Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yvette Vickers: Farewell to a B-Movie Bad Girl

Fans of bad movies everywhere were shocked and saddened to learn that Yvette Vickers, a memorable B-movie tramp expert, had passed away on April 27, 2011.

Although the exact cause of her death is unknown at this point, Yickers had carved a small but significant place for herself in the Junk Cinema universe. A petite, photogenic blonde, Yvette is best remembered for her appearances in 1958's "Attack of the 50 foot Woman" and the Roger Corman classic "Attack of the Giant Leeches" in 1959.

Born on August 26, 1928, Yvette was the daughter of jazz musicians and frequently joined her parents on the road. While attending UCLA to study journalism, Vickers picked up some acting classes for fun and became hooked. She soon began appearing in TV commercials and later traveled to New York to become "The White Rain" spokesmodel.

In 1950 Yvette made her film debut in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard". She later starred in "Short Cut to Hell" (1957) directed by James Cagney. Although that film was not a success, Yvette's best two roles were just around the corner.

In "Attack of the 50 foot Woman" (1958), featuring Allison Hays as an unhinged heiress who grows to gigantic proportions after a close encounter with a bald "Mr. Clean"-type alien, Yvette has the flashy role of Honey, girlfriend to Allison's faithless hubby Harry. Like all classic bad girls, Honey is smarter than her man and is the boss in their relationship. In fact, it's Honey who eggs Harry on to do his nutty wife in so they can run off together and spend her money. Sadly, in the film's climatic scene, Honey is crushed to death while the super-sized Allison grabs her faithless husband and slowly squeezes him to death.

Best of all is Yvette's trashy turn in Roger Corman's "Attack of the Giant Leeches"(1959). Vickers is Liz Walker, a hot blooded swamp tramp married to a dumpy grocery store owner in some backwoods Louisiana backwater. Hubby obviously can't begin to satisfy her, so the restless Liz meets her lover in the swamp for quickie sex. Things are great until Liz's enraged hubby finds the couple and orders them into the swamp at gun point--and into the clutches of giant leeches!

This Corman quickie has all the cheapie touches his fans delight in--like the "giant leeches" which are actually people stuffed into Hefty trash bags--and a sweaty atmosphere you can't deny. But Yvette holds her own as a restless, sex-up tramp always on a look out for a good time to relieve the boredom at home. It's a great tramp turn--and she even gets to wear leopard print panties!

Also in 1959 Yvette became a "Playboy Playmate" for the month of July. Her pictorial was shot by Russ Meyer.

Unfortunately, despite her looks and talent Vickers did not become a major star. She continued to make small appearances in film and TV shows, but her career never took off after such a promising start. At the time of her passing, Yvette was living quietly in her Benedict Canyon home when neighbors noticed she was failing to pick up her mail. Medical examiners have yet to
determine cause of death.

A sad final act for a lovely lady.

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