Saturday, May 18, 2019

THE BEAT GENERATION - "Way-Out Parties Beyond Belief!" (1959)

Tonight's Saturday Night Special is the result of my reinvigorated interest in Vampira and her very cool career, and the path led me here, because in 1959 Albert Zugsmith, produced four movies that were all very fascinating for a number of reasons, but what I found most interesting was how they used a large number of the same actors in all four movies (Ala Roger Corman), and then each film also had it's own group of other special individuals.

Let me try and explain.
No slouch in the production department, Albert Zugsmith had already produced three of my favorite movies, "Written On The Wind," "The Incredible Shrinking Man," and "Touch Of Evil," before this, and in 1958 he produced "High School Confidential," starring Russ Tamblyn, but also in the cast were Mamie Van Doren, Ray Anthony, Jackie Coogan, Charles Chaplin Jr., and Norman Grabowski who would all be in his next three or four movies too, along with a lot of other notable names like Vampira!

The first movie of the 1959 series was "Night Of The Quarter Moon," and the second one was "The Beat Generation."
The third movie was called "The Big Operator," which I'll tell you more about on Wednesday, and the fourth was called "Girls Town."

So rather than try and explain all the complex intricacies of this movie called "The Beat Generation," I'm just going to introduce you to some of this crazy amazing cast!
Steve Cochran has the lead role in this film, and is the co-star of "The Big Operator."
He was also in the "Twilight Zone" episode titled "What You Need."
At the age of 48, Steve sailed off in his yacht to Guatemala, but died of a lung infection before he ever got there.

 Looking as good as ever, in this film, the versatile Mamie Van Doren plays a slutty tramp, but in "The Big Operator," she's Mrs. Everyday Housewife. She was also in "Girls Town."

 Ray Danton is a nasty serial rapist in this film, and in "The Big Operator," he plays an evil hit man called The Executioner. Personally, I like Ray better when he plays more humorous characters.

Jackie Coogan, aka Uncle Fester, is in three of the four movies. In this one he's a cop, In "The Big Operator," he's a crook!
 At this point in time, no one knew what an impact the cartoon character's of Charles Addams' world would have on pop culture. Did you know that when Maila Nurmi developed her Vampira character, one of her main influences was the wife in The Addams Family cartoons, who at that time, wasn't even known as Morticia yet? 

In "The Beat Generation," Maila was a beat poetess, and in "The Big Operator" she plays a hip gallery owner! She doesn't get enough screen time in either movie in my humble opinion!

 I also find it fascinating that in both movies, she is billed as Vampira. That would be kind of like billing Bela Lugosi as Dracula I think.

Trumpet playing band leader Ray Anthony is in all five of Albert Zugsmith's 1958-59 films!
Ray also performed the original theme song in Zugsmith's "The Incredible Shrinking Man."

Famed accordionist from Fresno, Calif, Dick (Daddy-O) Contino is also in "Girls Town."

 Just like me, Albert Zugsmith must have been a big music fan, because all of these films have music in them. Cathy Crosby performs a song in all but
"The Big Operator."

Margaret (13 West Street) Hayes was also in "Girls Town."

 Bill Daniels is also in three of the four movies, but he was also better known as a singer!

One of the characters working in all four of the 1959 Zugsmith films was the comedy relief guy Norman Grabowski. Not exactly a household name, Grabowski as they call him, is one of the most important people in this movie, especially to hot rod fans around the world since he was literally the creator of the T-Bucket style of hot rod. He also designed Kookie's hot rod in "77 Sunset Strip." That bit of information makes this pose a lot more understandable! Four to the floor and pedal to the metal!!

That brings us to another category! Charles Chaplin, Jr. was not only in all five of the 1958-59 films, he was also one of many actors used by Albert Zugsmith who were children of other very famous stars, in this case, Charlie Chaplin!

Robert Mitchum's son James or Jim, who has a stunning resemblance to his Dad, was also in "Girls Town!" Not in this movie, but other actors like this are John Drew Barrymore and Harold Lloyd Jr.

Albert Zugsmith either really liked music, or he knew that it really gave a film that extra punch, so when he wasn't using musicians as actors, he was using musicians as musicians, like Louis Armstrong.
In "High School Confidential," there was an appearance by Jerry Lee Lewis, and The Platters show up in "Girls Town."
Also, the main soundtrack for "The Beat Generation" was written by the guy who also did most of the music for Mr. B.I.G., the swingin' Albert Glasser!

And that brings us to a list of all the various and sundry actors and musicians of all ilks who make up the balance of very interesting characters in these movies like Fay (Hercules Conquers Atlantis) Spain!

Irish (Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle) McCalla!

Professional boxer turned actor, Slapsie Maxie Rosenblum! And the list of characters in the five films goes on and on with names like Michael Landon, Nora Hayden, Mel Welles, Julie London, Dean Jones, Agnes Moorehead, Nat 'King' Cole, Frank Gorshin, Mickey Rooney, Mel Torme, Jim Backus, Jay North, Leo Gordon, Paul Anka, Elinor Donahue, Gloria Talbott etc. etc. etc.
If you watch "The Beat Generation" and "The Big Operator" back to back, it can surrealistically seem like it's a continuing story. Steve Cochran quits his job as a cop and divorces Fay Spain, and Steve and Mamie Van Doren get married and have a kid, while Ray Danton goes from serial rapist to hit man, and Vampira never notices any of it because she's way too cool!!


Grant said...

There are far too many Albert Zugsmith movies I've missed, and the only one I know WELL is Girls' Town, and that's only because of MST3K.

I'm afraid I've never known "Sheena," but one thing I know Irish McCalla from is a pretty early "female army" movie called FIVE GATES TO HELL.
But for some reason, Irish McCalla plays the only woman in the whole film who DOESN'T become part of the female army, which must have seemed like a very big casting mistake to her fans.

EEGAH!! said...

It's real easy to catch up if you want to Grant. I found this film and others streaming nice quality full length on YouTube.

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