Mary Murphy.

Mary Murphy 1

Born in Washington D.C. but growing up in Cleveland, Mary Murphy’s father passed away when she was only nine years old. Mom packed the family off to Los Angeles, where Mary was signed to a Paramount Pictures contract after being discovered while on her lunch break from a Saks Fifth Avenue package wrapper job. The usual bit parts and uncredited roles in forgettable comedies, westerns and sci-fi flicks filled the next two years till she got her breakout lead role as Kathie Bleeker opposite Marlon Brando in 1953’s The Wild One.

Mary Murphy 3

Mary Murphy appeared in nearly twenty more films and countless television roles through the early 1970’s, including The Desperate Hours with Frederic March and Humphrey Bogart on one hand, and the cult fave Live Fast, Die Young in 1958. A brief six-month marriage in 1956 to actor Dale Robertson was annulled after only six months, though Murphy remarried in 1962, that one ending in divorce several years later. Retiring from acting in the mid-1970’s, Murphy focused on environmental causes and art gallery work till her death in 2011.

Mary Murphy 2

No one’s going to suggest that she ought to nudge noir icons like Lizabeth Scott or Jane Greer aside, but Mary Murphy’s role as a deliciously devious femme fatale in 1955’s Hell’s Island (I much prefer the original title Love Is A Weapon) should secure her a place in the dangerous dames hall of fame, even if that movie isn’t exactly at the top of her resume.

Mary Murphy 4

Girls With Guns: Marie Windsor

marie windsor the narrow margin

One of the 1940’s – 50’s many “Queen Of The B’s”, Marie Windsor (Emily Marie Bertelsen, 1919 – 1980) would’ve turned 100 today, December 11th.  Her film and television resume is a mile long, including her share of crime melodramas and a couple key noir films: Force Of Evil with John Garfield in 1948, and one of her best (and a personal favorite or mine), The Narrow Margin from 1952 (a publicity still from that film shown above) most of which takes place on a train, with Windsor playing a murdered mobster’s widow…or is she? (She’s much, much more.) Naturally athletic and considered tall for her time at 5’9″, she often had to stoop or do scenes sitting down when paired with height-challenged male co-stars.

Gunn’s Hart

Lola Albright 1

Lola Albright played Edie Hart, jazz club chanteuse and girlfriend to Craig Stevens’ private eye Peter Gunn in the 1958 – 1961 ABC TV series of the same name. Actually, her real name — Lola Albright — almost sounds better for a quirky little jazz club singer than her made-up character name. And it was the actress and singer’s real name.

Loal Albright 2

Lola Jean Albright was born in Akron, Ohio in 1924, juggling small-time singing gigs while modeling in Chicago until a talent scout lured her to Hollywood in 1947. Two years in she got her first break alongside Kirk Douglas in 1949’s Champion, but continued to toil in small parts, B-movies, Westerns and television roles, still working as a model on the side, which included posing for well-known pin-up and ‘good girl art’ painter Gil Elvgren. In 1958 she was cast as Edie Hart in the new Blake Edwards produced ABC series Peter Gunn, doing her own singing in nearly forty episodes, nominated for an Emmy in 1959, while recording several successful record albums. During Peter Gunn’s third and final season she fell for the actor/musician portraying the piano player at Mother’s, the little bohemian jazz club private eye Peter Gunn used as his unofficial headquarters, and the two were married from 1961 to 1975. Albright passed away at age 92 in 2017.

A Cold Wind In August

If you get a chance to catch some Peter Gunn episodes, check them out. Hopefully they’ll be the dark, suspenseful and gritty ones, which are a real treat. As is Lola Albright’s breezy performances…and her singing, if you’re fortunate enough to view one in which she performs.

Lola Albright 3

The Girl Without A Stoplight In Her Life

ruth roman

Ruth Roman (1922 – 1999) planned to be a Broadway star, and when that didn’t pan out, worked as a cigarette girl in various Manhattan nightclubs till she earned enough money for the train fare west to Hollywood. There she finally landed her first film roles in 1943, toiling away in bit parts and serials while writing short stories about her experiences and the colorful life in a Los Angeles theatrical boarding house. It all came together in 1951, though, with multiple starring roles, some prestigious – Strangers On A Train — and some not so much – Lightning Strikes Twice — and she worked steadily in film and television clear through the 1960’s, still taking occasional roles all the way into the early 1980’s. Not one of Hollywood’s biggest names perhaps, but someone who worked hard and really lived, and you can see that in her stance and expression in the studio portrait above. I adore this photo…I’ve been sitting on a copy of this image file long before I knew who she was.

Ruth Roman Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)

Carla Gugino: A Femme Fatale Princess

Carla Gugino by Greg Williams 2Carla Gugino by Greg Williams 3Sure, she’s done goofy comedies, wholesome family films and television series going back to the 1980’s.

But for me, Carla Gugino is a member of contemporary noir royalty. With memorable performances in Sin City, the so-weird but so-cool Sucker Punch, then Hotel Noir, and nominated for Best Actress by the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival for Greg William’s and Sebastien Guiterriez’ indie short Tell-Tale (see preceding post), Gugino rightfully belongs in the ranks of cinema’s most notorious (and therefore utterly loveable) femmes fatales. Whether browsing darkly stylish fashion editorials or film stills from selected projects, one could almost fill a mini-blog just with Gugino in various dangerous dames roles. I won’t, but I will include these three here as a glimpse of her work.

carla gugino by greg williams

Stiletto Gumshoes: Kim Delaney

kim delaney

‘Stiletto Gumshoes’ of a sort on TV: Kim Delaney, first known as Detective Diane Russell on NYPD Blue, then as criminal defense attorney Kathleen Maguire on Philly, which only lasted one season back in 2001 (below), and then on CSI: Miami in 2002, though written off after ten episodes.

philly

 

 

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