Did you know? Points of Interest Pt. 6


Ursula Andress says she lost her virginity at the age of sixteen in a photographer’s studio. Before her career began to blossom the Swiss beauty spent a week with Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot, reputedly sharing their bed each night. After making several potboilers in Rome she was introduced to a Hollywood agent by none other than Marlon Brando. She missed out on an acting contract at that time because she refused to learn English. When challenged over her middle-aged affair with her co- star Harry Hamlin in The Clash of the Titans (1981), (he portrays Perseus in the movie – and very badly at that), Ursula lashed out. ‘I tell my conservative women friends who bother me about my youthful lover to ‘fuck off’, or go get them one of their own’. The multi-untalented Harry would later father her child. Andress first exploded off the screen as she walked from the water in Dr No (above) in 1962.

Paul Picerni

Paul Picerni in House of Wax (1953)

Detective Scott Andrews in the 1953 thriller House of Wax is portrayed by Paul Picerni who was thrown off the picture at one stage because he refused to play the guillotine scene the way director de Toth wanted it played. De Toth expected him to lie under a real blade, held up by a prop man, who was supposed to advise the actor when he was going to drop it, thus giving crew members a second or so to yank Picerni from under the thing! No wonder he was reluctant to do it. Studio head Jack L. Warner recalled the young actor to the set several days later, showed him a modified, safer guillotine set up and again asked him to do the shot. Picerni reluctantly agreed to do it (just once), and it went off without a hitch. Paul was no stranger to dangerous situations. As a bombardier during World War Two he flew 25 combat missions and was awarded a DFC. One of those missions involved dropping the bombs that destroyed the real bridge made famous in the 1957 movie The Bridge on the River Kwai. He is probably best remembered as Robert Stack’s off-sider in The Untouchables TV series. He passed away from a heart attack in 2011 at the age of 89.

 Elizabeth Ashley | Celebrities lists.

Sultry Elizabeth Ashley

Elizabeth Ashley is probably best remembered for her debut screen role in The Carpetbaggers (1964) as Jonas Cord’s ill-treated wife. In real life one of her former lovers was Tom Nardini who played the Sioux Indian Jackson Two Bears in Cat Ballou. She also had a tempestuous marriage to actor James Farentino and later married George Peppard. She openly admits having many one-night stands during her boozing and drugs period in New York, rarely recalling the names of her partners. ‘I smoked a lot of dope. I made it with a lot of guys’, she said. In 1993 she revealed that she had also been a rape victim back in 1977.

Fess Parker

Fess Parker at his peak

Fess Elisha Parker, 1924–2010 - News Features

In later years

Fess Parker was a most affable man who became the centerpiece of the Davy Crockett phenomenon that hit the western world for the briefest of times in 1956, due to a Disney mini-series that appeared on television (and was later morphed into two popular movies). Unfortunately for Fess, he could not shake his typecasting as Crockett. Six years starring as Daniel Boone in a highly successful color TV series was pretty much more of the same and he knew it. In 1973 he retired from acting and moved into real estate. In France, his acting Christian name had to be changed from ‘Fess’ to ‘Fier’ because the French word for ‘buttocks’ happened to be ‘fesse(s)’. ‘Fier’ means a much more fitting ‘proud’. In 1985, his good friend President Ronald Reagan asked him to be US Ambassador to Australia, but he declined the honor. Fess Parker passed away at 85 in 2010.

Amazon.com: Another Time, Another Place: Lana Turner, Barry ...

Lana with Sean Connery

Johnny Stompanato - MurderMysteries.com

and with her boyfriend Johnny Stompanato

When Lana Turner flew to England to make Another Time, Another Place (1958), her gangster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato followed her under an assumed name. He hung around the set and generally made a nuisance of himself. An altercation between him and her co-star Sean Connery resulted in the Scotsman knocking Johnny out with one punch. After Stompanato attempted to choke Lana during one of their many arguments, she went to the police and had him deported for visa violation. Upon her return to America she decided to take a secret vacation in Mexico, but Stompanato’s connections found out about it, and he was waiting for her in Acapulco – with a gun. He held it to her head and threatened her life. In March 1958 she attended the Oscars with daughter Cheryl. Stompanato, furious that she had refused to take him, beat her up when she returned home. On April 4 he died from a stab wound to his heart. A jury ruled that Cheryl had stabbed him accidentally. Opinions on the verdict remain divided. Lana’s last husband wrote that she had confessed to killing Stompanato herself because he was sexually abusing Cheryl. Well, as they say, – if you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

Superman and the Curse of the Cape - Lake Highlands

George in the role that made him famous

George Reeves will always be remembered for playing Superman in the fifties TV series The Adventures of Superman. Even his shooting death (suicide or murder?) will never alter that fact. His ‘Superman’ muscles were actually weights sewn inside his costume, quite heavy weights in fact, weighing fifteen or so pounds. TV was in its infancy and money was short, so expensive special effects were not an option. In order for Superman to ‘take off’, George would run off a hidden diving board and jump over the camera. To ‘land’ he would simply dismount from a gymnastic bar. A kind and generous man, Reeves regularly visited children’s hospitals in costume, where assistants would break balsa baseball bats over his head and he would bend fake iron bars for the kids’ entertainment.

Sound Stages | Warner Bros. Studio Facilities

Warner Bros. studio facilities

Jack Warner – Wikipedia

studio head Jack Warner

During the Second World War, when Americans genuinely feared a surprise air attack from the Empire of Japan on California, Jack Warner became especially concerned that his expensive sound stages at Warner Brothers bore a remarkable resemblance to Lockheed’s aircraft hangers next door. To the amazement (and amusement) of nearly everyone he ordered the word ‘LOCKHEED’ painted in bright red letters 50 feet high on the roof of his main sound stage, accompanied by a gigantic arrow, 100 feet tall, pointing in Lockheed’s direction. The Japanese were not going to bomb Warner Brothers by mistake if he could help it. The US Government failed to see the humour and made him paint over it.

 Lionel Atwill | boys WILL BE boys | Pinterest

Lionel Atwill

Lionel Atwill was a character actor, best remembered today for his portrayal of Olivia De Havilland’s dastardly uncle, Colonel Bishop, in Errol Flynn’s debut film Captain Blood (1935). Privately, he was something of an ‘institution’ in the Hollywood of the thirties, notorious for his weekly orgies conducted at his sumptuous home. Each Friday evening participants were required to bring along a doctor’s bill proving they were sexually ‘clean’ before they could sit down to a formal dinner. This was followed by a move to the living room where everyone would strip naked – except for ladies’ jewellery – and the fun would begin. Atwill himself would decide who would sleep with who over the weekend-long party, and he gave himself the onerous task of servicing whichever women he fancied over the two days. Regulars to these events included Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford. Partners could be of either sex according to preference.

Lionel Atwill on Pinterest | Frankenstein, 1st Birthdays and ...

as Colonel Bishop in Captain Blood

This happy arrangement came to a screeching halt on Xmas Eve 1940 when Lionel (or someone) invited several under-aged girls to the shenanigans. One of them, a 16 year-old, became pregnant and told her parents what had transpired. A number of big names; actors, directors and executives, were at the party, so the ‘fixers’ had to move fast. The girl was paid off and sent back home to Minnesota, but somebody had to take the fall, so Atwill was put on trial. He was found innocent of raping a minor, but guilty of committing perjury, having ‘lied like a gentleman’ to protect the identities of his famous guests. He was given a five-year suspended sentence in 1943.


  1. Oh, another detail. She was signed to a contract by Paramount, which had visions of making her into the next Marlene Dietrich. That was what brought her to the United States from Rome in late 1954 or early 1955. But she stopped showing up for her scheduled language and acting classes. She had arrived in California thinking she was already a star, but when she realized that actual effort would be involved, her zest for the whole idea dried up. And it was more than that. She didn’t really think she had the talent in her. She settled into being the highly-controlling John Derek’s mistress and then his wife. That would be the first of three times she would end up being a co-respondent in a divorce proceeding (the other two involved Jean-Paul Belmondo and Ryan O’Neal). She got out of the contract with Paramount when she agreed to buy her way out. This interview dating from 1965 and found on YouTube is revealing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKlKAFPnl0A

    • I have often wondered how Derek was able to have such beautiful women fall in love with him. I always found him to be a rather bland actor and personality.He must have been quite an operator in his day.

  2. Items one and three in my short list could certainly be grounded in solid fact. I’ve just never come across them before. But the material on which the unauthorized biography was based was the accumulated publications of decades in Europe, where UA was much more prominent in the popular imagination than in the United States. It seemed that she appeared on more magazine covers over there than anywhere else; and I know she was popular in Mexico and Argentina also. Item three, where she used an obscenity to get critics off her back for her relationship with Harry Hamlin, not quite 16 years younger than she was (she would eventually go on to have a relationship with a fellow named Fausto Fagone who was 30 years younger than she was), seemed unlike anything I’d ever encountered in her quoted speech. But any realist knows that if you hound and exasperate someone long enough, you can open a crack in their restraint and self-discipline and a drunken sailor who’d been locked in a closet for years can come roaring out.

    The relationship with Fausto Fagone, who ended up being convicted in Sicily in 2014 for his money dealings with the local mob, produced one of the more-amusing stories associated with UA. I provide the following from the archive of the U.S. edition of People Magazine.

    September 14, 1987, Vol. 28, No. 11
    By Tim Allis

    SHE SCOOPS TO CONQUER: It’s a scandal that spans 30 years—that being the age difference between Teutonic sex empress Ursula Andress, 51, and the new love of her life, an Italian student named Fausto Fagone, who’s all of 21. Andress, who bore Harry Hamlin’s child when she was 44 and Hamlin was 28, has been keeping company with Fagone for the past year. Over the fierce protests of the boy’s parents, Andress has taken Fagone home to Beverly Hills. Papa Fagone, a businessman, complained to columnist Chris Hutchins in London’s Today newspaper that “she is nothing more than a cradle snatcher, and she will marry him over my dead body. We want our son back, but she seems to have cast some kind of spell over him from the moment they met.” Some spell: When Hutchins phoned Andress’ house, a maid answered and explained, “Madame is enjoying a candle-lit dinner with her young friend. At the moment she’s feeding him a scoop of ice cream.”

    • Fascinating. I agree with you when you say the press have a way of exasperating that can result in out of character outbursts from their prey. I have never queried that particular response from Ursula, although I must say that over the years I have more or less expected bad language from most actors and actresses – the women especially – and have become less and less surprised by it. Come to think of it, Paul, that particular earthy response is the ONLY one by Ursula that I have ever encountered, so it may well have been induced.

  3. Hello, Mr. Royle:

    Just discovered your website today. In the last few years I’ve developed a hobby of studying the life of Ursula Andress, on whom I had an adolescent crush in the 1960s. (Woodworking would be a far more useful and productive hobby, but I’ve resigned myself to my condition, known in the medical literature as either “Andressitis” in its mildest form, or as full-blown “Andress psychosis” at its worst. It’s similar to shingles in that it stems from a virus with which one was infected while young. It can be dormant for decades and then erupt with remarkable, even disabling, painfulness.)

    I’m interested in your sources for the following:
    (1) the year and setting of the loss of UA’s virginity;
    (2) the bed-sharing with Vadim and Bardot in Rome;
    (3) the quote regarding Harry Hamlin, the one with which she “lashed out.”

    On page 77 of an unauthorized, French-language biography written by Patrick Meier and Philippe Durant and published in late 2009, we find a section touching on the second item above. It’s clear in its denial that anything sexual occurred: “Plaisir des yeux seulement car il n’est pas question de mélange sexuel.” There is then an extended quote from Vadim on what it was like at that time to step into an apartment that had the sunlight hitting two such remarkable young women. My understanding is that UA was retrieved once from Rome when her Swiss maternal grandfather had Interpol track her down, and that she later returned to the city. The precise chronology and duration of those different stays are murky, but they date either to 1953 AND 1954, or solely to 1954.

    As a guest in a 1989 episode of “The Dame Edna Experience,” when UA was 53, she spoke about that time in Rome. Her part of the show begins at about the 32:00 minute mark in the YouTube video reached via this link:


    There are a few other statements about UA on the website that could be touched up in the interest of precision, but they can wait. This place is like a candy store. With my diabetes, it’s best that I not overdo things.

    • Thank you for your comments, Paul. I have no doubt you know the UA subject far better than I, and that I may well have been repeating data that you have since disproven. If so, I apologise if I have misled anyone. Unfortunately, I cannot recall my sources for the incidents you question. All I can offer in my defense is that I have a personal rule that restricts me to finding a minimum of three sources before I write something I believe to be factual. Of course, that does not guarantee authenticity, but that is the nature of historical research. We strive to be completely accurate, but it is an inaccurate profession at best. Thanks again for voicing your concerns.

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