Double Bonita

Bonita Granville is twins — one good, one evil!

“Which is the evil one?” I asked.

“The one in the negligee, obviously,” explained Fiona.

Later, she admitted that there is some difficulty telling which one is good, since Bonita has a certain “edge.” Or maybe we’re just carrying the strong feelings she evokes as a terrifying bully and sneak in THESE THREE. She’s very sweet as Nancy Drew in that series of films, but there she doesn’t have a bad version hanging around, reminding you how evil she can be.

The film is THE GUILTY, and there is not that much to say about it. But Bonita is an interesting figure. Like a lot of child actors, she never quite attained a real persona as an adult, but she kept slogging away at the acting, even when her star vehicles were released by Monogram, the bottom-of-the-barrel Poverty Row specialists. This little noir wisely avoids the jokiness of many Monogram horror outings like VOODOO MAN. It’s straight Woolrich delirium, but without much visual flair to compensate for the cheapness. The exceptions are (1) a nice nightmare sequence where Bonita wakes up next to the empty bed formerly occupied by her virtuous sister — a complete red herrings scene designed to make us think she might have something to do with the disappearance which actuates the story, and (2) a slow track past a dormant character. There’s no real reason for the move, which feels surprisingly modern, the kind of thing an anxious tyro would do to keep us interested in a static scene.

The other problem with the film is that, since watching a couple films in THE WHISTLER series, I get excited whenever I see the shadow of a man in a hat, and have to start narrating the film in a snide, Vincent Price type voice.

It’s him! “You thought, Bonita Granville — didn’t you? — that you could play two physically identical characters, carefully differentiating them by subtle shadings of characterisation… how wrong you were!”

Still, the supporting cast is fine, everybody’s a suspect and quite creepy with it, given the horrible nature of the crime, as it’s eventually revealed (with grisly relish). And I didn’t guess the ending, which is also quite modern, even if the story doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Based on this and THE INVISIBLE GHOST, Monogram (I keep typing Mongorama by mistake!) were very fond of the pointless identical twin device. I reckon it’s not plotting, it’s economy — I figured out myself that you pay actors by the week, not by the role, and have exploited this loophole several times myself…

9 Responses to “Double Bonita”

  1. wasn’t FLASH GORDON filmed in mongorama?

  2. Heh. If not, it clearly should have been!

  3. My favorite movie twins are Jean-Louis Trintignant in Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train.

    My favorite ACTUAL movie twins are Laurent et Pierre Malet. They’re utterly identical in voice appearance, but completely different in temperament. Laurent is the sunny one, Pierre is Monsieur strum und drang.
    Laurent’s films include Querelle; Pierre’s The Basileus Quartet.

    I saw Pierre live on stage in Patrice Chereau’s production of Genet’s The Screens. Really somethin’ else!

    Or as the ineffable Mickey Cottrell put it, “Leave it to Chereau to fall for the Rough Trade twin.”

  4. When I saw Bonita Granville in a few of her grown-up vehicles, to me she had a bit of the blandness of Priscilla Lane.

  5. Which is a shame, since she certainly wasn’t bland in These Three.

    I like ALL movie twins, but I’m beginning to develop a real fondness for the twins of Monogram, the ones whose identical status has no plot significance whatsoever.

  6. Gore Vidal is crazy about the Mauch twins. In his movie book, “Screening History” he speaks of the enormous impression The Prince and the Pauper made on him as a kid, and how he longed to be a twin — like Bobby and Billy.

    There’s also a set of twins who make brief appearances in The Music Lovers and Performance.

  7. Those twins were John and Dennis Myers who, as I recall, were quite a couple of characters back in the 60’s “Swinging London” days.

  8. Christopher Says:

    I just love Bonita Granville,she and Priscilla Lane and Joan Leslie had that girl next door with sex appeal thing goin’!

  9. Joan Leslie’s my favourite out of that trio, as she’s extraordinarily beautiful. Bonita was the strongest actress, at least in her youth.

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