A good year for women on film, as exemplified in new releases The Eyes of My Mother, Miss Sloane, and more
Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
This year's 4th of July festivities didn't take a vacation from the old celebrity "death comes in threes" precept.
The trio of supporting players taken during the holiday weekend includes Anna Massey, the award-winning British actress victimized in films by Michael Powell (Peeping Tom) and Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy), Elaine Stewart, brief Metro contract player (The Bad and the Beautiful) and game show co-hostess, and '30s child star Edith Fellows (Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch).
Anna Massey was the daughter of Canadian actor Raymond Massey and British actress Adrianne Allen. Her brother, Daniel Massey, was also an actor. The actress once told a reporter, "My education finished at fifteen; if I'd stayed at school I'm not sure I'd have become an actor."
Without so much as one high school production or role in summer stock under her belt, Massey made her stage debut at the age of 17 as Jane in the Theatre Royal, Brighton production of The Reluctant Debutante. Her first film role was in Gideon of Scotland Yard, directed by her godfather, John Ford.
The lithe redhead spent the majority of her career in front of television cameras, but the most memorable lens she ever posed for belonged to a shy British scoptophiliac who gets off on stabbing young women with a specially designed stiletto tripod. For an added kick, a mirror attached to his camera allowed each victim to watch their own demise.
Peeping Tom was released the same year as the remarkably similar Psycho, but Massey would have to wait until Frenzy before suffering an even worse fate at the hands of Hitchcock. Her corpse, clad in nothing more than a potato sack and a necktie pulled tight around her throat, was accidentally bounced to the curb from a speeding truck.
Anna Massey was 73.
Jersey-born Elaine Stewart (Elsy Steinberg) was a slice of post-war Hollywood cheescake best served hot, a '50s version of Megan Fox with even less screen time. The sultry redhead debuted in a background role opposite Dean and Jerry in Sailor Beware, but didn't really get men to sit up and take notice until she played the unscrupulous starlet eager to put out for Kirk Douglas in The Bad and the Beautiful.
Stewart worked consistantly before her marriage in 1964 to game show producer Merrill Heatter, causing her to drop out of acting. Combining her skills as actress, model, and pin-up girl, with her outstanding looks, Stewart made a brief return as a forerunner to Vanna White on two of her husband's shows, Gambit and High Rollers. The couple remained together until she died yesterday at 81.
Edith Fellows was a child star whose fame was quickly eclipsed by her contemporaries, Shirley Temple and Jackie Cooper. She started acting at the age of six, and all but three of her 51 feature films were produced by the time she hit 19.
Fellows worked with many Hollywood greats (Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor, W.C. Fields) in many of their not-so-great pictures (Pennies from Heaven, Kid Millions, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch). She also appeared opposite Gene Autry, but I defy you to name one movie in which he starred.