In the late fifties, when Hammer Studios began producing remakes of classic Universal horror movies, key factors rapidly became trademarks of their success. They were:
COLOR – For the first time, the stories were filmed in chilling color.
VIOLENCE – Thus, blood flowed as bright red as it should be, to great shock and delight.
SEX – Plunging necklines became de rigueur in the vast majority of Hammer’s projects. Obviously, this will be our main focus here.
We will introduce to you some actresses who were participants in Hammer Studios motion pictures, even for only one movie. Without further ado, here follows our first ten distinguished guests, in no particular order (well, let’s just say that we’ll begin with the three Yvonnes):
The Mummy (1959)
Yvonne Furneaux was born in Lille, France, on May 11, 1928, under the name Yvonne Scarcherd. With unique pale eyes that almost look surnatural, she began a cinema career in England, starting in 1952. Yvonne worked mainly in Europe, in comedies and adventure films, more often in international productions, co-starring two times alongside Errol Flynn.
As Hammer Studios began to be popular around the world, Yvonne took dual roles for The Mummy, playing Isobel Banning and Princess Ananka, alongside Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Out of the blue she was invited by Federico Fellini to be part of his timeless classic La Dolce Vita, in 1960. Yvonne mostly remained in Italy for the following years, starring in a Dr. Mabuse movie along the way and many more adventure projects, eventually playing Helen of Troy. In 1965, she had a short but important part in Repulsion by Roman Polanski. Another career highlight remains Claude Chabrol’s The Champagne Murders. Her last credit is the quite puzzling Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie in 1984, in which she plays the title role.
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
Captain Clegg (1962)
Born Yvonne Warren on February 17, 1938, in London. She only played in an handful of films, oddly, but enjoyed some memorable roles. Her screen career began in 1956, but it was Circus of Horrors in 1960 that captured her beauty in an horror picture, as a facial surgery-enhanced criminal that would eventually perish eaten by lions! She would co-star with Sean Connery the next year for The Frightened City. In fact, Yvonne’s spouse, Leslie Bricusse, is the author of the lyrics for the James Bond songs Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice! Fans remember Yvonne for a small but memorable mute role in The Curse of the Werewolf, as a sadistic rape results in her character giving birth to the future wolfman. Equally recommended is Devil Doll. Yvonne found the time to costar with Elvis Presley in Double Trouble. Her last movie remains The Last of Sheila in 1973. Maybe more flamboyant parts would have benefitted her career?
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Our third Yvonne was born on December 15, 1939, in Pau, France, under the name Yvonne Bèdat de Monlaur. She followed her mother’s footsteps and took ballerina lessons. She eventully worked as a teenage model and got her first screen credit in 1956 for Mannequins de Paris. Yvonne would remain for a couple of years in Italy working in films and she would have the honor of eventually be named Sexiest Screen Newcomer by a Paris magazine. In 1959, she suffered facial burns while shooting Avventura a Capri, and consequently, she must have been hospitalized for months.
She starred alongside Yvonne Romain in Circus of Horrors. Her main claim to fame is her role in Hammer’s The Brides of Dracula, with Peter Cushing and without Christopher Lee. Yvonne also played an Asian lady (!) in The Terror of the Tongs. After some spy and adventures movies, she retired from the screen in 1966.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
One of the biggest sex-symbol of the sixties (and, truth be told, of all time), she was born Jo Raquel Tajeda on September 5, 1940, in Chicago. Queen of many beauty pageants, she would eventually make her movie debut in Elvis Presley’s Roustabout in 1964. The years to come would offer worldwide fans an avalanche of bikini-clad pictures of a smiling Raquel, more memorably her furry one for One Million Years B.C., the movie that put her on the road to stardom… an Hammer production!
She would have to fight to get more challenging parts all along her career, to the point of founding her own production company. After becoming a fitness guru, a Broadway star and an accomplished singer, Raquel didn’t shy away to some juicy self-parody, particularly in an hilarious Seinfeld episode.
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
Valerie Leon was born on November 12, 1945, in London, England. She actually did some legitimate work in the theater before beginning a movie career. Valerie is known to have worked with two different James Bonds (Sean Connery and Roger Moore), also for being eye candy for some Carry On films (seven titles, in fact), and memorably as a classy model for Hai Karate aftershave for TV ads. As some sort of Catherine Zeta-Jones of the seventies, Valerie should’ve played more action heroines for the big screen, in an eventual kinda-Avengers series (she did indeed appear in an episode of the classic show).
She would take part in a film that many suspected didn’t even exist, the amazing Queen Kong. Her single role for Hammer Studios has the distinction of being one of the most memorable for a female in their horror series, even if the filming was quite chaotic.
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Countess Dracula (1971)
Born in Poland on November 21, 1937, as Ingoushka Petrov, she survived the horrors of WWII (like being captive for three years in a Nazi concentration camp) to become a Scream Queen legend. She eventually escaped from East Berlin to come to the West side, after some time in theater. Her first movie role was, ironically, a Spanish horror picture titled Sound of Horror, alongside another future legend of fantastic cinema, Soledad Miranda. Ingrid came to England, making a bit of an impact in Where Eagles Dare alongside Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton.
For the time, Hammer Studios pushed the limits of eroticism with The Vampire Lovers, including more graphic nudity and lesbian overtones, with Ingrid’s formidable presence. After the excellent Wicker Man in 1973, her career curiously faded away, with some cameos here and there. She remains available for conventions and has been active for many years on her own website.
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974)
Born on May 1, 1946, in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, Joanna Lamond Lumley is maybe more known for her television work than her cinematic projects. She made her film debut in 1969 in a bit part in Some Girls Do and became a Bond Girl the same year in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Joanna’s lone Hammer credit was in the last years of the company, for the last of their Dracula series.
More fame came her way in 1976 for The New Avengers TV series, playing Purdey alongside returning Patrick Macnee as John Steed and sporting that kinda-pageboy haircut.
Then came a couple of Pink Panther movies. She will probably be best known for being the immortal Patsy Stone in the hilarious BBC cult series Absolutely Fabulous (the character even claims to have been a former Bond Girl, at some point!). Sadly, not so well known in North American.
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
On September 21, 1930, was born in Felixstowe, Suffolk, England, Victoria Dawn Addams. After some years living in Calcutta, the young girl will decide to become an actress, beginning to work in films in the early fifties. Some international productions filmed in Europe will soon follow, but Dawn will become more known for her lifestyle. In 1952, due to a too tight dress, she collapsed just before an movie premiere. She eventually married a prince, claiming to leave all film work behind. This tumultuous union would be a delight for gossip mags, as will be their divorce and custody battle over their son.
In 1966, she would lose her six-month-old son from another husband to pneumonia . Her salary for The Vampire Lovers would be invested in buying a house on the island of Malta. In 1985, Dawn would be diagnosed with cancer and she would lose the battle on May 7, at the age of 54.
The Viking Queen (1967)
For one single movie in her cinematic career, this stunning Finnish beauty was only billed as “Carita”, for exotic purposes. Born in 1942, Carita Jarvinen wasn’t bad as could be expected as an actress and actually gave an adequate performance in this period adventure, rubbing shoulders with seasoned performers. She played a princess who must rule over the Roman Empire’s territories after the conquest of Britain, after the death of her father. The irony of this project is that there isn’t actually any Viking included in the plot!
Carita shared the screen with then-current Dr. Who, Patrick Troughton, and maybe confused American actor Don Murray. Seems that a wristwatch is visible in a scene. As you can deduce, biographical information on Carita is scarce and it is not known why she didn’t pursue a movie career. At least she can take pride in not having embarrassed herself in the process.
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
Actually the first woman to play the same role in two consecutive Bond movies (besides Miss Moneypenny, that is), Eunice Sargaison was born March 17, 1931, in London, England. Oddly, two of the films she is best known for (the pre-mentionned Dr. No and From Russia with Love) are actually her last movie credits. Before this, Eunice found time to share her beautiful face and figure for The Revenge of Frankenstein, which could be the best episode in Hammer Studio’s Frankenstein series.
She actually made her movie debut in 1948, soon taking parts in some light comedies and adventures stories. She has the distinction of being the first woman introduced to James Bond in the legendary film series, playing Sylvia Trench (Eunice had been initially cast as Moneypenny), a character that was supposed to remain present for the following films to come. Her daughter was an extra in GoldenEye.