May 4, 2011

Yvette Vickers (1928 - 2010?)

B-movie starlets seldom have long filmographies: their enduring fame often rests on a mere handful of performances. And so it was with Yvette Vickers. Her place in Drive-In Movie Hall Of Fame is assured merely on the basis of two titles in her decade-long career as an actress.

She turned on the heat in the camp favourite Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) as the other woman who draws the wrath of the title femme fatale. When you have a stunning lead actress like Allison Hayes (and at fifty feet tall, no less) who has a philandering husband, one would ensure that the female antagonist would still be able to turn the man's head, and she succeeded in spades as the good-time girl named Honey. And in the creepy Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), she was the adulterous Liz Walker, who is caught cheating by her husband (Bruno VeSota), who decides to punish her and her hapless lover by forcing at gunpoint into the swamp inhabited by the title creatures! Yikes!

ABOVE: Yvette Vickers with William Hudson in Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, to jazz musicians Charles and Iola Vedder, and growing up on the road, the young Yvette Vickers initially pursued a career in journalism until getting the acting bug. She began the 1950's with an uncredited minor role in the classic Sunset Boulevard, and after several supporting roles in various films and TV episodes, she ended the decade with her two hallmark roles above, and another big for lasting fame as the Playmate of the Month for July 1959 (her photos taken by none other than Russ Meyer!).

ABOVE: Bruno Ve Sota and Yvette Vickers in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Her movie roles would soon be fewer, smaller and further between, however later in her career she worked with Paul Newman in the classic Hud (1963) and for director Curtis Harrington in What's The Matter With Helen? (1971).  Her final screen credit was a role in Gary Graver's Evil Spirits (1990).  Nonetheless, her fame endured thanks to her sultry portrayals in those two monster movies, and in later years she was known for her vivacity and friendliness towards her fans. She gave a fun interview for Fangoria magazine in 1989, and recorded a lively and informative commentary track with cult film writer Tom Weaver for the 2007 Warners DVD of Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman, which preserves her oft-reported generosity.

ABOVE: Paul Newman (left) and Yvette Vickers (center) in Hud (1963)

Sadly, it has been reported that Ms. Vickers' body had been found in her home by her neighbour, and apparently had been dead for almost a year. (Tom Weaver first broke the story on a message board, but now the news is official.) Such a ghastly and sad fate is unbecoming for anyone, especially for someone as full of life as Yvette Vickers.  Her enduring fame is assured thanks to her appearances in these entertaining genre films.

Trailer for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman: 

Trailer for Attack of the Giant Leeches: 

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