Monday, December 20, 2010

Extra! EXTRA!

As Poseidon, Ruler of The Underworld, I rarely have the need to call upon my subjects and other surface dwellers for assistance. However, this time, I am in desperate need of help from someone out there in the know! I am being followed… Haunted! …by a particular woman and I need to know who she is.

In The Sound of Music, the first movie I can ever remember seeing in a theater, there is, of course, the legendary song So Long Farewell, in which the Von Trapp children say goodnight to their father’s guests in their own tuneful way. Amid the array of tuxedoed and gowned guests at the party, there is one particular lady extra who is next to the Captain and who occasionally glances at him when not observing the children’s routine.

Having seen the film countless times, this woman stood out to me because not only does her hair and overall appearance not look like 1965, but it (more importantly!) also doesn’t look like 1939, the period in which the film is set. (Admittedly, there is so little period detail in clothing or hair in this film as to be laughable, but anyway…) She stood out from the other matrons around her and seemed to be special in some way because of her proximity to Christopher Plummer. In the long shot after the song, she turns and makes a remark to him, touching him on the arm before exiting.

When you really love a movie and watch it over and over, eventually your eye starts to shift from the primary focus and main characters to all the background detail. Her face became quite familiar to me. In time, I started to notice this woman popping up in other places. She is one of the restaurant guests in Where the Boys Are when Jim Hutton jumps into the mermaid tank to snare the girl he’s after. She is utilized in countless movies and television shows.

A reasonably tall woman with heavily lidded eyes and a fairly soft chin, her curly, full hairstyle has never, to my witnessing, ever changed much, though it began as salt and pepper and soon became fully white. I’ve seen her in everything from black and white movies to color television shows. She has made my beloved video watching into an unintentional variation on "Where's Waldo?"!!

Now that I “know” her, I see her all the time! She is frequently placed close to the stars or has some sort of moment in which she reacts to something going on. For example, in one of the two-hour pilots for The Love Boat, she is one of Doc Bricker’s patients, exiting his office so that he can see Stella Stevens. He even calls her “Mrs. Richardson,” but she says nothing and is uncredited.

In a regular episode in the latter part of the first season, she is a well-dressed passenger (on what happened to be a Valentine singles cruise, even though she is rather elderly. Go on, girl!) who is coming around the bend just as Gopher is stranded in the hallway in his t-shirt and underwear. This sort of appearance is quite typical. She is “featured” for a brief moment and is then not seen again. I have yet to see her credited in a part.

In the movie Westworld, the one in which James Brolin and Richard Benjamin head off to a large scale fantasy world in which lifelike robots interact with them and make their dreams come to life, there she is!! Dressed in a vivid blue dress, she is seated on the transport vehicle alone (and I do wonder which of the fantasy worlds she went to, there being three to choose from.)

As is so often the case, she is visible over Benjamin’s shoulder during the scene. She is out of focus, but unmistakable to those who know her. Later, as the guests are exiting the transport and getting into an elevator, she is RIGHT NEXT to Benjamin in line! Somehow, somewhere, some way, this woman became a sort of go-to girl for casting directors. It’s like they all knew her and would pick her especially to be in the frame with the stars or in a costume that draws some degree of attention to her. But WHO is she?!?

When I recently purchased a 55” high-definition TV, I began to re-watch some of my favorite films (I am chomping at the bit for New Years Eve to get here, so I can see The Poseidon Adventure in what is closer to its screen glory than I’m used to!) One of the first films I watched was one that is also one of my all-time faves, The Towering Inferno. Unbelievably, as I was watching it, there was this woman AGAIN, sitting in the Promenade Room while Fred Astaire and Jennifer Jones danced the evening away! William Holden makes his announcement about moving the party and there she is, nestled amongst the many other guests!

It is truly getting to be an obsession with me now. She’s EVERYWHERE! Now that I know her face so well, I’ll be innocently watching a movie or TV show and then, BAM!, there she is! It completely takes me out of the moment because I then recognize her and remember that I’m viewing a Hollywood product and that somehow this lady was selected to be in a certain place next to a certain person. It’s epidemic! In an episode of Police Story, one that led to Angie Dickinson's Police Woman, my mystery lady was right there in vibrant red as a casino patron, obviously seated right behind a guest star who was in the foreground.

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were watching Lipstick (which I then did a little feature on) and I’ll be damned if she wasn’t sitting there in court!!!!! More than once! I’m telling you, this woman has been in more movies and TV shows than practically any other actor or actress and has likely met every star imaginable from the 50s through the 80s. I see her now and just stare at the ceiling in amazement that our paths have crossed yet again. But I have NO IDEA WHO SHE IS! What is her name? What was her story? These are but a few of the MANY examples I've seen of her.

This is why I am calling upon you. Please help me ascertain who this hard-working extra was! Does ANYONE out there in cyberland know this chick and can you tell me her name? I used to wonder if she was an old silent star who later made ends meet as an extra or was she someone’s wife? She seemed to do a significant number of Twentieth Century Fox movies. It’s a major puzzlement and I have decided to go public with my obsession to see if anyone can clear it up. Thank you, from the bottom of The Underworld!

13 comments:

normadesmond said...

this is a wonderful mystery, i love it. of course, i have no idea who she is. i presume she never ever gets credit.

might she have been one of zanuck's paramours?

GlenH said...

I like to think of her as the older version of Myra Breckinridge, signaling us from beyond the frame...

Topaz said...

That is bizarre how she keeps popping up! And she's probably been dead for decades, but would love the thought that someone would notice her work after all this time.

ric biff said...

Hey there...I love your blog. Your writing is great. The old movies bring back so many memories...

Could I suggest captions for the pics? It would be great to know exactly who is in the screen cap.

Keep up the good work...I've forwarded the link to those I know will love it!

Poseidon3 said...

Ric, welcome and thanks for your comments!

I would love to accommodate you and have captions, but I can't for a couple of reasons. #1 is time. I already post far more seldom than I would like to because I am swamped with a variety of things. I would have to be positive that everyone is named (and, most importantly!) SPELLED correctly and it would only slow me down even more. #2 is that I don't know how to make captions on the system I use. I am on the "old" blogger uploading system because I tried the new and was a) confused and b) hated the way the pictures worked. (I am not a computer whiz by any means!) #3 is that, even if it might not seem like it (and this post is an exception), I usually have anywhere from 20 - 30 pictures in a given post. Sometimes more! (I think my record might be 42.) I spend a LOT of time trying to hunt down the right photos and placing them as close to what I am talking about as possible so that they "go" with the text nearby. I do try to make sure that people being mentioned are either in the shot or if they aren't, then stating who they are.

Sorry to go on and on! I just wanted to explain and let you know I didn't just blow off your request.

One thing I am ALWAYS happy to do, and I'm sure some of my regular cohorts here would be pleased to do as well if they beat me to it, is let you know who people are that you aren't sure of through the comments section if you happen to ask. Sometimes I forget that not everyone who come to The Underworld has the same insane interest in or knowledge of the lesser names of TV and movies that are common here! Ha ha!

Thanks again very much!

FelixInHollywood said...

Well isn't this a fabulous mystery!

I have no idea who she is, but I'll add that from my experience of working on film and tv productions, it's usually the First Assistant Director (1st AD), or the 2nd AD that is responsible for directing the background artists. That person places them and tells them where and how to move during the playing out of the scene. And as far as casting goes, apart from the casting office that handles the leads and day players, there are agencies that do nothing but 'extras casting'.

I know we're talking about a long period of time, but is it possible that the same 1st or 2nd AD worked on these various shows? She may also have been signed up with more than one extras agency, hence, getting more calls.

Ultimately, my best guest is that she had been a featured actor at one time in the past, or was just an old pro extra who knew, and was liked by everyone in town and was always given choice coverage.

Really cool, this.

Poseidon3 said...

Thanks a lot, Felix! Your best guess is pretty much exactly what I'm thinking. I only was able to capture and post a FEW examples. Trust me, the chick is EVERYWHERE! Drives me crazy and, yet, somehow comforts me to know that she was steadily working.

Pantheon Zeus said...

Bewitched fans learned that the hairdresser Peanuts was often doing double-duty in crowd scenes as an extra.
See here http://www.harpiesbizarre.com/peanuts.htm

Perhaps this new mystery lady (who I am dying to now know about too) was a hairstylist on sets as well?


Funfact: Between 1946 and 1992, background actors in film and television were largely represented by the Screen Extras Guild. SEG was disbanded on 1 June 1992 and transferred its jurisdiction to SAG.

Pantheon Zeus said...

I was so hoping it was Eleanor Audley (who died in 1991) but was doing uncredited work in films thru the late 60s -- but the mystery lady's nose seems more bulbous that Eleanor (who usually played society ladies and voiced Disney villains).

Poseidon3 said...

God, it just happened again... I was at some friends' house watching Airplane II: The Sequel and in the midst of it, I had to scream out because when Robert Hays was confronting mad-bomber Sonny Bono, there she was again, bigger than life and right next to Hays, occasionally in front of him, in an army green colored dress... I'm haunted, I tell you!

Αλέξανδρος said...

I bumped into this site while following a link to Space: 1999 and was quite intrigued by your writing style and the incredible wealth of trivia knowledge involved! Never an ardent fan of television, but quite into the occasional B-movie, I enjoyed reading about people and shows I had barely heard of (not living in the US). However, I was particularly taken with your ‘extra’ obsession and set out on a quest that may have proved fruitful. I humbly believe your haunting lady is Mrs. Leoda (aka Leota) Richards, possibly the world champion of uncredited film and TV appearances, born on March 15, 1907, who died of natural causes in California on February 07, 1998. A search on Google may even yield a couple of photos.

I hope this has been helpful. Keep up the good work!

panalex said...

I bumped into this site while following a link to Space: 1999 and was quite intrigued by your writing style and the incredible wealth of trivia knowledge involved! Never an ardent fan of television, but quite into the occasional B-movie, I enjoyed reading about people and shows I had barely heard of (not living in the US). However, I was particularly taken with your ‘extra’ obsession and set out on a quest that may have proved fruitful. I humbly believe your haunting lady is Mrs. Leoda (aka Leota) Richards, possibly the world champion of uncredited film and TV appearances, born on March 15, 1907, who died of natural causes in California on February 07, 1998. A search on Google may even yield a couple of photos.

I hope this has been helpful. Keep up the good work!

(posted anew with a latin font identity)

Gilmore Rizzo said...

This same EXTRA actress is also in the I LOVE LUCY Episode "Lucy's Night in Town" during the performance of "The Most Happy Fella" and she is also seen in two Dick Van Dyke Show Episodes.