Thursday, 19 December 2013

BAD GIRLS CLUB: BARBARA STANWYCK IN “BABY FACE”



I gotta say right away that I know zilch about this legendary actress except the fact that she used to be in the DYNASTY spin-off, THE COLBYS, in the mid-80s and that she always had the rep of being a lesbian. In the 1933 BABY FACE drama, however, men are what get her motor going. She plays this down on her luck tough broad who manages to sleep her way to the top. All thanks to life coach extraordinaire Nietzsche (!) whose aphorisms push her into the arms of every guy she meets, including a young John Wayne. The film was heavily edited when it was originally released, believed to be too daring for moviegoers, and with good reasons. For its time, BABY FACE is hardly of the saccharine sort, with lines such as "I’m a tramp and who’s to blame? My father!"
  

The fun kicks in pretty early when Stanwyck, being the speakeasy waitress and floozy that she is, fends off a lecherous bum who happens to be the town politician. When she hits him with a bottle to prove her point, he runs off threatening to close up the joint. Her fuming dad just has time to argue with her before the moonshine operation he keeps next door explodes to smithereens, taking him along for the ride. Orphaned with nowhere else to go except to the street corner, Stanwyck sets out to conquer the world in the Big Apple, and does she.
 

That’s where she meets all types of influent men who enable her to move up in exchange for a good time in the hay. But it’s rich playboy George Brent who ends up touching her heart. So much so that when he’s facing financial ruin she willingly gives up her newfound wealth to come to his aid. And if you think he’s only using her, well, think again. He loves loves loves her, and for a girl with a past, that’s all that matters, doesn’t it?

 

The beauty of BABY FACE, besides witnessing its sheer stupidity for 76 minutes, is watching la Stanwyck strutting her way (convincingly, I might add) into society. I mean the girl is shameless with a capital S. It doesn’t matter who she steps onto, or the degree to which she lies to get ahead. She has this fixed agenda and nothing can stop her—not even murder or suicide. Besides, if it hadn’t been for the wisdom of Nietzsche she’d still be in a dump somewhere breaking bottles over sleazy politicians’ heads, and we wouldn’t have that, now would we? On second thought, maybe we should. It sure would have beaten anything involving the moralistic turn the film takes later on.

 
 
As mentioned, BABY FACE went trough a bunch of cuts and changes before being finally released to the public. One of which involved the tragic climax which has Stanwyck choosing wealth over love before finding her man dead. A happy ending was reinstated to appease the censors. But even that didn’t stop some theater owners from banning the film. But as you all know, nothing can stop a train wreck from showing up somewhere, with or without changes. And to that I say, many happy returns, BABY FACE.
 

 
 
Until next post—Martin

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

KRISTA ERRICKSON IN “LITTLE DARLINGS”



 


When everyone was going gaga over Kristy McNichol and Matt Dillon’s imminent coupling in the 1980 teen comedy LITTLE DARLINGS, I, on the other hand, was obsessing over Krista Errickson who portrayed the evil witch Cinder. If you recall, she’s the one who initiates the bet as to who, among her fellow campers, will lose her virginity first. She handpicks scruffy McNichol and prudish Tatum O’Neal while the Supertramp classic "School" plays in the background. And when the tune finally picks up speed, showing next a montage of the girls having a ball during camp activities, you know right then and there that you’ll be in for a treat too. Unless the film suddenly switches gears and becomes one of those slasher flicks so highly coveted back in the day. But fortunately it does not, though I got to admit I wouldn’t have  minded much since I’ve always craved horror as well.
 


I first set eyes on Krista Errickson during her stint in the low-rated sitcom HELLO, LARRY on NBC. The show was in its second season, and execs were in a desperate need of making it a hit. Big changes were made, including the replacement of actress Donna Wilkes who played the title character’s eldest daughter. Rumor has it that she’d been unprofessional. So in came Errickson, who took over the role, portraying demure, smart Diane whose only rebellious streak was to run off with John Travolta’s little brother Joey in  a highly enjoyable two parter. An unlikely choice for romance if you ask me, but that’s a different blog entry in itself.
 


As any gay man, I’ve always enjoyed beauty—male or female (and God knows I have seen my share)—and to me, Errickson was the definition of it back then. Her Brooke Shield-like appeal, not to mention her impressive rack (case in point: her mouse costume in LITTLE DARLINGS) made her a favorite in my book. I remember the many time I spent going through rags after rags, such as 16 or Tiger Beat, for any mere mention of her, and it eventually did pay off. That’s how I came to know of her participation in LITTLE DARLINGS. So on that winter morning of 1980, after scanning the Montreal newspaper for the film showings, I took my courage in both hands and went way downtown for a matinee.
 

 
I was far from being disappointed with my attendance, let me tell you. Not only was she in many scenes but the film was overall very effective. Of the two leads, I’d say Kristy McNichol did a better job. Tatum O’Neal, like her character, was more restraint. As for Krista, well, what can I say? I could have watched her play that snotty little beotch all day. In fact, I went back to see her in action on several occasions (remember, this was before video players or Internet), bringing my friends along. I even purchased the  film’s novelization with the lurid pink cover which I still possess today.
 
 

Whatever happened to her after this film? Well, she did make a few movies and some TV appearances (HELLO, LARRY was canceled after that second season). Suffice to say, I have seen my share of them throughout the years, but yes my obsession with her had definitely waned by then. Still, like all of my favorites, I like to keep an eye on their careers. And it seems that she’s made a turnabout in hers, becoming a respected documentary filmmaker. She even has a Twitter account now, to which I’m subscribed. I hope her memories of being a "child star" are as great as mine marveling at her. Because, at times, for this then struggling gay teen, her onscreen presence was all he needed to hold onto—until it got better.



 
 
Until next post—Martin