"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" by Mike Smith
R.I.P. Hazel "Horror Queen" Court, 1926-2008 by Lisa Ciurro
Monkeemania: Confessions of a Second-Generation Monkees Fan! by ED Tucker
NFL Owners Want More Of The Pie ... To Be Or Not To Be ... King James Falls to the Celtics ... L.A. Rams Part Deux? by Chris Munger
Snail Mail - - Priority Style .... New Fm Site .... House Of Dark Shadows! .... John Mccain Surprises!!! n by Matt Drinnenberg
The Week That Was .... .... .... Classy Guy .... Bobby Kennedy Was Shot In June .... Passing On .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1977 Should Have Gone To... h by Mike Smith
|Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review|
R.I.P. Hazel "Horror Queen" Court, 1926-2008
I was thumbing through TIME Magazine last week and saw this on the Milestones page:
Her bright green eyes and red hair made her a pinup favorite, but British actress Hazel Court also attracted a cult following in the 1960s for her piercing shrieks and gory death scenes in horror films like The Curse of Frankenstein and for her appearances in Roger Corman films inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's macabre works, such as The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death. In addition, Court appeared in several TV series, including a British export to the U.S. called Dick and the Duchess, before retiring from show business in the 1970s to pursue a successful career in sculpture. Her autobiography, Hazel Court:Horror Queen, will be published posthumously in June. She was 82.
I quickly flipped to the magazine cover to check out the date. (I’d swiped the magazine from a doctor’s office and we all know they’re not known for current, up-to-date periodicals.) May 5, 2008. Ok, that’s a couple of weeks old, but at least it’s the same year.
Instantly, I was curious. Who was Hazel Court? How have I managed to not know about her if she’s famous enough to warrant a write-up in TIME? Am I the only one around here who is unfamiliar with her? And finally, does this mean that I can quit racking my brain for this week’s PCR column topic and write about Court instead?
I decided to channel my inner Nancy Drew and find out.
Hazel Court was born in England on February 10, 1926. Not much is known about her childhood, except that she was the daughter of a professional cricket player. Her first role was one line in the 1944 film Champagne Charlie. In 1952 she sang the Popeye cartoon theme song in the movie Ghost Ship and shared screen time with Dermot Walsh, her first husband. Court stood out in her supporting role in the 1954 sci-fi flick Devil Girls From Mars, in which her character watched helplessly while groups of men were rounded up by the Martian dominatrix Nyuh and transported back to Mars to mate with Martian women and repopulate their dying species.
“I never drank champagne before.” -- Court’s one line in Champagne Charlie (1944)
THE MOVIE CAREER
Things really clicked for Court in 1957, when she appeared with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in The Curse of Frankenstein, the landmark horror film from Hammer Studios. Court’s four-year-old daughter Sally also appeared in the movie.
Court showcased her “breathtaking cleavage” (as CultSirens.com called it) and her ability to scream bloody murder in The Curse of Frankenstein and many other films, including Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961), Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964). She and co-star Vincent Price became “extremely close” friends who “found humor in everything…had a ton of fun and…didn’t take the movies seriously,” according to Court’s daughter Sally Walsh (excerpted quote from the New York Times).
In an interview with the Lake Tahoe newspaper Moonshine Ink earlier this year, Court reminisced about her cleavage-baring roles:
Q: You were pretty sexy yourself, in fact downright ravishing.
Hazel: Thanks. I’ve always had a big bust, but it was never bigger when, newly pregnant with my son Jonathan, I filmed The Raven. One reviewer wrote that I was a, “sexy, lusty redhead in whose cleavage you could stash the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe along with a bottle of his favorite booze.” It’s my favorite review.
Court also appeared in several British film noir/mystery/thriller films, including Behind the Headlines (1956), Hour of Decision (1957), A Woman of Mystery (1958), Model for Murder (1959), and The Shakedown (1959), none of which garnered much attention for either Court or the films themselves. Instead, fans know Court as the lovely Nurse Parker whose creepy, evil boyfriend Dr. Blood wanted her organs instead of her affection; as beautiful cousin Elizabeth, accidentally and unfortunately caught up in Dr. Frankenstein’s bizarre world; as beloved wife Lenore, the person who will affect husband Vincent Price’s life forevermore, starting with a tap-tap-tapping at his door; and as the beautiful Emily Gault, who for some reason doesn’t seem very sympathetic about husband Ray Milland’s fear of being buried before he’s actually dead.
Of all her on-screen villains, Court declared that Anton Diffring in The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) was the scariest villain (“Anton could raise the dead. He was rather scary.”) and Kirin Moore from Dr. Blood’s Coffin was the sexiest villain (“He was a very good-looking man.”). (From Moonshine Ink interview.)
“Prince Prospero, why do you roam the late night corridors?” -- Court as Juliana in The Masque of the Red Death
THE TV CAREER
Court came to the U.S. in 1958 for the TV comedy series Dick and the Duchess, in which she played an English woman married to an American man (Patrick O’Neal). She guest-starred in a wide variety of TV shows, including Mission:Impossible, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, Gidget, Dr. Kildare, MacMillan and Wife and The Wild, Wild West. Court’s most well-known TV roles were probably the four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that she did between 1958 and 1961.
On the set of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Court met and fell for director Don Taylor (Escape From the Planet of the Apes, Omen II), whom she married in 1964.
“You sly old thing you.” -- Court as Lenore Craven in The Raven
THE LATER YEARS
Court’s final film role was an uncredited cameo in Omen III:The Final Conflict in 1981, as the “Champagne Woman at Hunt.” She happened to be on vacation in the same area of England where the hunting scene was being filmed, so she agreed to the cameo as a personal favor to producer Harvey Bernhard. CultSirens.com astutely noted that Court’s champagne-pouring cameo was a nice bookend to her first movie role in 1944’s Champagne Charlie.
Court gave up acting in the 1970s, choosing instead to concentrate on her family and her artistic pursuits. She was an accomplished painter and sculptor, studying in Italy and exhibiting her works in galleries and public venues around the world, including Penn State University and Sierra Nevada College's Environmental Building.
After her husband, Don Taylor, died in 1998, Court sold her Santa Monica home and moved to her Lake Tahoe vacation home. In an interview with the local newspaper Moonshine Ink, Court said that the tranquility of the snow-covered landscape was a comfort to her after her husband’s death. Perhaps that explains this line of the article: “And although her neighborhood is snow-laden in winter she has refused to build a garage because it would require cutting down trees.” (Moonshine Ink)
Court spent her time sculpting, painting, working on her autobiography and teaching art at a local college. One day this past April, she didn’t feel well and called an ambulance.
Hazel Court died of a heart attack at age 82 on April 15, 2008. She is survived by three children and two stepchildren.
NO CONTROVERSIES OR MYTHS; JUST ONE CONFIRMED RUMOR AND SOME TRIVIA
The collection contains shooting scripts for films and television movies that Don Taylor produced and/or directed in his later years, 1967-1988, and publicity and candid photographs from some of the films. In addition to the screenplay (several with handwritten changes by Taylor) some of the folders include staff, crew, and cast lists (some with salaries and social security numbers); shooting schedules; publicity biographies; production notes; sketches of sets; script breakdowns; action breakdowns scene-by-scene; location shots; and sheet music. Photographs consist of black-and-white publicity stills and black-and-white and color candid on-set shots of Don Taylor and the cast during production, plus a few title screen and credit shots.
-- from http://www.libraries.psu.edu/speccolls/FindingAids/dtaylor.frame.html
“Just in case I should pop off to Heaven in the night, I always remember to wash up, punch up the cushions, and straighten up after a dinner party,” she wrote. “I wouldn’t want everyone to come in and find it a mess. It’s very English of me.” – from Court’s forthcoming autobiography Hazel Court:Horror Queen, as quoted in the New York Times
THE AWARDS, HONORS AND TRIBUTES
Rest in peace, Hazel. And thanks.
(Sources used for this article include: CultSirens.com, Fangoria.com, geocities.com/~jimlowe/hazel/hazeldex.html, IMDb.com, MoonshineInk.com, The New York Times, Norvic-Philatelics.co.uk, The Society of Fantastic Films, The Telegraph (UK), TIME Magazine, The Times (UK), TomahawkPress.com, Wikipedia and possibly one or two more that I’ve accidentally omitted).
"FANGRRL" is ©2008 by Lisa Ciurro. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.