Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Blog for Barboura


Thirty years ago today -- October 23, 1975 -- Barboura Morris died at the age of 43. She had celebrated her birthday the day before... I imagine poorly, because the IMDb specifies her cause of death as a "stroke and complications from cancer."

All that I really know about Barboura Morris is that she was a comely supporting presence in many Roger Corman films through the 1950s and 1960s, and that she was married to Monte Hellman for awhile. Her best acting showcases were probably in SORORITY GIRL (1957) and A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959, pictured above). In the former, she plays the sane foil to Susan Cabot's psychotic college girl, and in the latter she plays Carla, the mellow beatnik girl who congratulates Walter Paisley's (Dick Miller's) sculpting "success" with a kiss and unexpectely wins his twisted heart. She also has a memorable, non-glamorous supporting role in THE TRIP (1967) as the lady in hair-curlers who has a surprisingly poignant encounter with Peter Fonda's tripping protagonist in a laundromat.

Corman first met Barboura as a fellow student in Jeff Corey's acting class, and I get the sense from the sheer unimportance of some of her roles that Corman would give her little parts, when she wasn't otherwise working, as a personal favor, to lift her spirits and keep her in front of the camera. You can see her in a pelt, poking around the rocky hillsides in TEENAGE CAVEMAN (1958); pulling her tricycle-peddling toddler out of the way of Peter Fonda's motorcycle in the pre-credits sequence of THE WILD ANGELS (1966); and as one of the frightened people of Arkham in the Corman-produced H.P. Lovecraft adaptation THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970). The IMDb lists only 15 screen credits for her, and a lot of them are precisely this sort of thankless, often unbilled stuff. I'm aware of at least one other role that isn't reported there: she appears in the closing minutes of DE SADE (1969) where she appears, again uncredited, as a nun, obviously one of the scenes Corman shot for credited director Cy Endfield.

For some reason -- lack of ambition, a lousy agent -- Barboura doesn't seem to have worked in a movie Corman wasn't involved with until 1970's HELEN KELLER AND HER TEACHER, an obscure picture in which she played the role of Annie Sullivan, made famous by Anne Bancroft in 1962's THE MIRACLE WORKER. I don't know anything about this production except that it didn't lead to bigger and better things. I would love to see it, if only to see Barboura tackling another of her all-too-few lead roles.

Likewise, I would have loved to read an interview with her, to get her point-of-view on those crazy fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants years of AIP filmmaking, but I don't think any journalists ever spoke to her. It's our loss.

A toast, on this overcast and chilly Cincinnati Sunday, to "the girl with the lovely smile"... Walter Paisley's muse... the long-gone but not forgotten Barboura Morris.

6 comments:

  1. is this blog entirely about barboura morris? i just discovered her today. i saw "a bucket of blood" and was very impressed. not only with the film but with her performance. she really MAKES the picture as the goddessy object-of-unrequited-love. barboura was much sexier than most of the american actresses of the late fifties. (she certainly puts doris day and sandra dee to shame in that department.) and she had genuine talent. it's a shame that the "barb(ou)ra" who became a superstar was STREISAND and not MORRIS. (what an interesting alternative history the film industry would have had if it were the other way around........)

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  2. Heavens, no! This blog is/was/shall be devoted to anything video related that strikes my fancy, but Barboura Morris certainly falls in that category. She was a resourceful and promising talent whose promise was never fully realized, but she left behind several memorable performances. I'm glad to see someone respond to this particular blog entry, and after three years!

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  3. Tom Gabriel7:55 PM

    This particular blog page has a bookmark in my web browser. Barboura Morris was a unique presence in Corman's films, having a kind of beauty and style you just didn't see in other actresses, A-list or otherwise. It's hard to explain, but she does fascinate with the combination of her graceful moves, unique voice, sincere and intelligent acting style, and that kilowatt smile! I do remember her late co-star Susan Cabot saying in an interview that Barboura was well-liked by her co-workers, but always had a "sad quality" about her. This makes me sad to think about, but I'll always remember her special talent and undeniable charisma!

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  4. She was lovely indeed.....

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  5. Anonymous8:36 PM

    Just watched her in The Wasp Woman. He was really attractive, and a good actress. Thanks for the blog!

    jayparker@mac.com

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  6. When I first saw her semi recently in "A Bucket of Blood" I was wishing she had done a guest shot as a beautiful client on "Perry Mason." She would have fit right in with all those beautiful 50's and 60's actresses. Her smile reminded me of Karen Sharpe, my favorite Perry Mason babe from "The Case of the Hesitant Hostess."

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