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Ann Peters, a Tease for Mr. Teas

28 Mar

The other week I re-watched Russ Meyer’s The Immoral Mr. Teas and whilst watching I suddenly realised that, out of all the female Meyer alumni, it’s this early part of his career in which the ladies he used I know very little about. So, I’m going to set about undoing this and start doing blog entries over time in which I try to find out as much as I can on those ladies that sometimes get forgotten about over the likes of Tura Satana, Erica Gavin and Kitten Natividad. First up, Ann Peters.

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Peters is one of the models used in Meyer’s aforementioned first feature from 1959. Whilst initially struggling to find models for his film, Peters was bought to the attention of Russ by fellow Hollywood/Glamour photographer Earl Leaf, who regularly used her as a subject. According to Jimmy McDonough in Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, Peters was working as a Vegas showgirl at the time but I can’t find anything online about this. In Teas Ann plays the coffee shop waitress, clad in a low plunging black dress, and pops up again later on in the film as one of the bathing beauties Mr Teas encounters down by the lake. Needless to say she’s absolutely gorgeous, and was apparently Russ’s favourite from the shoot (the dreamy shot of her swaying in a hammock, natural light pouring down on her, is one of my favourite in Meyer’s career). Sadly the two didn’t work together again afterwards.

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A simple internet search will reveal quite a few pin-up shots of Ann, of which I’ve found a fair amount. Alongside Leaf, she was also shot by Guy Tyler of Hollywood, as well as others, no doubt, that I can’t find information on. Some of her magazine credits include Stare (1958), Fling (1958), Men In Danger! (1964), QT (1960s), Modern Man Annual (1963), Tab (1965) and Sable (1959). Below are photographs from my favourite shoot of hers.

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Next to her appearance in Teas, IMDB lists Ann with a few other film credits, including The Fourth Wish (1976), Pink Nights (1985), Erotic Dreams (1988) and Desperate Measures (2011). I can find little else on her life or career but believe she now resides in Adelaide, Australia and runs her own casting company. I’ve tried to get in touch to no avail but I’d love to find out more about her and her experiences so please get in touch if you know anything! Or get in touch yourself Ann!

To finish I’ve included a link to an 8mm stag film that I found of Peters. There’s no title or date but I know that it is one of a few that she did. Another that she starred in, Salvador Dolly, I can’t find online but know that it is included in this DVD compilation. Again Peters looks gorgeous and this loop is a delightful mixture of demure innocence with a dash of knowing playfulness. I love it, and I know that a lot of other people will too.

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Russ Meyer Front Cover – ‘Sensation’ August 1954

17 Mar

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MEYER MONTH – Babette Bardot Pictorial

30 May

This was a post that narrowly missed this year’s MEYER MONTH that I did back in March. A couple of months late but  better late than never! Enjoy…

In searching for a little more information on Mondo Topless star Babette Bardot, I came across a lot of pin-up pictures of her during her modelling career that I hadn’t seen before. It seemed only right that as part of this year’s MEYER MONTH I include a pictorial of her alongside the one I’ve done on fellow Meyer girl Eve Meyer and the upcoming ones I have for the rest of this month.  As far as I know, Russ didn’t shoot any pictures of Babette as part of his photographic career and only worked with her in relation to the films Mondo Topless and Common Law Cabin. Bardot knew how to pose for a great picture so one can only imagine the results if she had teamed up with Meyer for a series of pictures…

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MEYER MONTH – ‘Heavenly Bodies’ (1963)

26 Mar

2012 saw another of Russ Meyer’s early films finally get a home viewing release for the first time, 1963’s Heavenly Bodies. This was one of the directors early films, alongside This Is My Body and Erotica, that had been out of circulation since its original 60s theatrical run. Like Meyer’s other early films, Heavenly Bodies is essentially a moving image pictorial, a brief glimpse at the life of a glamour photographer and the pin-up model at work. Opening with up close shots depicting the contours of the female body, or as Meyer has it in his narration ‘the component parts of a woman’, the picture eventually shows us the printing process of the glamour magazine before moving on to show different segments of various known photographers (Ken Parker, Fred Owens, Charles Schelling) conducting their own photo shoots. Shot over a long weekend to make Meyer some cash after having some time off for being in hospital, one gets the feeling that those involved didn’t really have to do an awful lot to make the whole picture come together.

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There isn’t a lot going on in the picture and it serves more as a nostalgic treat into how things were done in the past. With each segment, the narrator goes through the exact specifics of what camera and what lenses each photographer is using and what they change to during their session if light or their subject focus changes. As interesting as it is, it probably won’t mean anything to those watching who know little about photography, cinematography and cameras themselves. The way shoots are conducted however is quite interesting (the financial, mental and physical benefits of using two models at the same time for instance). For a film that sells itself as an expose on glamour photography there are, of course, some beautiful shots, namely the shoot with the two models at the start of the film which takes place in and around a home swimming pool. Another fun little segment shows how pin-up photography has changed over the years, with film stock turning black and white to play out a cute little scene in the days when models wore a lot more clothing and photographs took longer to capture (it stars the wonderful Princess Livingston in her first Meyer film cameo, which I had wrongly attributed to Wild Gals of the Naked West).

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Part of the charm of Heavenly Bodies is seeing the camaraderie of director Meyer and his war buddies who he frequently enlisted to help him over the years with his various film projects. There is one scene in particular where Russ takes his fellow 166th Signal Corps photographers on a photo field trip to the woods to shoot two buxom models (Althea Currier and Monica Liljistrand) amidst the lush scenery. Whilst the models are putting on their make-up and doing their hair, all of the director’s buddies are setting up and cleaning their cameras and lenses. Eventually they find a nice spot to shoot pictures of the two girls, all whilst fighting each other over taking turns and getting the best angles. It’s quite sweet to see them almost worshipping the pretty models knowing that they must have come across some really challenging stuff between them when working out in the field during World War II.

It’s not going to be to all Meyer fans taste, no doubt a large number of people will find it very boring, but for Meyer completists and photographers Heavenly Bodies is an interesting little snapshot into two different but very similar work practices that took over Russ Meyers life. If you’re going to bother watching his early films, you best include this in your viewing as its one of the more significant in the batch that have finally been released.

MEYER MONTH – Tempest Storm Pictorial

26 Mar

Burlesque star Tempest Storm was right there in 1952 when Russ Meyer’s cinematic career first began. Storm was a regular performer at the El Ray Burlesk Theater in Oakland, California and Meyer had begun taking pin-up photographs of the dancers there which he then advertised and sold as sets or singles through glamour magazines. His pictorial of Tempest is an early example of the types of angles and shots he would use in his later filmography and the photographs are nothing short of stunning. Storm’s assets are shown off to their full potential, her curves and presence made all the more Amazonian by Meyer shooting her from below. Always one at photographing women well, Meyer makes Storm more than desirable in his pictures which at the time were rather risqué. Below is nearly the entire shoot, minus one or two pictures of which I couldn’t find online. Enjoy!

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MEYER MONTH – Diane Webber Pictorial

18 Mar

Next to his second wife Eve Meyer, my second favourite model of Russ Meyer’s is Diane Webber. Another natural beauty, Webber was more than photogenic with a multitude of photographs showing her instinctive ease at which to pose her body and smile towards the camera. Webber was Playboy‘s Playmate of the Month in May 1955 and February 1956 (under the name Marguerite Empey) with the later pictorial being one of the three centrefolds that Meyer shot for the magazine. According to the photographer, the secret to Webber’s voluptuous beauty at the time was the fact that she was secretly a few months pregnant, making everything just that little bit bigger.

There’s no denying that Meyer’s photographs of Webber are among some of the best in his early, if not entire, photographic career. Just as with Eve, Russ struck lucky with the model (also an avid nudist) and developed a good short partnership that delivered the goods. Aside from stills photography, Webber also featured in one of Meyer’s shorts, This Is My Body, which was shot in 1959. This proved to be the last time that Webber and Meyer worked together (he blamed pregnancy for changing her body). The following pictures are some that I’ve managed to attribute as being taken by Meyer himself (although I can be proven wrong, it’s very difficult to establish as online and some published information either incorrectly credit Meyer as photographer or not credit him at all) but I’m sure that among the plethora of images that come up when searching for Webber a few more are his.

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MEYER MONTH – ‘Erotica’ (1961)

15 Mar

Thanks to the Russ Meyer Trust another one of the infamous sexploitation directors early films has finally seen the light of day after being out of circulation since its original theatrical release. The 1961 picture Erotica sits alongside a few of Meyer’s other early films in the Vintage Bodies Set which came out towards the end of last year. Shot after Meyer’s second feature Eve and the Handyman, Erotica consists of six small nudie cutie segments, another of Meyer’s films that plays out as a cinematic pin-up photography pictorial.

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Meyer and his producer Pete DeCenzie fell out making Eve and the Handyman when he bailed out on the picture just before production had started. However, DeCenzie returned for Erotica, and later again on its follow-up Wild Gals of the Naked West, which was shot on a four grand budget. Also returning on the production was editor Charles G. Schelling who had helped Russ shoot French Peep Show (and would later go on to become sound recordist on the movies made during Meyer’s gothic period) and then-wife Eve with the role of financial co-ordination (something she ended up doing a lot of during her husbands career). Long-time friend and general all-rounder Anthony James Ryan also briefly cameos in the last vignette as the Handyman, his lead role in the directors previous picture, alongside another gentleman dressed in Mr. Teas’ lurid orange jumpsuit (never one to miss out on self promotion, Meyer had two one-sheets for both The Immoral Mr. Teas and Eve and the Handyman on prominent display at one point). This was a, as the films narration points out, ‘film made by adults for adults… It is truly Erotica!’.

In reality it is what it is, which for me is sadly one of the weaker entries in Meyer’s filmography and is, at times, really rather boring. Whilst it has two Meyer film staples, pretty topless women and bizarre indifferent narration, you can’t help but feel that other similar pictures like Europe In The Raw  and Eve and the Handyman did it better and got away with a little more charm. The are some cute moments; the opening in particular is quite sweet, showing a very basic but behind the scenes look none the less at the process a film goes through with symbolic images to represent each part (someone cigarette smoking is the actor, a huge money bag the producer, disembodied hands cutting film being the editor, director chair for the director etc). Segment two ‘Beauties, Bubbles and H20’, an ode to the traditions and history of bathing (aka a trio of topless beauties washing themselves with very bubbly soap) also has some nice cinematography and photographic set ups, one can imagine that if the director had actually shot stills for this segment alone, they would have probably been quite stunning. The shots of one girl having a bubble bath in a kiddies blow up pool are particular favourites. This second vignette also featured popular model Althea Currier who already had an ucredited role in The Immoral Mr. Teas and would go on to appear in Heavenly Bodies and Lorna.

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The rest of the picture feels very much the same with so much narration it makes you lose interest in anything the film has to offer (there’s even a soundtrack reel gag in one of the segments where off-screen voices argue that the narrator is reading the wrong ‘informative’ script, how very meta). Segment one, ‘Naked Innocence’, is essentially a re-tread of Meyer’s 1959 short This Is My Body starring Diane Webber, only This Is My Body is a lot better. Middle pieces ‘Nudists on the High Seas’ and ‘The Nymphs’ suffer from far too much narration and not enough going on visually to really make an impact whilst the last chapter, ‘The Bikini Busters’, is a bloated, unrealised comedic take on the history of the bikini; ‘and so it went, down through the years with more and more clothes being added, until the women got so much to looking like the men that the men stopped looking’.

The only other highlight in the feature is the short segment ‘The Bare and The Bear’ in which Meyer shoots an impressively endowed woman rolling around on a Malibu beach wearing only a bear skin to accompany narration that informs how durable and soft bear fur really is. This lucky lady was Sherri Knight, a model with a fifty-five inch bust that Meyer had shot for skin magazines before in the past. According to Jimmy McDonough’s biography, producer DeCenzie saw pictures of Knight and insisted that Meyer include her in the film. They shot  for one day, wrapped and Meyer never saw her again. Not that it matters. Once you see her wearing the fur stole, you’ll never forget her.