Thursday, February 14, 2013

Karen Valentine's Day

Celebrate VALENTINE'S DAY with Karen and a post from 2009.

When I was a kid, Friday nights were one of my favorite nights of television. THE BRADY BUNCH, THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY, THE ODD COUPLE and LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE were all among my favorite shows. But somewhere in the middle of the night lurked the black hole known as ROOM 222.

The thing about ROOM 222 was that it was supposed to be a comedy (the first episode even had a laughtrack) - but it wasn't funny. In fact, it was depressing. Who wanted to watch a show about an inner-city high school on a Friday night???

I recently tried watching an episode to see if the show was any funnier or less depressing. Guess what? No, it wasn't.
The main focus of the show was the American history class held in Room 222 of Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles, CA. The class was taught by Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes), a preachy and idealistic teacher. Pete's patient girlfriend Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas) was the guidance counselor. Principal Kaufman (Michael Constantine) and sweet student-teacher Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine) rounded out the cast.
Lovely Valentine later starred as Gidget in the TV film GIDGET GROWS UP, and in her own short-lived series KAREN (1975).

Karen also guest-starred on many series, including LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE and LOVE BOAT.
ROOM 222 aired on ABC from September 17, 1969 to January 11, 1974, for 112 episodes and won a bunch of Emmy Awards. The show featured appearances by many actors who went on to become stars, including Bernie Kopell, Cindy Williams, Teri Garr, Jamie Farr, Rob Reiner, Anthony Geary, Richard Dreyfuss, Kurt Russell, Mark Hamill and the late Bruno Kirby.
The melancholy theme song was by film composer Jerry Goldsmith. Here it is to depress us all...

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?