Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Birthday: Mamie Van Doren!

Mamie Van Doren,(born February 6, 1931). In early 1946, Joan began working as an usher at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Soon after she landed a bit part on a television show. She also sang with Ted Fio Rito's band. In the summer of 1949, at age 18, she won the titles "Miss Eight Ball" and "Miss Palm Springs."

That is when Howard Hughes, discovered Joan on the night she was crowned Miss Palm Springs. They dated for five years and he launched her career by placing her in a few RKO films. Hughes gave Van Doren a bit part in, Jet Pilot. The following year, 1951, she posed for famous pin-up girl artist Alberto Vargas, the painter of the glamorous "Vargas Girls." His painting of Van Doren was on the July cover of Esquire.

Van Doren did a few more bit parts in movies at RKO such as, His Kind of Woman (1951). starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and Vincent Price. Van Doren, played a Guest at Bar (uncredited).

On January 20, 1953, Van Doren signed a contract with Universal Studios. The studio was hoping she would be their version of Marilyn Monroe. Van Doren's first movie role was in the Tony Curtis film, Forbidden (1953), playing a bit part as a singer (uncredited).

Mamie Van Doren, Tony Curtis, Mara Corday.

She then performed in, The All American (1953), also starring Tony Curtis, playing her first starring role as Susie Ward, a wild girl who is the man-trap at a campus bar. The story begins when, Nick Bonelli, quarterback for Mid-State, proves himself an All American in the championship, but his parents are killed in an auto accident coming to the game. Nick, transfers to Sheridan University to follow his dream of studying architecture. His decision not to join the football team causes him a lot of trouble as does his love life.

In Yankee Pasha(1954), starring Jeff Chandler and Rhonda Fleming, Mamie played a slave girl named, Lilith. Mountain man Jason Starbuck, rides into town to sell his furs. He falls in love with Roxana, who's leaves soon after by ship which is attacked by pirates. She is then sold into slavery in Morocco, Jason follows her to Morocco to save her.

In 1955, Van Doren was cast in, Ain't Misbehavin, a musical comedy starring Rory Calhoun. A story about a wild young girl, who makes her way into high society when wealthy older man falls for her.

She later starred in the crime-drama film, Running Wild(1955), with William Campbell. A young rookie cop goes undercover to bust up an auto theft ring run by a bunch of juvenile delinquents.

In 1956, she played opposite a young "unknown" Clint Eastwood in, Star in the Dust. Van Doren, plays a daughter of a ranch owner. The sheriff of Gunlock wants to hang Sam Hall, who shot three farmers. At the casino, betting is 8 to 3 he won't make it. The farmers hope to lynch him before he can be rescued by the cattlemen. Sheriff Jorden, wants to find out who hired Hall. Star in the Dust, was Van Doren's last film with Universal, because she was tired of being cast in small unimportant parts.

Van Doren went on to star in several "bad girl" movies that later became cult films. She also performed in some of the first movies to feature Rock and Roll music:

In the film Untamed Youth (1957), Sisters Jane and Penny are arrested for hitchhiking on their way to Los Angeles when they stop for a quick skinny dip in a small town. A woman named Trump, who is in charge of the prison work program has the two women work off their sentence in the fields. The prisoners are treated badly, but the judge's son has signed on as a hired hand and falls in love with Jane and comes to their rescue. Mamie, was the first woman to sing rock and roll in a Hollywood musical. Eddie Cochran did the music for the film. This film was later featured in, Mystery Science Theater 3000's "Untamed Youth" (1990).

Some of Van Doren's better known movies include:

Teacher's Pet (1958). Romantic comedy film starring Clark Gable and Doris Day. Directed by George Seaton and co-starred Gig Young and Mamie Van Doren. The cities newspaper writer James Gannon, believes that the only way to learn the business is through life experiences, so he's not too happy when his managing editor wants him to speak to college professor Erica Stone and her journalism class. He pretends to be a student, not letting her know he's Gannon, the newspaper writer. They both begin to gain respect for each other's ideas on how to report the news.

Born Reckless (1958). A western/drama. Wanting to buy a ranch of his own, Kelly Cobb travels the rodeo circuit to win the money prize. Trick rider Jackie Adams, has a little trouble with a sports writer after her saloon song. She and Cobb, decide it would be safer for her to travel together. Jackie falls in love with Kelly, but he doesn't seem to notice as he continues to follow his dream. Jackie hopes to change his roaming ways.

High School Confidential (1958). Crime/drama directed by Jack Arnold. It stars Mamie Van Doren, Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Jackie Coogan. The film also features a cameo by Jerry Lee Lewis who opens the movie singing a song of the same name, which Lewis co-wrote with Ron Hargrave. Michael Landon also appears in a supporting role. A new kid on the block, enters a new high school and falls into the drug scene. A teacher tries to help reform him, his aunt tries to seduce him.

The "potheads" wants to get on the deal, but he has his own plans. After many problems he's accepted by the drug kingpin.

The Beat Generation (1959). Cast: Steve Cochran and Mamie Van Doren, with Ray Danton, Fay Spain, Maggie Hayes, Jackie Coogan, Louis Armstrong, Vampira, and Ray Anthony. It showcases the "Beatnik Generation" and is sometimes considered one of the very last films noirs to be film. The story is about a detective, who is assigned to track down and capture a serial rapist.

Girls Town (1959). Starring Mamie Van Doren, Mel Tormé and Ray Anthony, Paul Anka also appears in his first acting role. A young man is killed while trying to rape a girl, who is able to escape. Silver, becomes the number one suspect even though she has an alibi, but because of her troubled past is sent to a Girls school, a home for troubled teens. (The scene which caught the censors attention was in a shower scene where audiences could see Van Doren's naked back). Silver causes trouble at the school, and her friend Sarafina, is headed for trouble because of her romance with a young singer. Meanwhile, the dead young mans father hires a detective to find out the truth.

The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960). Comedy starring Mickey Rooney, who also co-directed and Mamie Van Doren. It is a "B-movie" in which the plot is about a modern couple who dream that they are Adam and Eve.

Sex Kittens Go to College (1960). Comedy starring Mamie Van Doren, Tuesday Weld and Mijanou Bardot. Collins College, is looking for a new department head for their science department. Doctors Carter and Zorch consult Thinko, the campus computer, and come up with sexy Dr. Mathilda West, who has many degrees. Meanwhile, two thugs search for Sam Thinko, who is muscling in on the race horse action, the captain of the football team is having trouble not passing out in front of girls and Admiral McFortune, becomes attracted to Dr. West, who has a past he wants to keep secret.

Vice Raid (1960). "B-movie" crime/drama starring Mamie Van Doren and Richard Coogan. Syndicate crime boss Malone, frames vice cop Whitey Brandon, to get him out of the way. Malone gets "model" Carol Hudson, to lie that Brandon tried to extort her during a bust. The department believes her testimony over their best cop and Brandon is fired.
He sets out for revenge and receives help from Carol after her teenage sister is raped by one of Malone's hoods.

Marilyn, Mamie and Jayne Mansfield were known as "The Three M's." Monroe became famous in the film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Mansfield had her success with, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. Universal teamed Van Doren with Francis in the, Talking Mule in Francis Joins the WACS (1954).

The Candidate(1964). A low-budgeted film that starred the 1950s sex symbol Mamie Van Doren. Co-starring in the film were June Wilkinson, Ted Knight, and Eric Mason; Rachel Romen, Robin Raymond, William Long, Jr., and John Matthews.

The Her best "later career" film was, 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt(1964). Comedy film starring Mamie Van Doren and Tommy Noonan, who also directed and co-wrote the film. The film is about an out of work Method actor, who is hired by a stripper, a male model and a car salesman to listen to their problems and go see a psychiatrist on their behalf. The actor has to pretend that he has all the problems of the three nuts who hired him.

The Las Vegas Hillbillys. This film also co-starred Jayne Mansfield, this was the only time two of "The Three M's" performed together in a film.
The story is about Woodrow Wilson Weatherby, a wood hauler, who inherits a Las Vegas casino from his uncle, only to find that it comes with a $38,000 debt. Woody's Aunt Clementine, has some ideas they hope can turn the business around. The film's sequel was titled Hillbillys in a Haunted House, but Van Doren turned this role down, and was replaced by Joi Lansing.

She then appeared in The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966), a science-fiction film. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. A scientific expedition to Antarctica discovers unusual trees. When the trees are shipped out for study, the trees are accidentally taken to a south seas Navy base and they turn out to be killer trees.

Two years later she starred in another sci-fi film Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968). Astronauts landing on Venus kill a creature that is worshiped by the Venusian women who then try to kill the astronauts. The astronauts leave the planet and their robot that was distroyed by the volcano fire behind, which is now the Venusian women's God. The footage of the astronauts is actually from a Russian sci-fi film, Planeta Bur.

In 1971, Van Doren had a supporting role in, The Arizona Kid. From here on out Van Doren has appeared only in cameo appearance in low-budgeted films. To this date Van Doren's last film appearance was a cameo role in, Slackers in 2002.


  1. Great birthday tribute Dawn! Happy Birthday are very photogenic!

  2. Lots of good info. Well done.

    I think of all of those I've only seen Teacher's Pet. I remember the scene where she sang. I also remember Doris Day briefly reprising the song later in order to tease Gable's character.

  3. Monty, Thank you.. I have seen many of her films..

    Chip Lary, Thank you.. Teacher's Pet, is the first Mamie film that I have seen. Doris was very cute reprising the song later for Gable.

  4. Dawn, did you watch all of these! I think I've seen about two--they look bad...real bad. LOL!

  5. Kim, I have watched about 4 Mamie movies and part of another one..


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