls for a while, even visits the cemetery where the unfortunate victim is buried. As to whether or not this is a deliberate red herring or not is revealed as the story progresses.
Jane and Cathy make another stop on the side of the road several miles down from the cafe and rest for a while on the edge of some pretty thick woods. They get into an argument and Jane leaves in a huff, while Cathy finds herself vulnerable to possibly the perpetrator of the aforementioned crime, in a frightening scene that lets one imagine the terror. After a little time has passed, Jane begins to grow concerned for her friend and regrets leaving Cathy alone. However, she is nowhere to be found. The locals seem to know something but as they don't seem to speak English and Jane knows very little French, her confusion and apprehension becomes that of the audience as well. The local British schoolteacher (Clare Kelly) believes that the killer was also a tourist. Paul claims to have worked on the case and offers to help Jane, but her suspicions and his sketchy behavior cause our young heroine to flee from him and try to get assistance elsewhere. The title of the movie is actually very appropriate, despite the fact that the story takes place in broad daylight. The fact that the later the day grows, the darker it will eventually get, signalling doom and possible death. There is also no violence or blood until the climax. Who is the murderer? Paul? One of the townspeople? The local police officer (John Nettleton)? Or has Cathy simply decided to play a joke on her friend? This movie will keep you guessing. Very nice cinematography as well, and the music is quite good, with the exception of the opening and ending credit tune, a bit bizarre considering the tone of the film.

Pamela Franklin never really got the credit she deserved as an actress: she was so convincing in everything I saw her in. Here she is believable as a young nurse caught in a terrifying trap in an unfamiliar country. Dressed simply but nicely throughout, she has a doe-like quality here which makes her seem all the more vulnerable. Michele Dotrice is lovely as well (wish she could have been seen more in films). The late Sandor Eles was unknown to me at the time, but quite good. While not overly menacing or devastatingly handsome, he did possess an interesting charisma. All of the actors cast helped add to the aura of atmospheric suspense. 
"And Soon The Darkness" was recently remade, and no doubt, the Hollywood version will most likely make everything more graphic and obvious. It seems they are running out of ideas. I probably don't have to tell you that I don't think much of remakes in general.

The DVD: The film's theatrical trailer, radio spots and talent bios are included, as well as commentary by director Fuest, screenwriter Brian Clemens and Christopher Lee biographer Jonathan Sothcott. I rate the commentary as okay but I don't know why they bemoan the fact that they did not cast a different actor to play Paul. Did they have someone else in mind? I would like to have heard more about Pamela Franklin as well. Some commentaries I like to listen to more than once; this isn't one of them. It could have been better, but it's not the worst commentary I've ever heard.

In conclusion, this is one suspense film you can watch during the day and still get a good scare. Recommended. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

"A Summer Place": An Endless Love

Why do I love this movie so much? What compelled me at the age of thirteen to watch it on television? I don't know, but I fell in love with the film, and all these years later, I love it still. It was years before my time, and still I felt as though it was an important part of my adolescence.  And now, when I hear Max Steiner's glorious theme, the nostalgic feelings of my own teenage days coming rushing back. By today's standards, "A Summer Place" may seem dated to some, even corny or over-the-top.  However, melodramas of that time, or dare I say it, soap opera melodramas were very different than what makes it to the big screen today. The issues the movie addresses, however, are as relevant now as it was back in 1959.

Significantly for me, this was the first time I saw Sandra Dee in a film, and it was easy to see why she became a pop culture icon.  This, along with her two other films of that same year - "Gidget" and "Imitation Of Life", solidified her status as a teen idol and household name, immortalizing her in the song "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" in "Grease".  At the time when I first viewed the movie, I had no idea the traumatic and tragic circumstances of Sandra's life and what hastened her retirement from the entertainment industry. If I did know, the significance of her character's relationship with her mother would have resonated all the more. Her portrayal is that of an innocent young girl, stifled by her mother's control and inspired by her father's free spirit about being true to and not being ashamed of herself. Her Molly Jorgenson finds herself caught in the middle between her parents and conflicted about whether to act on her feelings toward the dreamboat she meets at Pine Island.

Which brings me to the other teen idol that made a splash in his first starring role: Troy Donahue, here playing Johnny Hunter. Admittedly, he was pretty much a one-trick pony, and his stardom was even shorter-lived than that of his costar. However, he did have a few years of success and a screaming fanbase of teenage girls. Tall, blond, and with a deep voice, his appeal is not hard to see, but acting-wise, well, he was passable at best. But he and Sandra did make a striking onscreen couple and the chemistry was believable. After the success of "A Summer Place", his home studio, Warner Brothers, put him into two other similarly themed films, "Parrish" and "Susan Slade" (both 1961) and both, perhaps not too coincidently, paired him with another new young star, Connie Stevens.

Constance Ford is thoroughly detestable as Molly's mother Helen, who is so frigid, cold, and nasty that you have to wonder how Molly was even conceived in the first place. Indeed, she is definitely a Mommie Dearest, and the scene where her husband Ken (Richard Egan) calls her out on her biases and prejudices rings true all these years later and this scene apparently received a standing ovation when it premiered at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Determined to make sure that her daughter will remain a "good girl" even if it causes her pain, Helen does her best to turn Molly against her father and stop her from loving Johnny.

Egan's performance has more dimension than most less than favorable reviewers have given him credit for. He has a ruggedly handsome quality, yet he has a warmth along with the occasional sternness as a father who not only wants to protect his daughter but also wants her to experience life and love. Inevitably, the conflict between the two, his own loveless marriage and his rekindling an affair with old flame Sylvia Hunter (Dorothy McGuire), who also happens to be Johnny's mother (oh, the drama), causes emotional storms for all involved.

Dorothy McGuire never won an Oscar, and that is one of the many injustices of the Hollywood system. She certainly had enough warmth, humility and talent to be deserving of one. Sylvia, like Ken, was trapped in an empty marriage to the seemingly affluent and wealthy Bart Hunter (Arthur Kennedy, in another standout performance), but in fact he is a drunk, and his family fortune was long gone. Because Ken was not considered a decent prospect for her family, Sylvia had to make a choice, and while Johnny was perhaps the only good thing to come out of her union with Bart, she's had to live a dreary and dull existence.

As if our young lovers don't have enough to deal with, when their parents' divorce their respective spouses and Ken and Sylvia tie the knot, both Molly and Johnny feel angry and betrayed.  While I can certainly understand their viewpoint, Molly's anger toward her father and Johnny's toward his mother did get a little bit tiresome, especially considering that Helen and Bart hardly provided loving environments. Things to come to a head when the kids join the newlyweds at their beach house (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, ultra-modern '50s design), and they too, find their way back to a level of intimacy that was interrupted when Molly abruptly left Pine Island when Ken and Sylvia's affair was revealed. As Ken puts it, their children take after them, which concerns him. Should Molly and Johnny succumb to their desires? And what will happen if they do?

That's not to say that there are not any campy moments (who can forget Helen's slap, causing Molly to knock over the plastic Christmas tree?), but more often than not, you sympathize with both pairs of lovers and their struggles to listen to their hearts. "We live in a glass house, we're not throwing any stones." With those words, Sylvia and Ken let Molly and Johnny know that they will love and support them no matter what. It might be a tough road, but when you have love, it makes it a little easier. As Ken tells Molly early in the film, "We have one purpose in this life - to love and be loved. That is our sole reason for existence." So, the title means both the place where lovers meet and reunite, but also a place where love and understanding lives. And that, I think, is why this movie still holds up over fifty years later.

I should also add that the novel by Sloan Wilson ("The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit") is excellent as well. Published in 1958, the book has much more detail, more sub-plots and back stories of the characters. I managed to get a first edition hardcover copy that was in excellent condition. It was easy to see why it was such a big bestseller, and why the film was such a box-office smash. And what can be said about the interior design of the locations/sets and the costumes? Not to mention the glorious cinematography and Carmel locations, doubling for Maine. Who wouldn't want to visit?

Bask in the beauty of the California coast, in the beautiful lovers, and whatever feelings or memories "A Summer Place" brings you. In 2007, the movie finally made its long-awaited DVD debut, after having been only available online as out-of-print, pan-and-scan VHS tapes. The Warner Brothers DVD is in widescreen, and the print looks wonderful, with a few scratches here and there and little discoloration. The Dolby sound is fine. The only extra is the theatrical trailer, and while it's interesting to see, it's too bad that the main actors and the director Delmer Daves have all passed on, therefore making a commentary somewhat difficult, but not impossible since there would have to be some film expert or historian who could have provided one. That aside, it's still a worthy addition to any DVD library.

Richard Egan, Troy Donahue, Sandra's mother Mary and other cast members and crew celebrating Sandra's birthday on the set.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

                 Anatomy Of A Stage Parent

What is a stage parent? More importantly, what separates a parent who simply wants the best for their offspring and who want them to achieve what they couldn't, and the ones who want to live vicariously and keep the lifestyle and wealth that their child earns? I'm not a psychologist but I think I have an idea of what strays from normal ambition to perverse domination and exploitation. Child star and later adult character actor Jackie Coogan (1914-1984), filed suit against his mother and stepfather in 1935 for his money that he earned in his childhood acting career and he was awarded only a relatively small sum. Soon thereafter, the Coogan Act was formed - trust funds set up for child actors to protect their earnings. 

These examples from the classic Hollywood era are interesting looks into the dynamic between the star child and the stage parent.

 It's impossible to talk about stage parents without mentioning Natalie Wood (1938-1981), and her mother, Maria Gurdin.  Before the child was even born her mother had apparently been told by a gypsy that her second daughter would be world-famous, and Natalie certainly fit well into Maria's plans. Natalie was her mother's darling, the golden girl - and the youngster would learn that there were both advantages and downsides to that position.  Maria had desperately sought the spotlight herself - and it was through Natalie that she was finally able to achieve some semblance of that dream.  While as a young girl, Natalie had the perks of being a child star, she missed out on the normalcy of childhood, something that she would come to regret later, causing her to ensure that her own children would have the kind of important and natural experiences of growing up that she had missed out on.  When her father's drinking became so out of control that he was unable to hold down jobs for any length of time, Natalie became the family breadwinner, and Maria kept her under tight control. And in something that was very common in these types of households, the other parent and the rest of the children were often pushed into the background.  Natalie rebelled, but inevitably, the strong bond she felt toward Maria and her obligation and loyalty for her family was never far from her mind. Many believe that it was Maria who instilled in Natalie her fear of water, in addition to several other phobias.

 However, as is often the case with parent-child relationships, Natalie was emotionally dependent upon her mother, and despite strains and tensions over the years, never cut her completely out of her life.  She did enjoy acting but at times became worn out from the pressure and publicity.  In her late twenties, she took some time off for herself to relax and explore other interests. Being a wife and mother overjoyed her, but she still loved acting and wanted to return to work, if at first only on a part-time basis. It can be argued that Maria pushed her into acting but Natalie had a natural gift that Maria may have tried to take credit for, but was her daughter's and only her daughter's alone. Natalie's death shattered Maria, who had lived for and through her daughter so much that she seemed to have a hard time separating her own identity from Natalie's. In a rather poignant and sad twist of fate, Maria Gurdin suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's disease in her last years, and perhaps her mind found refuge in the past, reliving those memories of her star child.

  It's also fascinating, in retrospect, to see how Natalie (and some of the other actresses that will also be written about in this post), a few times played roles in her career that had parallels with her own life and parental relationships. Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Splendor In The Grass (1961), This Property Is Condemned (1966) and especially Gypsy (1962) in which she played the title role in burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee's fictionalized and dramatized life story,  may explain why Natalie felt such affinity for these characters. She identified with their struggles, their joys, sorrows, pain and triumphs.  And her performances always ring true.  It may have hit too close to home but she was proud of her work and what it meant to her. 

 Sandra Dee (1944-2005) never managed to escape her mother, Mary Douvan, and even after her mom's death she remained a prisoner of her mother's manipulation and cushioning. Sandy was the focus of Mary's life, and would remain so until her mother's death in 1988.  But Mary ultimately did her child more harm than good. Not only did she live vicariously through her daughter's movie career, but she prevented her from learning how to make decisions for herself or face the realities behind the walls of the house or the studio.  Even Sandra's marriage to Bobby Darin was not able to liberate her from her mother's domination.  But Mary also was guilty of what we now see as one the ultimate acts of parental betrayal - she allowed and turned a blind eye to her second husband's sexual abuse of her daughter. This man, Eugene Douvan, died just before Sandra's acting career took her to Hollywood.

 Sandra's feelings about her stepfather were ambivalent - on the one hand he subjected her to horrendous abuse, but at the same time he gave her boundaries and allowed her to fit in with kids her own age. Mary wanted the perfect little princess who would never grow up, and the only way for Mary to survive the harsh reality of situations was to pretend that it wasn't happening, no matter what it might cost her daughter. Sandra, as a result of this emotional trauma, developed eating disorders and later alcoholism, which, even the fluffiest of magazine pieces and publicity at the time, is hinted at and glossed over. Sandra's son Dodd Darin, his book biography Dream Lovers: The Magnificently Shattered Lives Of Bobby Darin And Sandra Dee, also notices some disturbing things in the fan magazines - Eugene quoted as saying, "I married you just to get Sandy", and another desperately sad and telling theme - Sandra had no real friends outside of the studio. Mary may have been so lonely that she latched onto her daughter as a way of feeling loved and needed, which may explain why she tried to cater to Sandy's every whim. Unfortunately, Mary did not seem to comprehend that she was not helping her daughter, she was making her into an emotional cripple.  Sandra said herself that Mary was the best girlfriend in the world, and the worst mother. Dodd stated he found it nearly impossible to imagine his mother and grandmother apart from one another.  Mary also was in denial about Sandy's problems and to Dodd's knowledge, never took responsibility for her role in the situation. But I do believe that Mary loved her daughter, but her behavior strayed far from a healthy norm. Sandra, to the day she passed, struggled to learn the simple things the rest of us take for granted - shopping, cooking, writing checks, taking care of mundane daily tasks.  It cannot be denied that Mary's influence played a large role in what happened to Sandra.

 Sandra, too, appeared in a few films that emphasized the complexes and tensions of mother-daughter relationships. The Restless Years (1957), A Summer Place and Imitation Of Life (both 1959) not only showed that Sandra could play drama as well as comedy, but one gets the feeling that the emotion she displayed was very real.  Although in Imitation Of Life, her character's problem is the opposite of Sandra's real life situation, you can feel the anger, resentment, pain and longing when she confronts her mother.  The tears do not feel staged or rehearsed, and her words ring true. Whatever Sandra was feeling when she acted those scenes, she conveyed it to the audience in subtle facial expressions and then with compelling words that still have an impact over fifty years later.

Tuesday Weld (b. 1943), who was a fellow classmate of Sandra's in New York, was forced to become the family breadwinner at age three after the death of her father.  Her child model earnings helped to support herself, her mother Yosene Ker Weld, known as Aileen, and two older siblings. Inevitably, this pressure became too much for the little girl to handle. At the age of nine she suffered a nervous breakdown, one year later she had begun drinking heavily, and then before she was twelve, she had lost her virginity and was having relationships with older men. When she was thirteen, a romance ended badly and she attempted suicide. One can only imagine what a whirlwind of emotion and strife this would be for an adult, and Tuesday had this dumped on her plate before she was even a teenager. Despite the turmoil, she made her film debut in the low-budget film Rock Rock Rock! (1956), and became interested in the idea of an acting career. After finding some television work in New York, Tuesday and her family moved to Los Angeles and she began appearing in more films.  However, she continued her interest in older men and wild behavior, causing the press to both scold and admire her for her rebellious attitude.  After her mother tried to control her personal life, Tuesday apparently shot back, "If you don't stop bothering me, I'll quit acting . . .  and then there won't be anymore money for you, Mama."  Tuesday moved out of her mother's house when she was sixteen and bought her own residence.

 While they remained in occasional contact over the years, Tuesday and Aileen never seemed to have truly repaired their relationship. Tuesday resented her mother for taking her childhood away, and for some years even claimed that Aileen was dead, even though it was untrue. Tuesday's roles in Lord Love A Duck (1966) and in particular, Pretty Poison (1968) seem to have some interesting parallels with her personal life in that regard. Tuesday, however, resisted the trappings of stardom and turned down many key films, including Lolita (1962), which she later dismissed by saying, "I didn't have to play Lolita, I was Lolita." She managed to break free of her mother and lived and continues to live on her own terms.  For that she deserves admiration and praise, and her truly offbeat but fascinating body of work has resulted in a large cult following.

Italian actress Pier Angeli (1932-1971) and her mother Enrica had a close relationship that was both emotionally dependent and tension-filled. Pier also, in her late teens, helped support her family when she began acting in films, first in Italy and later in Hollywood, where she was signed by MGM.  Her innocent European charm made her a hit with the fan magazines and her mother's protective influence seemed endearing and proper in the early 1950s.  Her fraternal twin sister Marisa Pavan also became an actress, but she had a much more independent personality that allowed her to live more freely, while Pier was her mother's ideal daughter whom she felt was a way for her to live the dreams that she hadn't been able to have for herself.  Always chaperoned and carefully guarded, many young men, eager to just be able to have a date with the delicately beautiful young woman accepted this rule, although they had very little choice in the matter.  When Pier began seeing the unconventional and rebellious young method actor James Dean, Enrica's radar went into crisis mode and she did anything she could to break up the relationship.  Eventually, her plan worked and Pier agreed to marry singer Vic Damone who fit Enrica's credentials as a husband for her daughter. It was a decision that would have unforeseen and devastating consequences for all involved.

 The marriage lasted a few years and produced a son, but it was a mismatched and doomed union from the start. Damone was jealous and Pier loved being the center of attention and enjoyed innocent flirting.  It has been speculated that the marriage was a violent one and when it ended, Pier and Damone spent several years in a very public custody battle over their child. Pier's career never fully recovered from her decision to break her contract with her studio, which in effect blackballed her and she returned to Europe, where her film work did not have the same momentum as it had when she had left not even ten years before.  Her second marriage was also a mistake, except for the son that came from it, and the protectiveness that had shielded her in her younger years now became a liability as she found the reality of life hard to cope with. Returning to Hollywood in 1971, she hoped to resume her career but her phone wasn't ringing with offers. Then on the morning of September 10, a friend that she was staying with her found her unconscious. In a bizarre and heartbreaking coincidence, as the paramedics tried to revive her, her agent called offering her a guest spot on a television show. Pier never regained consciousness, and her death was ruled a suicide, although some people, including myself, believe that it was an accidental overdose. She had reunited with her son and she was looking forward to an outing with him that day. Enrica was devastated by the loss of her daughter, and like many stage mothers, was prone to exaggeration, and Pier's death made it easier to spin events of her life in the direction she wanted.  Perhaps Pier's onscreen vulnerability was what made her so trusting and didn't allow her to see when other people didn't have her best interests at heart.

Magarita Carmen Cansino aka Rita Hayworth (1918-1987), the beloved Love Goddess of Hollywood, was put into dancing school from when she could walk, and as she would recall afterward, she had no choice. Her father, Eduardo Cansino, had been a hit in Vaudeville dancing with his sister Elisa as The Dancing Cansinos.  After he married Ziegfield Follies dancer Volga Hayworth and produced three children, Eduardo opened a dancing school but the depression made it difficult to earn a living.  He decided to revive the Dancing Cansinos and have Rita, who was twelve years old at the time, as his dancing partner. Putting his child in less than honorable and secure places such as gambling boats makes one wonder why he didn't just select one of his students, one who was older and experienced.  There has been speculation that Rita was molested and beaten by her father at this time, since much of the time her mother was not with her and she was not allowed to have any real friends. In fact, her father eventually had her taken out of school and lied about her age so that she wouldn't have to attend. While the allegations of abuse can't really be verified, there is no doubt that young Rita was exploited and subjected to an environment that a child should not be a part of. She was not allowed to have a normal life, and later, the publicity machine in Hollywood would strangely portray her relationship with her father and her past as his dancing partner in a romantic and even erotic way.

 When Hollywood beckoned, Eduardo still tried to control his daughter and her career, but when she met Edward Judson, the man who would become her first husband, she found herself in yet another relationship with a controlling man. Her fourth husband Dick Haymes was also a rather nasty figure who reportedly physically abused her. Judson treated her like a child and sought to launch her career rather than living a life of happy matrimony.
Men were attracted to the beautiful young woman, and while her screen persona conveyed her as a sexy siren, they were surprised to learn how quiet and shy she was in real life.  Rita was at odds with her screen image, as her most often quoted statement suggests - "Men fell in love with Gilda, but woke up with me." It has been said that many of the great sex symbols were abused in childhood, and that later in life they seek security and love in relationships with men, and they tend to attract men who have less that noble intentions.  Rita, according to her daughter Princess Yasmin Khan,  was not close with her father later on. She resented that he put so much pressure on her when she was a child and placing a burden on her that no child should have to carry. When she died in 1987, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, it's comforting to think that this all too human but gentle woman finally found the peace that she deserved.

Veronica Lake (1922-1973), born Constance Marie Ockelman,  known around Hollywood in her brief stardom days as The Girl With The Peekaboo Bang, had a viper of a stage mother to contend with.  After Veronica's drinking and martial problems caused her career to go on the downslide in the late 1940s, Constance Trimble Ockelman sued her daughter for financial support, leading to more unsavory headlines. Many now believe that Constance used Veronica as a meal ticket, and threw her away when the money dried up. The fact that she expected her daughter to support her is not only outrageous but ridiculous.  She entered her daughter into beauty pageants while she was still underage, and after using Veronica for financial gain and security, turned against her and didn't even bother to attend the funeral of her only child. So much for motherly love.

To add insult to injury, Mrs. Okelman later told author Jeff Lenburg that Veronica was a paranoid schizophrenic, with absolutely no proof of any kind of official diagnosis or any documentation to support this. Perhaps this was a way to slander her daughter's memory and portray herself as a victim, and to get a last little bit of limelight for herself. In any case, despite Veronica's turbulent life and problems with alcohol and depression, she did not deserve to be treated that way by her own mother. And it wouldn't surprise me that she had a hard time having a healthy relationship with her own offspring as a result. This lady was in very bad shape at the end of her all-too-brief life, and the fact that her mother treated her the way that she did, even after her death, is just so painful and outrageous to think about.  I can't fathom how Mrs. Okelman was even capable of maternal love and affection, and it wouldn't come as a shock at all to learn that Veronica seldom got either from this stage mother from you know where.

I will finish this off by saying I don't claim to know all the details, and while there's nothing wrong with having ambitions for your children, there needs to be a healthy balance in there. Your child's safety, interests and needs have to come first.  They need to feel loved, protected, nurtured and especially, allowed to be a child. All of these girls were deprived of that in some fashion, and all of them suffered as a result and it severely affected their sense of self-worth, their emotional security and their future relationships. Children are a gift, and being a parent is a privilege, not a right. Parental love is a critical element in a person's life, and it needs to be given and shown without any strings attached and without conditions.