Friday, January 11, 2013

RIP Theodora Thurman, 'sexy weather girl,' and star of Ed Wood's 'Jail Bait'

We were reading Rex Reed's annual long, New York Observer piece on celebrities who died in 2012 and our eyes lifted when we noticed the inclusion of "Tedi Thurman." He describes her as "the sexy, smoky voice that kept America enthralled delivering torrid weather reports all weekend on NBC’s innovative radio marathon Monitor during my high school salad days." Indeed, she did. However, she was also known as one of the stars of the lesser-known Ed Wood classic "Jail Bait." In her only film, which must have been a test run for bigger things that did not materialize, at least in films, Thurman played the gun moll of gangster Timothy Farrell. She's beautiful in the role, and her acting is not too bad. However, in Rudolph Grey's oral biography of Wood, Thurman mentions that after the film, she went off to Europe to model. In the same book, Farrell mentions that Thurman had a lot of people protecting her during the shoot. Thurman was 99 when she died last September 17 in Palm Springs, Calif. She was born in 1913 in Idaho. She must have lived a fascinating life. Perhaps some day a biography will be written about "Jack Parr's sexy weather girl," as Thurman described herself.

In the meantime, we re-run this review of "Jail Bait," from blogger Steve D. Stones, and allow viewers to enjoy the smoky voice and beautiful persona of "Tedi" Thurman. Steve didn't mention Thurman in the review, but she does a capable job as Farrell's moll, Loretta. Most of the VHS and DVD box covers contain the iconic shot of her (below) holding a gun.

-- Doug Gibson

By Steve D. Stones

You have to hand it to Ed Wood. He had a way of creating interesting feature length films lacking in talent, acting skill and budgets. Plan 9 From Outer Space is considered his worst film of all time, yet it may be his most entertaining and enduring. His early classic – Jail Bait, borrows from earlier “film noir” crime classics, such as Little Caesar and Scarface. If you recognize the score in Jail Bait, it’s because it was featured in another early 50s cult classic – Mesa of Lost Women, a film that also has a distinction of being one of the “worst films of all time.” The Hoyt Kurtain score really gets under your skin, annoying the viewer with its overblown repetition, much like it does in Mesa of Lost Women.

Wood’s sweetheart Dolores Fuller starred in both Jail Bait and Mesa of Lost Women. Her role in Jail Bait was much meatier, but her acting career was short lived. She later went on to write songs for Elvis. Her autobiography was released in 2009 entitled: A Fuller Life - Hollywood, Ed Wood and Me - giving her account of her life with Ed Wood.  

Monotone voiced Timothy Farrell, who also starred in Wood’s Glen or Glenda, wants to hide his identity from the police after holding up a theater in Monterey Park, California. He employs the help of a plastic surgeon, played by Herbert Rawlinson in his last role, to change his facial features. Rawlinson agrees to the procedure, only to save the life of his son, who killed the night watchman at the Monterey Theater. Rawlinson later discovers that Farrell has already killed his son.

In a predictable “plot twist” the viewer can see coming from a mile away, Rawlinson changes Farrell’s face to look like his son, played by Clancy Malone. Farrell is now implicated for the killing of the night watchman at the Monterey Theater. The Los Angeles Police chase Farrell, and a gunshot kills him as he falls into a swimming pool.

It should be noted that beefcake weightlifter Steve Reeves, who went on to play Hercules, plays a police investigator in Jail Bait. He tries to put the moves on Dolores Fuller in the film, but she does not bite. An unrelated burlesque sequence was added to the film many years later, which was discovered when the long lost negative was found.  A VHS copy of Jail Bait released in the mid-1990s by Rhino Video contains the long lost burlesque sequence, and a DVD print by Passport Video also contains the lost sequence.

Oddly, director Tim Burton gives no mention of Jail Bait in his 1994 biopic of Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp. Wood’s films, books and collectibles are today valuable gems for film buffs and collectors. Happy Viewing!!

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