Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Dougsploitation News Special Report: One Woman or Two?

I stumbled upon a little Hollywood mystery back in 2011. After watching the trailer for a 1953 MGM musical called GIVE A GIRL A BREAK starring Debbie Reynolds, Marge Champion and an actress named Helen Wood, I came across a curious comment from a fan of the film.

"In the late 1970's-early 80's I knew Helen Wood who starred in DEEP THROAT under the name Dolly Sharp. She died in 1988. Anybody out there have any info on HELEN?".  At first I shrugged this off as someone making a dumb joke about this woman. Then I did some research.
Helen Wood was born June 4, 1917 in Clarksville, Tenn. In 1933, she won a beauty contest which resulted in a trip to Hollywood and an uncredited bit role in ROMAN SCANDALS  (1933). Taking the last train back to Clarksville, she then completed her high school education. She was soon offered a contract with MGM Studios. After her graduation, she returned to Hollywood with her mother and was cast as a Goldwyn Girl in KID MILLIONS (1934) with Lucille Ball. Many uncredited chorus girl and background roles followed in MOULIN ROGUE (1934), GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (1935), MARYJANE'S PA (1935), IN CALIENTE (1935), ANNA KARENINA (1935), SHE MARRIED HER BOSS (1935), THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER (1935) and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935).
In 1936, the rising starlet was named one of "The 1936 Flash Lighter Starlets" and soon was cast in speaking roles in films like MY MARRIAGE (1936), CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE (1936), HIGH TENSION (1936), CHARLIE CHAN AT THE RACE TRACK (1936), CAN THIS BE DIXIE? (1936), CRACK-UP (1936), ALMOST A GENTLEMAN (1939) and SORORITY HOUSE (1939).
Then for 10 years, Helen Wood made no film appearances. In 1949 she returned in THE PILGRIMAGE PLAY, followed by GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953) and her last film the burlesque comedy THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY'S (1968). UPDATED INFO: Apparently Helen was featured in four Broadway productions from 1949 through 1957. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1949-51), SEVENTEEN (1951), PAL JOEY (1952-53) and ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF 1957 (1957). So what happened to Helen between 1957 and 1968? And what about after MINSKY'S?
In 2002, The American Museum of the Moving Image in New York ran a festival of erotic films called Carnal Knowledge, which included such classics as I AM CURIOUS YELLOW (1967), MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969), CARNAL KNOWLEDGE (1971), KLUTE (1971), BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (1969), LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972) and the notorious pornographic comedy DEEP THROAT (1972).

The program lists this information regarding DEEP THROAT: 
1972, 73 mins. Directed by Gerard Damiano. With Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Dolly Sharp. As talked-about as LAST TANGO IN PARIS, DEEP THROAT premiered with a packed opening day at New York's World Theatre, expanded to seventy screens nationwide, grossed millions, and became a cultural phenomenon. Professional production values and a satiric script earned attention from critics, while Linda Lovelace became a household name. Dolly Sharp, crisply delivering one-liners, previously enjoyed a long career in Hollywood musicals (GIVE THE GIRL A BREAK) as Helen Wood.

Dolly Sharp aka Alexandra Krasneborg began HER acting career in 1971, appearing as "Lady Zazu" in MILLIE'S HOMECOMING. Six more film followed THE WEIRDOS & THE ODDBALLS (1971), HIS LOVING DAUGHTER (1971), SELLING IT (1972), SEXUAL CUSTOMS IN SCANDINAVIA (1972) and ROSEBUD (1972). And then came DEEP THROAT.

In DEEP THROAT, Dolly is cast as star Linda Lovelace's older,wiser roommate, Helen. Early in the film, there's a scene in which Linda and Helen sit beside a swimming pool chatting when Linda declares "Helen, there's got to be more to life than just screwing around." You mean like singing and dancing in MGM Musicals?

So these are the facts: Helen Wood appeared in almost two dozen Hollywood films from 1933 through 1968. Dolly Sharp began appearing in adult films three years later - making her final XXX appearance in 1973, never to be seen again.  If Helen Wood did indeed become Dolly Sharp - she would have been 54 or 55 during the filming of DEEP THROAT. This is totally plausible.

Helen Wood died February 8, 1988 in Burbank, CA leaving behind many unanswered questions. What happened to her between 1939 and 1949 and again between 1957 and 1968 is a mystery. Did she ever marry? Did she have children? Could something have happened to her during those years that would cause her to leave her glamourous MGM past behind to become a middle-aged porn star? The photographs I have posted here certainly show a resemblance between Helen and Dolly, but I have no proof that any of this is true, but the possibility of it all is fascinating. If any readers have any more info on Helen and/or Dolly, please let me know. I also wonder where in Burbank she lived... Helen are you haunting my house?


Anonymous said...

There were two. The Helen Wood who was "Dolly Sharp" was born in the late 30's or 40's. She was in "Minsky's" and other legit films before her 70's detour. I am related to someone who was involved with her in her later life and met her once. Classy Lady. Old school actress / dancer type.

Anonymous said...

I believe she is one of the same the resemblance is remarkable. And you can't find any information on Helen Wood the dancer actress which is unusual. She would of been 55 when she did Deep Throat. If you look at certain body parts from when she was a dancer her legs look like a dancers still at 55 just a little slimmer but she really does look like the same woman only older. Older but someone who aged very well and maybe had a face lift.

Anonymous said...

No.1 is right. I worked with her at a restaurant as a teenage bus boy. She was very kind to me and most of us knew her past. She had at least 1 child and was not proud of her involvement with some movies she did. She did star in Minskys. That other lady is not her. If you knew her you'd never forget her nose, cheekbones & distinctive voice. I'm sorry to hear she passed away.

Anonymous said...

They are 2 different women , they don't even lookalike. Dolly Sharp looks nothing like Helen Wood the actress. They were both probably called Helen Wood. The Helen Wood from "Minskys" does look like Helen Wood/Dolly Sharp, who became the porn star. The other Helen Wood who was the actress in the 40s and 50s , looks very different to the porn star Helen Wood/Dolly Sharp.

Ryan Clark said...

The Rialto Report has done some digging and just released their findings in a blog post. Apparently there were two actresses named Helen Wood and IMDb has combined both of their filmographies into one page. The actress born in 1917 is the one who appeared in movies in the 30s and 40s. Helen Wood, aka Dolly Sharp, was born in the 30s and only appeared in Give the Girl a Break and Minsky's.


Anonymous said...

The Rialto Report (www.TheRialtoReport.com) recently solved the mystery - and published many rare photographs of Helen / Dolly. It's an amazing story which was expertly told as usual by those guys.

Anonymous said...

The woman furthest to the right in the black and white photo of "The Night They Raided Minsky's" looks like Dolly Sharp.

Port Arthur Girl said...

Helen Ann Wood is from Port Arthur, Tx and was my father's cousin. We have old black and white glossies from her performances on Broadway. She had a son who notified my mother of her death.

Port Arthur Girl said...

Helen Ann Wood from Give a Girl a Break is my father's cousin. She is from Port Arthur, Tx and we have old black and white glossies of her performances on Broadway. She had a son who let my mother know about her death.