Last week’s Action Heroine Blog-a-Thon was quite enlightening in that it underlined how few action heroines there actually were in the movies prior to the late 1970s. The apparent tipping point was Sigourney Weaver’s debut as Ripley in 1979’s Alien. Which isn’t to say there were NO action heroines prior to the 1970s. Joining Kriemhild in my personal pantheon, here are two more pre-’70s favorites.
Y’all remember Bat Lady, don’t you? She was the comic book heroine obsessed over by Jerry Lewis in Frank Tashlin’s classic comedy, Artists and Models (1955). Dorothy Malone plays Bat Lady’s creator, the writer and artist who draws her. A young Shirley MacLaine (in her second film) plays the model who poses for her.
The problem with Bat Lady is we know she’s supposed to be a super-heroine in her comic book, but we never get to see any of her comic book adventures acted out. Regardless, MacLaine is incredibly cute and sexy, posing in her Bat Lady outfits.
Like the best of his other films, Artists and Models is Tashlin’s look at a pop culture phenomenon: Comic books are to Artists and Models as rock ‘n roll is to The Girl Can’t Help It as advertising is to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
And the new Paramount DVD version of Artists and Models is stunning. I agree with Dave Kehr: “Frank Tashlin + Jerry Lewis + Dean Martin + 8 Perf VistaVision = Bliss.”