Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Mary McLeod (Strange Illusion, 1945)
A Canadienne, Mary McLeod appeared in Hollywood films from around 1942 but she came to town with quite an unusual background. In his column datelined Hollywood, July 10, 1944, Jimmie Fidler takes it from there:
"Mary McLeod must have had a rabbit's foot in her pocket when she landed a job, some years ago, as a reporter for the Vancouver Sun. The paper sent her to Hollywood last year to do a series of interviews with screen stars. At her first port of call, M-G-M, she was offered a screen test which landed her the second female lead in An American Romance [released 1944], one of the biggest pictures of the year. After the picture's completion, the publisher of the Vancouver paper wired to suggest the continuance of her assignment. Miss McLeod went to RKO to interview John Loder, working in The Brighton Strangler . No sooner did she step on the set than Producer Herman Schlom offered her a leading role in the picture. She'll finish her interview this time—between scenes in which Loder attempts to strangle her!"
In reality, McLeod earned an unbilled bit in Strangler. Her screen and television career lasted until 1950.
Mary McLeod, as Jimmy Lydon's jivin' girlfriend in Strange Illusion, is no dummy. She knows that something is wrong when the lecherous Warren William leers at her in the pool and then attempts to, gasp!, kiss her. She tells her boyfriend but he is already on to the redoubtable Mr. William, who has appeared in one of Jimmy's dreams as a veritable Bluebeard. And now the lech, and perhaps even homicidal maniac, is honing in on Jimmy's mother, Sally Eilers. What to do? Well, why not agree to commit yourself to Dr. Charles Arnt's phony psychiatric hospital where Warren William once was a patient himself and where a clever boy may find a clue or two? Which is exactly what our boy does.
This is PRC at its best courtesy, of course, of auteur legend Edgar G. Ulmer. It is just not as important, or indeed groundbreaking, as some Ulmer fantasists would like us to believe. Take a more recent study (“The Films of Edgar G. Ulmer” by Bernd Herzogenrath, ed. 2009), for example, where a writer drones on page after page about how Strange Illusion in general and Herr Ulmer in particular share much with Davis Lynch and Mulholland Drive. Eegah! The same author, an academic to the nth degree of course, mistakes Warren William for William Wellman so draw your own conclusions. Strange Illusion instead emerges as an entertaining thriller steeped in Freudian (or is it Jungian?) psycho babble and thus very typical of its day.
... and their men: Jimmy Clark
Pleasant Jimmy Clark plays James Lydon's best buddy and the brother of his best girl (Miss McLeod) in Strange Illusion, but the juvenile performer was mostly cast in bit parts as bellboys, etc. in a career that lasted 1943-1951.