Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PUSSYCATS OF THE SUNSET STRIP: MEET JOI LANSING

The other day, while watching Orson Welles astoundingly good "Fountain Of Youth" television pilot, I became fixated on the female lead, the mysterious Joi Lansing. Looking her up on the internet I found that I'd written about her when this blog first came into existence. So impressed was I with my own piece that I've decided to re-post it. Joi deserves no less. Supposedly, when Welles was interviewing actresses for the pilot, he came out into the reception room, got a look at Lansing and said to his assistant: "Where did she come from? Send the other girls away."

But "The Fountain Of Youth" was, alas, her only truly notable credit. Indeed her filmography is distinguished by the sheer volume of undistinguished films she appeared in. Nonetheless, nobody who has seen Joi Lansing in any of the number of execrable movies she was consigned by fate to have appeared in can quite forget her. The va-voom factor, of course, is inescapable. But there was something oddly innocent about her that makes her special--a little "why are they all looking at me like that, I'm just a little girl from Salt Lake City" about her that seeps through even in the most atrocious of settings--"Hillbilly's In A Haunted House" anyone?

Joi was a sort of Rat Pack mascot--she supposedly had an on/off affair with Sinatra (which depresses me for some reason) and turns up in "Marriage On the Rocks" (and that's one of her A-list credits). She was always, for some reason, struggling with second-hand goods, hand-me-down roles in B and C and worse flicks which she dressed up with her mere presence--if you can call anything about her "mere". I have to assume that more than once she asked herself "Why Kim Novak and not me?" Novak, of course, got all the best possible breaks and remains, for my money, unmemorable in the extreme--except perhaps for "Vertigo." (What about Joi Lansing as 'Madeleine/Judy''? And was she, in fact, the ice-cold blonde that Hitch should have bet on, instead of Tippi Hedren?) After years of steadily working but never coming up big-time, Lansing apparently developed a nightclub act that she did quite well with. After a series of confusing marriages and multiple dating escapades (see the above link--Georgie Jessel?) she became friends with a woman named Rachel Hunter. So close were they that they were like "sisters." So why not change Rachel's last name to "Lansing". Which she did. From then on, Joi and Rachel Lansing lived together in various homes in California--I'm sorry, but what does this sound like to you? Well, why not? Men probably caused Joi enough grief in her short life. Joi developed breast cancer in her early forties and died in 1972, age 43. Rachel was at her side. They'd been living together in Marina Del Rey, as well as in Palm Springs, in a house owned by Joi's ex-husband.

Below is a Scopitone short of "Trapped In the Web Of Love." Scopitone was another, more successful, jukebox industry pre-MTV attempt to marry hit songs and visuals. But many more Scopitones were made and they seem to have been preserved on DVD's, in all their mid-sixties, Sunset Strippish-glory.




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1 comment:

russellgibson said...

This industry and entertainment, was so different
years back. Glad that i did get a chance to get a
taste of some of it. Kind of cool to see.