Friday, June 15, 2012

Bitches and Blaggards: Gloria Grahame and Vincent Price

This is the sixth in the "Bitches and Blaggards" series; monthly posts devoted to my favorite movie bad girls and rogues A bitch is a selfish, malicious woman. A blaggard is a villain, a rogue and a black-hearted man. Both are bad, both are devastatingly alluring.


Gloria Grahame
Gloria Grahame was a gal who embraced her inner floozy. No blushing heroine, she; not even a nice girl forced into unfortunate circumstances. No, little Gloria, the "girl with the Novocaine lip," was a cinematic bad girl and trollop deluxe. Her motives are rarely pure, but somehow you find yourself rooting for this gal. You can gown her, fox-fur her and bejewel her and still she is NOT the girl you want to bring home to mother. Bless her crooked little heart. Two of Gloria's great bitch roles are "Sudden Fear" and "The Big Heat."


Sudden Fear
Gloria was a very bad girl here. Star Joan Crawford plays Myra Hudson (a relative of Blanche, perhaps?), who marries hunky Jack Palace. She marries for love and he marries for money. Once he learns that Myra plans to leave the bulk of her estate to charity, Jack and girlfriend Gloria plot to bump her off before the ink hits the paper. As usual, things go badly for Gloria and she winds up dead. She is flawless here, bad but just a victim of love and a louse.


The Big Heat
This is the one where Gloria's face gets scarred when old flame Lee Marvin throws hot coffee at her. Where was Kramer and Jackie Chiles when she needed them? Gloria is by far the best thing about this movie. While not exactly a bitch (she does have a good heart in the end), she has played so long with the rough boys that she is a pretty tough cookie herself. If you want to wear the mink, you gotta slink the slink.

Off-screen, Gloria was equally scandalous. Married to director Nicholas Ray, she began an affair with her 13-year old step-son, Tony Ray. She and daddy Nick subsequently divorced and after another husband thrown in for good measure, Gloria and Tony (who had 2 children together) finally tied the knot. Well, that didn't last either (surprised?).

And about that Novocaine lip: this was a case of plastic surgery gone bad. Apparently, she stuffed her upper lip with cotton rather than own up to the surgery.

Still, we love Gloria Grahame, the little trollop that could.

Vincent Price
Now, I just love Vincent Price. He was so much more than a blaggard, but he could be a mighty good (bad) one if asked. Before drifting into semi-humorous horror roles, he displayed a discomforting ability to torture the fairer sex. Two of Vincent's best appearances as a blaggard are in "Laura" and "Dragonwyck."


Laura
"Laura" is a special film because it features two blaggards and a bitch (Judith Anderson). Clifton Webb's Waldo Lydecker is the chief villain, but Vincent Price's Shelby Carpenter is no prize, either. He is charming, he is weak, and he is a cheat. As the film unfolds, it is not really clear why Shelby wants to marry Laura, since Ann seems to give him everything he needs and wants. Of course, Laura is beautiful, but the lure of Ann's easy money is too great. Plus Ann looks the other way when he cheats with Diane Redfern (the girl who is actually murdered). He lies to the police, he lies to Laura (though he does try to defend her when he suspects her of the murder) and he cheats like a devil. Laura eventually comes to her senses (with the help of hunky Dana Andrews), but Shelby was a charmer in his smarmy way.

Dragonwyck
In "Dragonwyck," Price again gets to torment beautiful Gene Tierney. As the master of the foreboding estate, Dragonwyck, Price's Nicholas presides over his kingdom like a Rochester wannabe. But, the story demands that lovey Gene find him irresistible. Soon we find out that, besides being a beast that crushes the little people beneath his boot, Nicholas has poisoned his first wife and plan's to do the same to current wife, Gene. Watch out for guys who tend to their oleander plants!


Price also menaced in some neat noirs, notable "The Bribe," before hitting the horror trail. In real life he was a bit of a Renaissance man in a world where such men are a rarity. Besides being an actor of great ability, we was a connoisseur and collector of fine art, a raconteur and a man of great humor. And, a damn good blaggard, I might add.


Coming Soon: The Bitch and Blaggard of July are Jack Palance and Lizbeth Scott





27 comments:

Cynthia said...

Ever since I was a little girl, I've had a mad crush on Vincent Price. Don't know what it is about those "bad" boys that I love, but Dragonwyck was a very favorite movie of mine because of him! Oh, and that voice! Any time I saw that he was featured in a movie, I just had to watch.

Irene Palfy said...

yes.. You named three films I really love - and two of them are of my altime favourites.. I just adore Vincent Price. Love intelligent men.

readerman said...

Gloria Grahame is a favorite of mine. She's quite sexy and as you say, hard not to root for even when she's bad. A great noir supporting actress. I enjoyed the post. As for Price, I can take him or leave him.

Rick29 said...

This has been a very fun series and these two selections are quite excellent! Vincent could be quite the baddie in some of Corman's Edgar Allan Poe's movies, too, such as MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH.

FlickChick said...

@ Cynthia - yes, Vincent Price had a most seductive voice! I would have followed him into any haunted house!

FlickChick said...

Irene - thank you. Vincent is sorely missed, not just for his talent, but for his intelligence and personality, as well. Great guy.

FlickChick said...

readerman - Gloria was a charmer and she always could make you feel for her (even when she was a bad girl).

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Rick! I loved Vincent in all of his horror baddie roles. He always added a touch of humor and charm.

Lasso The Movies said...

Gloria Grahame was one of the first actress that I was able to recognize when I was a kid. I thought it was because I had seen "It's A Wonderful Life" a lot, but years later I discovered that it was her insane ability to captivate me whenever she walked or talked. (Mostly walked I suppose.) Thanks for the post on her, I always love to see her get mentioned.

Diane said...

Wow I did not know that much about Gloria and I have always loved Vincent Price. He was always such a "man" to me.
Great post.

The Lady Eve said...

FlickChick, I'd read about Gloria and her step-son (amazing that her career survived that scandal) but didn't know the lip was a botched fixer-upper. One of her noirs, "Naked Alibi," screened at the local Film Noir festival this year and, because she co-starred with Sterling Hayden, I couldn't resist. He and she burned up the big screen. And that's the only believable thing that happened onscreen at all. I've seen "Laura" many times and at some point I started to wonder how on earth sweet and innocent Laura could've gotten herself involved with two such entirely loathsome men - Lydecker and Carpenter. On top of that, not even Lt. McPherson is an especially nice guy.

As always, you've chosen two deserving and iconic B&Bs and I enjoyed every word.

FlickChick said...

@ Lasso - I am very happy to discover your wonderful site. Glad you could find a little Gloria to brighten your day!

FlickChick said...

@ Diane - I think we share some wonderful Vincent Price memories. He was, indeed, the man.

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - burned up the screen - that is a perfect phrase to describe Gloria's cinematic presence. As for Laura, Gene Tierney is so sweet, but if you examine her character, she is a bit of a user, so maybe she fit right in with that bunch. Detective Dana Andrews better watch out.

silverscreenings said...

Great post! I always enjoy Gloria Grahame and Vincent Price - they really give you your money's worth.

Christian Esquevin said...

FlickChick - what strong and unique personalities you have paired here. Gloria had the face of a child and the figure of a godess, a winning combination in Hollywood. Vincent always seemed to be enjoying himself despite how creepy the role. He could just as easily have been a Shakespearian actor or a comic. Your post has been much fun.

FlickChick said...

Silverscreenings - thanks for stopping by. Yes - you ALWAYS seemed to get your money's worth back then (of course, it did cost $12 + to see a movie!)

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Christian. Gloria did have a very childlike quality about her and Vincent just seemed like he would always be a great dinner guest.

Caftan Woman said...

Whenever I think of Gloria Graham I think of George Bailey and his pals Bert and Ernie watching Violet Bicks walking away.

Whenever I think of Vincent Price my first thought is of his hilarious turn in "Champagne for Caesar". His character was very funny, as well as being a true blaggard.

Page said...

FlickChick,
So sorry it's taken so long to get over here! Got so caught up in the NBA Finals and work lately.

Still laughing over 'embrace her inner floozy' and 'trollop that could'! Love Vincent but I'll admit that I haven't seen but maybe 4 of Grahames films.

Loved your write up, info on Vincent. I sure do miss him.

Another amusing and thoughtful article.
See ya soon!
Page

FlickChick said...

CW - yes, I always think of Gloria as Violet, too, but she sure developed, didn't she? As for Vincent, he did so many great comic roles. Another favorite of mine is his supporting performance in "His King of Woman." If you can take your eyes off of Mitchum and Russell, VP is hilarious.

FlickChick said...

Thanks for stopping by, Page. I am way behind on my blog reading, too, as my list got kind of scrambled for a while. VP is just a treasure, but see if you can catch up with Gloria. She sure was cute (and mean).

Dawn said...

Gloria and Vincent, have always been favorites of mine. I'm so glad that you spotlighted them.

Perry said...

I absolutely adore Gloria Grahame! She's beautiful in an off-beat way that makes her seem much more attainable than most of the major female stars of the time.

But she also was very talented, and the combination makes it hard for me to take my eyes off her when she's on the screen. I saw "Human Desire" for the first time last night, and while Glenn Ford could resist the spell Gloria tried to cast on him, I was ready to do anything she wanted! LOL

Check out "In a Lonely Place" if you want to see her in a sympathetic role.

FlickChick said...

@ Perry- oh, the boys love Gloria. I think she was always a bit sympathetic, even when she was being a bit of a bb.

B Wayland said...

What a wonderful site. Got to meet Vincent Price in college. He visited our drama class. He was friends w/ my drama prof. Then attended her party & met him again. He was one of the most genuine,& gentlemanly men I ever met. As far as Ms.Grahame;she was so great.I miss her a lot. She deserved so much more than she got.

B Wayland said...

GLORIA GRAHAME is having a revival. Annette Bening's is starring in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool,"based on Peter Turner book about Gloria's last yrs.In my research of her life it's hard to find much about her marriage to Tony Ray. One thing Tony has never remarried.She gets better w/ time.She had that undefined quality that always left you wanting more.