Pin-up of the Day: Britt Ekland

From ENDLESS NIGHT.

Ah, Britt Ekland and a starburst filter. They go together like, like Michael Winterbottom movies and suddenly losing all will to carry on living.

As Jonathan Ross said to Britt, after referring to her famous dance in THE WICKER MAN, “thank you for helping me through those difficult teenage years.”

Caution: not “work safe” –

I first saw THE WICKER MAN late one Friday night on a b&w portable TV in my bedroom. Typically it was a Hammer horror or something similar. As a teenager I would watch the late (10.30pm) movie on STV, and if it wasn’t good I’d retune the set to Grampian, a channel that broadcasts to the Highlands, but which could just about be received, in crackly form, from my aerial. If the second movie wasn’t good I would just go back and forth between the two bad movies, hoping for “good bits”. These would either be the arresting images that can crop up even in the lamest horror film, or glimpses of nudity.

And then THE WICKER MAN shows up and completely blows my mind. This was no glimpse! “She’s totally naked  and this is going on for AGES!” I thought, in so far as I was capable of thought at the time. Only rarely would I discover scenes like this. It didn’t have to be nudity. I remember the kissing scene with Monroe and Curtis in SOME LIKE IT HOT impressed me as powerfully erotic, although the fact that it kept cutting to Jack Lemmon dancing with Joe E Brown was somewhat off-putting.

Interestingly, Britt appears in a second prolonged bit of ’70s erotica — in GET CARTER. Although that, too, is rudely interrupted: “What’s the matter with you, tummy trouble?”

Anyhow, here’s to Britt.

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18 Responses to “Pin-up of the Day: Britt Ekland”

  1. Peter Sellers married Britt Ekland in 1964, when Sellers was busy filming Kiss Me Stupid for Billy Wilder. Sellers was insanely jealous and possessive of her, and the stress of being married to her caught up with him. According to Wilder biographer Ed Sikov Sellers suffered eight heart attacks inside of a week(!), but Sellers was also smoking pot and doing poppers at the time, so I’m sure that didn’t help matters.

  2. Peter Sellers (and make no mistake, I dearly love him ) was completely insane. How any of hid directos survived him is a mystery.

    Clearly Kubrick had the patience of a saint.

  3. Does your dislike of Michael Winterbottom extend to A Cock and Bull Story? Because as a Tristram Shandy fan, I very much enjoyed it.

  4. I’m OK with A Cock and Bull Story… although at the end I still didn’t feel I’d seen anything. But that’s no doubt a peril of adapting Tristram Shandy. Although they should’ve been braver and done it at inordinate length.

    The other one I like, of course, is 24 Hr Party People, although there the key failure is to find any cinematic language for dealing with music. Fortunately the script is smart and performances carry it. But see Control for what CAN be done.

  5. Sellers was also apparently unhappy working with Wilder, as nearly everybody who ever acted for him was, sad to say. Wilder refused to have a closed set, and Sellers didn’t like having visitors around. When Wilder invited Sellers to play Sherlock Holmes a few years later, he declined. I’m glad, because I love Robert Stephens in the part.

    Mind you, if I married Britt Ekland I’d probably have eight heart attacks in a week too. But what a way to go.

  6. There are two sex farces from the early Sixties that have always tickled me, Wilder’s Kiss Me Stupid and Kubrick’s Lolita (Shelley Winters: “Oh Hum, when you get like this I go as limp as a noodle!” James Mason: “Yes, I know the feeling”). I don’t think Dean Martin and Peter Sellers ever shared a screen together, wouldn’t that have been interesting? Two very differing styles of comedic expression.

  7. There’s something about that period, when censorship had relaxed a little but not a lot, that wasn’t too good for comedy. Somehow Wilder’s films didn’t hit the mark commercially after The Apertment, although they’re the best of that period. A lot of the others are just horrible. Those Matt Helm movies with Dino are vile.

    Agree that Lolita is extremely funny.

    I suppose it’s too much to ask for somebody to have preserved the rushes of Sellers in Kiss Me Stupid before his heart attack…

  8. The rushes of Sellers hopefully will turn up one day on the Criterion Edition of Kiss Me Stupid. Just as the morgue scene that once opened Sunset Boulevard will also hopefully see the light of day in our lifetimes.

  9. Plus the gas chamber from the end of Double Indemnity, plus all the missing sound and picture from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes… it’d be nice to think so.

  10. Not sure if I mentioned this before but Sellers odelled his American accent in Lolita after record producer Norman Granz. Granz produced all those great “Songbook” albums with Ella Fitzgerald among other things. Sellers met Granz once. When Lolita was set to go he recalled him, and actually asked Granz if he could “borrow” his voice. Granz of course said yes.

    This is one of the few sane thigns that Sellers ever did.

  11. Sellers played three different characters in Lolita. In addition to the unnamed character (I think) outside the hotel with his back to Humbert, and Dr. Zempf, the psychiatrist, there was of course Quilty. So I’m thinking we’re talking Quilty here. And correct me if I spelled Zempf wrong.

  12. I love that story from the Wicker Man DVD about Britt Ekland being OK with waist up nudity but not with showing her bottom! Apparently they had to smuggle in a bottom double (hiding on the floor of a limo while they sent Ekland off for the day) to do the wide shot of her thumping on the wall!

  13. They had TWO bottom doubles, it seems, one a Soho stripper, who was judged too bump-n-grind, and the other a local lass who did it anonymously and in terror her parents would find out.

    All Sellers’ characters are the same guy, Quilty, in disguise. We see his penchant for funny voices and characters in the opening scene. The hotel identity isn’t really any different from the regular Quilty though, apart from pretending to be a cop.

  14. David, of course I knew they were all Quilty. It’s their voices that were different. But I think you’re right, the bogus cop does sound similar to Quilty though, as I think about it.

  15. I guess that’s because, when Humbert meets the cop, he’s never heard Quilty talk with his natural voice, so a disguise isn’t necessary.

    Sellers claimed his Dr Strangelove voice was based on Weegee, who was the unit photographer. He just added a German accent.

  16. Sellers’ main Quilty voice is Norman Granz.

  17. Actually, he also sounds a good bit like Kubrick. A case of unconscious influence, perhaps? Especially if Granz’s voice was similar to begin with. It was often reported that Sellers would start to sound like whomever he was talking to (and you can see this in interviews sometimes). He was wrong to say he had no personality (he had a nutty, nasty one) but he certainly had no authentic voice of his own.

  18. I can’t imagine what Kiss Me Stupid would have been like with Sellers, but with Dean Martin it’s really quite wonderful — and one of Wilder’s most grievously underrated works. After eveiscerating the big city in The Apartment he finds small town America more lively than its hero imagines. Kim is quite wonderful too. Plus those weird early Gershwin songs.

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