Monday, January 4, 2016

They Say Good Things Come in Threes

Or is it bad things? One thing is sure, it's a real "three for all" in here today! We're taking a gander at movies (and a few TV shows) that all focused on the adventures of three ladies thrown together by either family or fate. Our cover photo from Three Bad Sisters (1956) looks to be one to watch out for, not only for its campy aspects, but because delicious John Bromfield is shown shirtless in a trim little bathing suit! As you'll see, this concept has been a popular storytelling device for many years as it allows for a variety of personalities to collide against one another. Often, one of the gals would end up dead by the end! Rarely are my collections definitive, but I try to gather as many as I can. Will your own favorite make the cut?

These sorts of films helped give Joan Crawford a foothold in the movie business and she capitalized on the exposure. Here, in Sally, Irene and Mary (1925) she is shown at right opposite Constance Bennett with Sally O'Neil in the middle. (O'Neil portrayed Mary, not Sally! Ha!)
1928's Our Dancing Daughters had top-billed Crawford with Dorothy Sebastion and Anita Page.
The same trio was back again for 1930's Our Blushing Brides, though not as the same characters they'd portrayed in the prior film. (The 1929 movie Our Modern Maidens also starred Crawford and Page and bore a similar title to these others, but didn't chiefly concern three gals.)
In 1932, Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak played Three on a Match, after which bad luck did set in for the ladies.
Less a remake than a reworking of the 1925 film, 1938's Sally, Irene and Mary had Alice Faye, Marjorie Weaver and Joan Davis as manicurists aspiring to become entertainers.
1941 found the concept still fruitful with Ziegfeld Girl, which featured the star trio of Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr and Lana Turner. (By the way, I love to listen to Tony Martin singing "You Stepped Out of a Dream" as the showgirls waft around in elaborate gowns and headdresses!)
A Letter to Three Wives (1949) was co-written and directed by the masterful Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starred Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern and Jeanne Crain. Each lady frets over which of her husbands has fled with another woman.
In what became a thing in the 1980s & '90s, the movie was remade for television in 1985. This A Letter to Three Wives starred Loni Anderson, Stephanie Zimbalist and Michele Lee.
Similar in conceit, Three Secrets (1950) had Ruth Roman, Eleanor Parker and Patricia Neal each worrying if whether a young plane crash survivor might be her own illegitimate son, given up for adoption years before.
When this one was redone as Three Secrets in 1999, they couldn't even bother to cast three stars in the roles, thus it became a Jaclyn Smith movie with Katy Boyer and Nicole Forester merely along for the ride...
One hugely-popular threesome of ladies came with 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire, which starred Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. (The basic concept had seen the light of day before in 1932's The Greeks Had a Word for Them, 1938's Three Blind Mice and Moon Over Miami in 1941!)
Though you can barely see the title amidst the grass in this picture, How to Marry a Millionaire was later recreated as a syndicated television series that aired from 1957-1959.)
The property was far from done being exploited, however. In 1990 a TV remake was done called Rich Men, Single Women. This one isn't even connected to the original via imdb.com, but you know we love to dig up the obscure here at The Underworld and it is indeed a remake (or rip-off!) regardless of what anyone says. A 2000 telefilm called How to Marry a Billionaire had three MEN looking for wealthy spouses!
1954's Woman's World had Bacall returning to the format, but this time as one of three wives whose husbands are each vying for the same corporate promotion. She was joined in this one by June Allyson and Arlene Dahl.
Another very successful stab at the formula came in 1954 with Three Coins in the Fountain, with Jean Peters, Maggie McNamara and Dorothy McGuire as a trio of ladies hoping for love in Rome, Italy.
After allowing a decade to pass, the movie was remade (by the same director - Jean Negulesco, who specialized in these films), set in Madrid, Spain and cast with Ann-Margret, Carol Lynley and Pamela Tiffin. This time out, it was called The Pleasure Seekers. (An unsold TV-pilot in 1970, using the original title, starred Cynthia Pepper, Yvonne Craig and Joanna Moore.)
And, yes, the relentless train of remakes included a rendition of this one, now shortened to just Coins in the Fountain (1990) and featuring Stepfanie Kramer, Loni Anderson and Shanna Reed.
1957 found Taina Elg, Kay Kendall and Mitzi Gaynor as three co-habitating showgirls in Les Girls.
The roommate formula was in full swing again in 1959 with The Best of Everything, with office employees Diane Baker, Hope Lange and Suzy Parker doing the honors.
Did you know that the aforementioned movie was developed into a daytime soap called The Best of Everything in 1970 with Patty McCormack (middle-top) among the cast? The source novel had four protagonists, hence the foursome shown here. (The 1959 movie did also feature a fourth young lady, Martha Hyer, but her story was pared down. For those curious, Joan Crawford's firebreathing role from the movie was portrayed in the soap by Gale Sondergaard.)
1963 gave us Come Fly With Me, about a trio of stewardesses and their tangled love lives. Lois Nettleton, Dolores Hart and Pamela Tiffin enacted the roles. This was Hart's final movie before departing (see what I did there?) the biz to become a nun.
Also in 1963 came For Love or Money, in which Mitzi Gaynor, Julie Newmar and Leslie Parrish were three leggy sisters whose mother Thelma Ritter wanted them to be fixed up with wealthy husbands. Kirk Douglas was an attorney hired to help achieve that task.
This was also the year that Petticoat Junction (1963-1970), about three lovely sisters living at a hotel along a railway stop, hit the airwaves. Linda Henning, Pat Woodell and Jeannine Riley initialized the roles, though the latter two would be recast a couple of times over the course of seven seasons.
Possibly the Ne Plus Ultra of movie girl trios, at least in these circles, was Valley of the Dolls (1967) with Sharon Tate, Barbara Parkins and Patty Duke. Remarkably, there is no scene in the 123 minute movie that has all three gals interacting at once!

The 1970 sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (starring Cynthia Myers, Dolly Read and Marcia McBroom) got so far afield from the original during pre-production that it ultimately became a separate entity entirely. Phyllis Elizabeth Davis' character Susan had originally been Barbara Parkins' role of Anne and Charles Napier's Baxter was initially Paul Burke's Lyon before the connection between the films was severed.
A 1981 miniseries revisited the material. Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls starred Catherine Hicks, Lisa Hartman and Veronica Hamel. Even this was not the end! A 1994 late-night syndicated soap called Valley of the Dolls brought the trio out once more and even included glimpses of nudity here and there. (And Hollywood is always threatening to remake it as a feature with people like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and others who are already living it!)
1970 also gave us the Saturday morning cartoon series Josie and the Pussycats, which was a childhood favorite. After one 16-episode season, the gals were back for another, but as Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space!
The less said about 2001's live-action version Josie and the Pussycats, with Tara Reid, Rachel Leigh Cook and Rosario Dawson the better...
Another highly-successful series starring three young ladies was Charlie's Angels (1976-1981), about three female undercover detectives. The initial trio of Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett was only in place the first season, though that is arguably the most famous combination. Several recasts followed, though Smith stayed on board throughout.
Unlike many big-screen re-imaginings, Charlie's Angels (2000) proved commercially successful and even had its own sequel Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle in 2003, but, as you can imagine, I've never seen either one.
The 1977 Saturday morning cartoon Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels managed to merge (steal from!) both Josie and the Pussycats and Charlie's Angels in the visual formation of its girl trio.

Threesomes of ladies were still at it as the 1980s dawned with Jane Curtin, Jessica Lange and Susan St. James as larcenists in How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980.)
Tangled love lives and relationships were at the heart of 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters, starring Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest.
A girl group made up of life-long friends Kathryn Grody, Diane Keaton and Carol Kane was the subject of The Lemon Sisters (1989.)
Three sisters with quite varied looks were the witches of Hocus Pocus (1993), portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy.
Hitting it out of the park, box-office-wise, were Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler, who made up The First Wives Club (1996.)
The TV series Charmed (1998-2006) focused on three sisters (Holly Marie Combs, Shannon Doherty and Alyssa Milano) endowed with witchcraft and ran for eight seasons. The set turned out not to live up to its name, though, and Doherty was shown the door after reports on on-set squabbling. Rose McGowan was brought it to complete the fractured trio.
Diane Keaton, who seemed something of a fixture in this sub-genre, teamed up with Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow as three sisters struggling with the oncoming death of their father Walter Matthau in Hanging Up (2000.) And that, my friends, is my cue to hang it up on this posting!

20 comments:

Scooter said...

Loved A Letter to Three Wives. P3!

Gingerguy said...

This was a treasure trove Poseidon. This is my favorite category. I remember watching "Three On a Match" and almost peeing my pants when one of them found a creative way to tip off the cops(I will not spoil a thing)during a crime. I also remember seeing "A Woman's World" and thinking it was the most catty of the campy 50's women's pictures. I once asked a friend to tape me "The Pleasure Seekers" and drop it off at the desk of my building. Being detail oriented, he labeled it, and was embarrassed because the doorman thought it was porn. As a child I watched "The Best Of Everything" with my Mother and we spent a family drive talking about Suzy Parker. I was probably 8, so the hand writing was already on the wall! "Valley Of The Dolls" is the Mount Everest of camp. I can pretty much quote the original line for line (to my friends dismay at this point). I have a bootleg of the TV version, and my favorite part is Lisa Hartman singing "Be My Lover Tonight" to the patients at an insane asylum. a few years ago I went to a Shaw Brothers film festival (Asian film producers of the 50's and 60's) and one of their biggest hits was called "Hong Kong Nocturne" It turned out to be a lavish Chinese tear jerker that mirrored "Valley Of The Dolls"! Finally-Rhino Records did a "Josie and The Pussycats" greatest hits but it's like crazy expensive on e-bay. Which only confirms that there are people out there as wacky as I am for this stuff.

Michael O'Sullivan said...

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is another famous one of course, and the 1936 LADIES IN LOVE with lovely Loretta Young, Constance Bennett and Janet Gaynor also sharing an apartment in Budapest! Loretta looking fabulous wearing black and white outfits falls for wealthy playboy Tyrone Poser, but ....

I have actually just watched HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE again for the umpteenth time, and feel like THE BEST OF EVERYTHING now, and THE PLEASURE SEEKERS ... WOMAN'S WORLD though is probably my favourite.

Michael O'Sullivan said...

Er, Tyrone Power.

Sarge said...

Awesome post as usual, however re: CHARMED Rose McGowan replaced Shannon Doherty not Rose Byrne, just thought you'd like to know.

Poseidon3 said...

Hi Scooter!

Gingerguy, I used to hate it back in the Blockbuster Video days or whatever other local video rental store I went to and the title of the movie sounded more erotic than it was (i.e. - The Naked Jungle, which is a G-rated adventure about an onslaught of army ants!) I loved reading your hooty comments. I can only imagine that "Hong Kong Nocturne!!" Wow... One thing I didn't address in the body of this post was that, often, these movies afford a great role for one or more older actresses in support, such as the wondrous Joan Crawford in "The Best of Everything," Gene Tierney in "The Pleasure Seekers" or Susan Hayward in "Valley of the Dolls." Many times, it is these ladies who drew me to the movie to begin with! (Even "The First Wives Club" has a scene-stealing Maggie Smith. And, of course, "Woman's World" has Clifton Webb. HA HA!)

Michael, I wish I would have known about "Ladies in Love" for this post. Sounds awesome!! That's hilarious about Tyrone Poser.... ;-)

Sarge... thank you for pointing out the Rose thing. I never watched "Charmed" and should have checked that better! Got my Roses mixed up (not that I'd know one if I saw her!) I posted this entry at 4:32pm and get off work at 4:30, so it was clearly a matter of haste. I noticed this morning that many of the movie titles didn't get put into the usual boldface either! So I've fixed that, too. I'm still dealing with a LOT at work and have lately been doing longer posts than I said I was going to. I just get carried away! Y'all can probably expect some shorter ones in the near future as I try to regroup after the holidays.

Thanks!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

You can just do one "three women" movie per day, trust us. We know you're overworked. You don't have to, er, shoot your wad all at once.

BUT I did enjoy scrolling through and thinking "where is Charlie's Angels?" and there it was. Same with First Wives Club.

Armando Kotch said...

Another movie that comes to mind is the dreamlike 3 Women, with Shelley Duval, Sissy Spacek, and Janice Rule.

Skippy Devereaux said...

I was hoping to see TV's "Flying High" in there somewhere. It aired on Friday nights, in 1978, at 10pm, right after "Dallas" and starred Pat Klous, Connie Sellecca and Kathryn Witt. It was about three good looking stewardesses. Cute little show that I wish was on DVD.

rico said...

Loni was really on a tear with bad TV remakes of Hollywood classics, wasn't she? Anderson also did a terrible take on "Leave Her to Heaven" with Patrick Duffy! AND two TV Hollywood bios, one apt, as Jayne Mansfield, and one inept, as Thelma Todd. That, and being Mrs. Burt Reynolds, I'd say Loni really ran the gamut of Hollywood greatness!

Poseidon3 said...

Thank you, Dave! I'm glad I covered the bases of a couple of your favorites.

Oooh, Armando! That is one I missed. (I've never seen "3 Women" but have always wanted to...)

Skippy!! I temporarily forgot about that show! You'd think that "Come Fly With Me" would have jogged my memory... I remember seeing it sometimes and thinking how pretty Connie Selleca was. It's what urged me to later tune in to "The Greatest American Hero" and "Hotel." And, of course, Pat turned up for a while on "The Love Boat." That would have been a good one for this post.

Rico, you're so right about Loni! Those TV versions of great Hollywood movies almost always turned out so pale and limp. Campy fun, but rarely any good...

Poseidon3 said...

I should add that one fun part of the 1985 version of "A Letter to Three Wives" was having Ann Sothern of the original movie pop up in a supporting role (was she Loni's mom, God forbid? I forget...)

Unknown said...

Hi!
Long time reader and I find your style very refreshing and informative!
I always liked the mean trio of girls in teen movies like Heathers, Clueless and of course Mean Girls. I guess they aren't under your radar.
Looking forward to your next post! Hope it's about a musical!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Wait, seeing Sissy Spacek's name, didn't she and Diane Keaton (again) and Jessica Lange play sisters in some relatively good movie? Something Southern and kind of funny?

Poseidon3 said...

Yes, "Crimes of the Heart!" I totally forgot about that one. See, we could be here for days... Wait, I already have been. LOL It seems to me that Diane Keaton must really have loved this format for a movie!

"Unknown," those are other great examples that I forgot about. I saw and liked "Heathers" and "Clueless" though I never got around to "Mean Girls." Thank you for your compliments about the site and my writing. I do appreciate it greatly!

Musicals. Rock. said...

Hi!
I'm not actually "unknown" but I couldn't seem to choose my identity right when publishing my comment.I think you will like Mean Girls, even though it's more modern. It's reasonably camp and has some actresses who are popular now.
And if you don't mind me asking, when are you planning on talking about a musical(s) again? I fell in love with your Lost Horizon review I watched it immediately and downloaded your review! It's pretty decent and an enjoyable watch.
I'm particularly partial to musicals as you would hopefully see from my username now 😊

Poseidon3 said...

Hello, Musicals.Rock, I have to say I have surprised even myself at the lack of musicals reviewed/paid tribute here. The famous ones that are good don't particularly need my take and have generally been showcased online and in books to a great degree. I do love to write about the rotten ones, though, and have lent my pen to takes on "The Apple," "Sincerely Yours," "Grease 2" and the semi-musical "Staying Alive" (in addition to "Lost Horizon, of course.) Often, the content I choose to write about is either culled over a long period of time (like the photo collections of stars in swimsuits, showers, tubs or other themes) or something I recently watched myself. It's something of a toss-up! I can tell you that two musicals I have considered posting about are "Mame" and "Xanadu." I don't know why I don't do more except to say that since my life tends to be one already (in fact, my next one opens in March!), I probably veer away from it when expressing myself here. Thanks!!

Musicals. Rock. said...

Ah!looking forward to it your next post.
Tnx.

joel65913 said...

Fantastic collection Poseidon. Like the others here commented this is one of my favorite subgenres and I've seen many of these, and long to see the others.

Starting right at the top a friend gave me a T-shirt many years ago with a replica of a different even more lurid poster for Three Bad Sisters on the front. In that one it was a shot of one sister kneeling over another sister with a whip! and framed between the third sister's legs with the title printed on her skirt along with the tagline "Out to get every thrill they could beg, borrow or steal" and then the legend "What they did to men was nothing compared to what they did to each other!" I loved it utterly and wore it until it literally fell apart. The actual movie is cheesy fun but could never live up to that poster.

I have long wanted to see either version of Sally, Irene and Mary but both have proven maddeningly elusive as have Three Secrets and Come Fly with Me.

I think it goes without saying that I hold a special place in my heart for A Letter to Three Wives since it proved my beloved Linda Darnell with her best ever role which she performed to perfection and was robbed of an Oscar nomination for. I love everyone else in the film as well, even the usually stiff and mechanical Jeanne Crain is pretty good though the weakest of the cast.

Woman's World is one of my comfort movies that I can watch any day or time regardless of my mood and I feel better when it's over. Again love the entire cast but Betty Bacall walks away with the film with a performance of effortless panache and slyness.

The two Mitzi movies you mentioned are a lot of fun with Les Girls probably the more technically accomplished, as well as having the divine Kay Kendall in it, but For Love or Money is an extraordinary fashion show with even Thelma Ritter consistently dolled up and Mitzi, and her immovable hair!, in one eye-popping outfit after another. There is a red dress and white coat with matching red lining that is a particular knockout.

If Valley of the Dolls is the Ne Plus Ultra of the genre than Hannah and Her Sisters takes a genre that is at times derided, both rightly and wrongly, and elevates it to the level of art.

Somewhere it was mentioned how this genre provides mature actresses with at least one showcase role per film, that even holds true with Hannah which had a marvelous Maureen O'Sullivan stealing a scene or two, and bless it for that...love the mention of Clifton Webb in Woman's World! That movie also has the wonderful Margalo Gillmore as Webb's sister and the two of them had a fun relationship and a natural spiky chemistry giving them an actual feeling of siblings.

I could go on and on and as you said there are many other examples of the formula, the less said about those ghastly TV remakes the better, but you pulled together an impressive number for this completely satisfying post.

Poseidon3 said...

Joel, I think I definitely need to see "Three Bad Sisters." That T-shirt sounds great! I have never seen either one of the "Sally, Irene and Mary"s and it's been a while for "Three Secrets," too. I waited FOREVER to see "Come Fly With Me" which I'd been panting for because of Hugh O'Brian, but when I finally saw it, he was so buttoned up it was a bit of a let down. Time was TNT and/or TBS would run strictly older movies like these and was the place I first got to see so many of them. Not so now, of course. There is a lot of love here for "Woman's World!" I liked it, but really need to see it again now to find out if it will be as special to me as it is to so many others here. I have GOT to see "For Love or Money" just for the clothes... Thanks!!