Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Phyllis Adair (Gunning for Vengeance)

There is a lesson to be learned here somewhere: Don't be nasty to an adorable 10-year-old motherless girl (and weren't they all?), even if, as a saloon proprietress, you have the perfect right to find the child's presence in your establishment unwanted. But, for Heaven’s sake, be nice about it and do not do rough up the little tot like Phyllis Adair does in the 1946 Durango Kid oater Gunning for Vengeance. Because the only way you could possibly redeem yourself is to take a bullet shielding the same little girl (Marjean Neville) from her would-be abductors. Which, again, is what Phyllis does. So be that a lesson to you! The outcome of all this, however, is one of the better Durango Kids thanks in no small ways to Miss Adair's tough gal performance.

Phyllis Adair, her publicity claimed, came from European nobility, her father, George Wilsnack, being “the great-grandson of Count von Wilsnack” while her mother, the former Louise Wingertier, came from a Swiss family “that dated back several hundred years.” So, there!

Besides her no less than five B-Westerns, Adair is mainly remembered as Irish starlet Peggy Cummins' stand-in in the first, abandoned, version of the much-hyped Forever Amber (finally released in 1947 starring Linda Darnell). Apparently, Miss Cummins was too nervous and inexperienced to handle this arguably the most heralded film role since Gone With the Wind's Scarlett O'Hara. To make it easier for Cummins, Phyllis was used to block scenes with the other players and then gracefully step aside when time for the actual filming. According to Gary A. Smith's fine “Forever Amber: From Novel to Film” (Duncan, OK: BearManor Media, 2010), she was hired for $200 a week.

For the record, Phyllis Louise Wilsnack's life dates are: Chicago, IL, 1 May 1919-Los Angeles, CA, 23 February 1990. Her name at the time of death was given as Phyllis Stevenson.

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