Saturday, August 13, 2005

One More Lost Starlet

There were several other actresses I should have mentioned in my post (see here) about '60s Hollywood starlets who would have become stars in an era with more and better parts for women. One more, much more obscure choice is Marianna Hill, probably best known for a small part in The Godfather, Part II and a guest shot on Star Trek as still another of Kirk's Konquests.

She was one of the best-looking actresses on the screen in the '60s, and she was an excellent actress; after her acting career stalled, she went to London to teach acting at the Lee Strasberg studio (which is perhaps how she got the part in Godfather II, which featured Strasberg). She spoke several languages, which allowed her to do non-embarrassing foreign accents, a big plus in an era when it was considered somehow inappropriate for the heroine in an American movie to have an American accent.

In 1965 she was one of a bunch of attractive young men and women selected by Howard Hawks to play important roles in his disastrous attempt at a "youth" movie, Red Line 7000; a few years later he admitted that of all the people he signed up for the film, the only ones who could actually act were Marianna Hill and another young actor named James Caan. Their scene together in front of a Pepsi-Cola machine (an early instance of blatant product placement in a movie) was one of the few scenes in the film that worked. But Caan went on to bigger things; Hill did not.

I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but you'd think that a spectacular-looking person with acting ability and screen presence to match James Caan would go on to get a few meaty roles. Instead Hill went on to that graveyard of attractive young '60s actresses' careers, an Elvis Presley movie, Paradise Hawaiian Style. (Which, incidentally, was directed by "Michael Moore," thus undoubtedly earning the current Michael Moore a lot of ribbing.) She also got supporting parts in some good movies, like Medium Cool. But with better opportunities, she could have and should have been a big star.

There's a fan page for Ms. Hill that gives some more information on her career, including the fact that she changed her last name from Schwarzkopf -- her cousin, Norman Schwarzkopf, had an interesting career in a different field. And it includes a collection of '60s articles on Ms. Hill, including some fairly candid remarks about Elvis:

"He's always competing with the leading ladies. He doesn't seem to want you to get serious with your work because he knows you're better trained than he. So he likes to break up all the time and throw the scene. He doesn't concentrate on what he's doing. He acts as though he cares, but he doesn't.

"Like his veneer of politeness," Marianna went on to explain. "Elvis is always going Yes, sir and No, sir, Yes ma'am and No, ma'am. He pretends to be humble, but I'm not sure he is. Underneath it all, there seems to be a lot of resentment and defensiveness and hostility.

"Elvis does have a bag of tricks. Even if they're old, though. He has this physical thing-- this jumpy kind of thing-- that's often mistaken for something great coming across on the screen. At first glance you might think that it's warmth or depth. But it's not. It's some sort of nervous tic which, I think, is a result of surpressing impulses and having them come out physically.

"His eyes are always darting about. Very quickly. That's why I think Elvis is much like an animal. He reminds me of a kitten.

"Elvis has changed his image a lot. Remember when he was younger and really wild? That was great! But then he calmed down and got very GI and supposedly became very mature.

"I loved him when he was wild and crazy. Now it's like he's sold out to the enemy. Personally, I think the Colonel made the decision.

Calling Elvis a sellout in a magazine in 1966, and blaming it on Colonel Parker, probably wasn't a good way to advance her career.


Jim said...

I'm watching High Plains Drifter as I write this, and knowing now that she is/was smart and articulate as well as stunningly gorgeous makes me want to go to Netflix and see if they have Medium Cool or anyhing else she was in. Well-written by the way.

Anonymous said...

Just saw Marianna Hill in an old "Star Trek" episode with William Shatner. "Dagger of the Mind" from 1966. I don't know about her acting ability, but she sure could fill out one of those little uniforms!

Anonymous said...

I hava been in love with Marianna Hill, since Star Trek' Dagger of the Mind in 1966. She was very SEXY in that role.

BTW, everybody always mentions that she was in an Elvis Movie in 1966 called Paradise Hawaiian Style, but no one ever mentions that she did another earlier Elvis Movie in 1964 called Roustabout directed by John Rich.

I love trivia!


Anonymous said...

I saw the "Dagger of the mind" episode this week and I don't remember much about the episode except for Marianna. I sat there for an hour with a big dumb smile on my face - totally stunned by her beauty.
Awesome body.

Anonymous said...

Hill is excellent as a condemned murderess who catches the eye of itinerant electric chair operator Stacy Keach in the 1970 Jack Smight/Garrie Bateson dark comedy THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER.

RnFR said...

just saw the Trek episode too. can't get that woman out of my head!

Unknown said...

Well, here comes a girl opinion! I also watched the Star Trek episode recently and I don't remember much about the episode because I was too busy trying to figure out who she reminded me of! At the end, it came to me. Geena Davis!! I would have sworn she was related to Geena in some way. They look alike and Marianna moves like Geena (or the other way around)! Does anyone agree?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely - drove me nuts too, trying to remember whose face that was - she looks just like Geena Davis. Just gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Check out Marianna Hill in "Thumb Tripping", made in '72. Hot and crazy.