Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: The Perils of Pamela

No one writes more knowledgeably or pleasurably about the beautiful starlets of 1960s movies than Tom Lisanti, as he proves once again with his newest book, Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 (McFarland, $39.95).

Tiffin had an odd career trajectory. A successful fashion model before she ever considered acting, she made her film debut with a bang in 1961. Stunningly beautiful but a completely unschooled actress, she was handed two prestigious assignments for which more established performers would have killed: a key role in Summer and Smoke, based on the acclaimed Tennessee Williams play, and the young female lead in One, Two, Three, where she would be directed by none other than Billy Wilder, and act opposite the great James Cagney. Yet despite acquitting herself well in both roles, she then began a frustrating struggle to avoid being shoved into films of lesser stature -- roles where fitting into a bikini was as important, if not more so, than her dramatic or comedic chops. Only five years after launching her motion picture career, she would walk away from Hollywood with few regrets, leaving unanswered the question of how successful she could have become with the right parts, and more careful career handling.

Lisanti, as his regular readers know, loves groovy 60s flicks like The Pleasure Seekers, and those who fell in love with Tiffin in these escapist escapades will find their fond appreciation shared by the author. Thanks to the author's valuable interviews with costars and colleagues, they'll also enjoy a revealing look behind the scenes. In later years, Tiffin began a second career in Italian films, and Lisanti's research into this aspect of her work is impressively detailed. He makes a convincing case for his argument that Tiffin, at her best, was "prettier than Raquel Welch, funnier than Jane Fonda, and more appealing than Ann-Margret." And who could resist that?

NOTE: I was provided a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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