Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Guest Who: Beyond "The Poseidon Adventure"

Well, we've landed back on Fantasy Island again. The Underworld has been a busy, busy place and has required us to turn to another guest star post instead of a larger, more labor-intensive one. Today, we're looking at another one of those actor reunions that always fascinate us so much, in this instance two folks from The Poseidon Adventure (1972.) In this 1980 installment, Carol Lynley plays a woman visiting the island who, in an unusual turn of events, has not yet informed Mr. Rourke (Ricardo Montalban) of her fantasy.

Upon her arrival, Lynley and Montalban head out to a cliff overlooking the ocean where she informs him that she will very soon be revealing to him just what her fantasy is. The only thing she has indicated is that the fantasy will be to save her life.

After Rourke departs, we see her alone on top of the cliff, being observed from below by another person. Soon they've entered into a conversation (and can somehow be heard by each other amid the pounding surf and seaside wind!)

We discover none other than Roddy McDowall, playing a mysterious and genially sinister gentleman, clad all in black save a white tie and pocket hanky. It seems Lynley owes him and owes him big time. For his trouble, he wants an extraordinarily rare orchid, which must be presented to him alive and potted.

Thus two buds from the S.S. Poseidon are flung together once more.
This particular vignette of Fantasy Island was apparently thought momentous enough to warrant a composite press photo for release to newspapers and TV guides everywhere. (Then again, the companion story that week featured the thespian talents of Arte Johnson and Airport '77's Arlene Golonka, so by comparison this one enjoyed more star power.)

It's remarkable enough that the notoriously acrophobic Lynley was able to shoot this scene at all, with the precipice that near her feet. Anything she did in Poseidon that required being up very high was completed by a body double in a rather ratty dishwater-blonde wig.

Anyway, now that she knows what her fantasy is to be - obtaining this rare specimen of a flower - she informs Montalban that this is what she wants. She is also dealt a surprise when her convalescing husband Adam West shows up! He's close to full recovery from a serious accident.

At a luau that evening, much to her relief, Montalban presents Lynley with the coveted orchid. (Note the plunging neckline on West's polyester shirt!) Thing is, their romantic evening of music, tiki torches and fresh fruit is about to take an unhappy turn. See if anything at all looks slightly amiss in the photo below...!
Yep, McDowall is making his presence known (it's not obtrusive at all to appear at a luau with back- lighting and even smoke billowing from behind oneself!)

He's ostensibly come to collect his prize, so Lynley excuses herself from West and heads over to him with the treasured piece of flora.

Unfortunately, when she hands it over to him, the poor orchid immediately withers and dies. McDowall has merely been toying with her all along. You see, he is Mephistopheles and when her husband West was gravely ill, she sold her soul to him in exchange for his life and health. The one year anniversary of their deal is fast approaching and he means to collect!

Now Montalban is irritated that Lynley lied to him about her fantasy and didn't spell it out to him from the start. He claims he can do nothing at all to help her now. Lynley is finally forced to admit to West what she has done to ensure his full recovery.
Everything comes to a head when Montalban confronts McDowall himself, with the two hapless guests in attendance behind him.
McDowall stakes his claim on Lynley's soul and leads her to grasp West and escape as soon as possible. However, there's no running away from the devil. She begins to see a variety of spooky manifestations before her and finally is resigned to her fate.

Montalban does have one ace up his sleeve. A bit of secret information that does finally thwart McDowall. With this, McDowall apparently no longer feels any need to disguise his appearance and slowly he is shown to now be sporting pointy ears, horns and a widow's peak (with even more red light cast upon his visage!) He departs from Fantasy Island, but vows to return again some day. (McDowall did indeed pop up again on the show as the devil the following year to tangle with Montalban once more!)

Now free of their burden, Lynley and West are prepared to leave the island and return home to a life of healthy wedded bliss. It must be said that the often-campy and off-beat West is enjoyably understated and normal-acting in this role. The twosome boards "de plane" bidding Fantasy Island farewell.
This was only one of several times that Lynley and McDowall worked together. Prior to Poseidon, they were both in 1964's Shock Treatment (seen here with Stuart Whitman) and worked in a 1969 episode of It Takes a Thief. After that, they were in the TV movies The Elevator (1974) and Flood! (1976), though they shared no scenes in the latter. Still later came the 1981 telefilm Judgement Day and still another episode of Fantasy Island, though in that one they were not paired together. (McDowall made five appearances on Island while Lynley popped up ELEVEN times on the series in all!)

We lost McDowall altogether too early of lung cancer in 1998 at the age of seventy. A gifted child actor who morphed into a staggeringly busy character performer, he was THE confidante to a wide variety of friends and peers in Hollywood. He knew where all the bodies were buried, but upon his death his personal papers and photos were sealed for 100 years, with the idea that by then their revelations would be Hollywood history, not merely fodder for gossip.
Incidentally, this episode served as a reunion for McDowall and West as well, for McDowall had appeared on Batman in 1966 as guest villain The Bookworm. (You can see more of and read all about West right here.)

My favorite tidbit about Lynley is that as a teen model, she (born Carole Ann Jones) had been using the professional name of Carolyn Lee. When she went to register with Actors Equity, that name was already in use, so she augmented it to Carol Lynley! Still with us today at seventy-four, she has only acted sporadically since the dawn of the new millennium.


Gingerguy said...

This was fun. I liked Carol's 1940's styling in the first photos. She and Burt made a very handsome couple. 11 times! no wonder I felt like I always saw her on this show. I find her a bit mealy-mouthed in some of her more wistful roles like "Poseidon" but love her in the strange "Bunny Lake Is Missing". Her distracted air really worked in that movie. Her version of "Harlow" is on my list. Fascinating fact of about Roddy's will. His home movies at the beach are on you tube and they really are the "Who's who" of gay cocktail parties. He seemed like a nice man, in his photography books he takes lots of snaps of his bestie Liz Taylor. She said she could always find him in a crowd. I assume from this episode Mr Roarke is kind of a heavenly host. The white suit isn't just a tropical wardrobe choice.

KP Knapp said...

I've heard several attempts at Roddy McDowall Biographies have been stifled both authorized and unauthorized. Mostly by his last lover and also by his many, many friends in the show business and publishing. Every one that wants to talk gets pressured not to.

Anonymous said...

Carol Lynley said in an interview that she and Roddy were good friends. Lovely actress.

joel65913 said...

An interesting little post though I am no fan of Lynley. Every time I watch the Poseidon Adventure I find myself screaming at the TV WHY did Linda Rogo have to go and we're stuck with that dreadful whiny Nonnie! I usually find her wan beyond belief. I did think she wasn't too bad in Shock Treatment, her blank indirect drifty presence fit the role well.

By the way she might not have the name recognition of Lynley but I love Arlene Golonka so much more and was always happy when her name showed up in the credits. She had a scrappiness to her whether she was playing a been around gal, which was her usual lot, or the sweet young thing in Mayberry R.F.D. For a while she seemed to be everywhere!

Rick Gould said...

Always loved looking at Carol Lynley's china doll face, but her acting style was indeed wan! She always seemed like she just woke up from a nap ; )

I got to see Roddy McDowall once, from a distance. Early to mid '90s. He was doing a book signing for his last photo book in Chicago, where I was visiting. There was a long line, and as I contemplated the wait, his eyes caught mine, and he gave me a look like I was what he wanted for lunch! I was totally caught off-guard and made an awkward exit, I'm sure!

Poseidon3 said...

Oh my GOD, my life sucks at the moment. Just too much to do and no time to do it. Sorry for the late replies you all my P.U. friends.

Gingerguy, I always thought Lynley was lovely to look at, somehow the most near the very end when she's placidly looking at the welder burning through the hull of the S.S. Poseidon (which always looked to me to be MUCH thinner than the ballyhooed "one inch!") Her skin is glowing and her face is just beautiful. But... for many, many years I could not stand "Nonnie." She was so neurotic and forever coming up with limitations of what she could do. And I especially hated how her big, gasping, choking emergence from the water took away from the solemnity of Shelley's demise. But over the years I guess I've just gotten used to her. I thought Carol looked quite amazing stepping out of the F.I. plane, but then in other shots she looked more worn out or something. She appears in quite a few movies that I dearly love, though I don't always love them BECAUSE of her. And, yes, I've seen those McDowall home movies, too! He was said to have very few, if any, enemies in Hollywood.

KP Knapp, that's interesting. I mean, he definitely knew the dirt on EVERYONE! I hope someday I can hear all the dish, though if it's going to be 80 more years or so, I doubt I'll last that long. LOL

Armando, I believe it. They worked together quite a bit. I think he must have made many people feel they were his close friend. He probably spent quality time with them and LISTENED, unlike today when so many people text someone else when they're with another person. LOL

Joel, I sort of covered my own Nonnie thing above. I get you. I think one thing that's annoying is that she has almost no development arc. She's a hopeless mess when Red finds her and she really doesn't progress very much after that! After a while it's like, "AGAIN?!?!? Now what?" As for Arlene, I don't dislike her or anything, but my mother loathed her so I was always a little tentative. I still remember being in the theater for "Airport '77" and when Arlene's character's daughter is trapped under some furniture, the men are getting her out and Arlene screams, "BONNIE!" in this incredibly OTT way and races over and grabs her (risking further injury to her spine or something else?) My mother goes, "She's stupid..." LOLOLOL I still crack up at that.

Rick that is SO NEAT!!! I wish you would have mustered up the courage to stick it out and meet him for real. Still, you have that little moment etched in your mind forever. I have a similar one - not sexual - with Vince Gill. I was wearing a huge furry Frosty the Snowman costume (don't ask) and for a family picture with Vince and his wife Amy Grant and their daughter, I uncharacteristically (for Frosty, anyway) hurled my arms around him like a lovestruck teen or something! LOL Afterwards, I turned to wave goodbye and he was staring at me with those ice blue eyes, sizing me up and wondering just who or what in the hell was inside that costume!!!! Ha ha! I always wished that I could see Amy's Christmas album from that year to see if a 4 x 6 of us made the cut...

In other news, let me tell you that AS I TYPE, none other than Faye Dunaway is here in Cincinnati filming a movie. I know I will not be able to find her or get close to her, but the mere idea of it is thrilling... I'm afraid of how I would act, should I stumble upon her!