6/16/14

PUSSYCATS OF THE SUNSET STRIP: TUESDAY WELD


For years, Tuesday Weld was a major pain in the ass pussycat of the Sunset Strip, pissing off directors, gossip columnists, movie executives, turning down Warren Beatty's offer to star in "Bonnie and Clyde", having nervous breakdowns, drinking heavily, and claiming that she finally felt free because her mother died--when her mother was, in fact, alive and making an iffy living as a baby sitter to newlyweds John Astin and Patty Duke. (Mom was understandably annoyed when she heard that her famous daughter had declared her dead. At least she could have stood her the cost of the burial). By then, though, nobody thought it odd that Tuesday Weld had made up such a thing. By the early seventies, nutty Tuesday was already an old story.

Back in 1959, Danny Kaye, with whom she appeared in "The Five Pennies" said, "Tuesday Weld is fifteen going on twenty-seven". God knows what prompted this assertion but one can only imagine. This was after she had shot to nationwide stardom on TV's "Affairs of Dobie Gillis" which came about as a result of modeling work that her mother had been forcing her--er, encouraging her--to do since she was a kid, after her wealthy father passed away and somehow left the family with nothing. (His name, by the way, was Lathrop Motley Weld--a name that could only have been portrayed by Rudy Vallee in an unmade Preston Sturges movie). You see, everything about Tuesday Weld is written IN CAPITALS--and ITALICIZED. When she burst on the scene, the by-then decrepit Louella Parsons was astonished enough at Tuesday's free-living shenanigans to proclaim "Miss Weld is not a very good representative of the motion picture industry." (Presumably, Louella then flung her pince nez into her soup, crushed her cigarette out in the soft-boiled eggs, gulped her third Manhattan of the morning and ordered her secretary to get "that lovely young George Reeves on the telephone"--two years after he'd leapt out of the window). When things started going wrong with Tuesday in the late sixties, it wasn't enough for her to get divorced or turn down the string of big parts she was offered; her house also burned down. She just had that kind of--pardon the term--energy.

But, like other beautiful pain in the asses--Monroe comes to mind--she was worth (or almost worth) the trouble. Critically underrated as an actress and almost hypnotically watchable, Tuesday Weld may have lost out on the roles that would have defined her as one of the screen greats--"Lolita", the above mentioned "Bonnie and Clyde", "Rosemary's Baby", "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice"--but the many crap movies that she enlivened nonetheless showcased her quirky and deceptively deep talents to their singular advantage. And there were a few good ones along the way--"Pretty Poison", the great cult favorite which typically Tuesday detested (she said that the director, Noel Black, would ruin her day merely by saying "Good Morning") as well as "Cincinatti Kid" with Steve McQueen and the adaptation of Joan Didion's novel "Play It As It Lays", for which she won the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival. Later in the seventies, she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Looking For Mr. Goodbar"--now there's a seventies title that ought to be exhumed. One gets the idea with Tuesday--later married to Dudley Moore and later still married to violinist Pinchus Zuckerman--that a very restless spirit was unable or unwilling to land in a spot long enough, or secure enough, to flourish. And that perhaps even the notion of "flourishing" was anathema to the restless Tuesday.

Now in her early seventies and divorced from Zuckerman, Tuesday is out there somewhere perhaps enjoying the relative anonymity she now possesses. I'd love to know where she is, how she is, and what she spends her days doing. I have a feeling she's a hell of a lot more interesting than just any other run-of-the-mill pussycat. Below is the infamous "12 Cashmere Sweaters" clip from George Axelrod's very Sunset Strippy mid-sixties comedy, "Lord Love A Duck". Ai, yi, yi...





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