Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kathleen Hughes and The Golden Blade (1954)

It's funny – well, not funny as in funny, ha ha, but you know what I mean – how geographical place names such as Bagdad and Basra and Damascus have taken on a whole new meaning in the past decade or two. Bagdad, especially, used to denote Arabian Nights adventures, Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie on the Universal back lot cavorting in colorful garments and saying Allah this and Allah that. Now, these places only remind us of unnecessary, and unpaid for, wars with hundreds of thousands of deaths and a taxpayer bill than will run into the gazillions of dollars. But Hollywood in 1954, when The Golden Blade was released, was indeed a different time and place, a time where caliphs and vizirs and their henchmen chased the good guys over the hills and dales of North Hollywood in what really were “Eastern” Westerns. Where handmaidens were actually Miss Universe contestants, including Sweden's Anita Ekberg still years away from immortality in the Trevi Fountain; and where Rock Hudson believably made lovesick gestures towards the weaker sex. But even back then, a titian-tressed Piper Laurie stood out. Did Bagdad girls really look like that? Really? At least the usually so blonde Kathleen Hughes had the decency to wear a black wig for the occasion.

Nee Elizabeth Margaret von Gerkan, of all things, Kathleen Hughes (born 1928) was the niece of screenwriter F. Hugh Herbert, and following a short stint as a 20th Century-Fox starlet, she signed with Universal-International in 1952. She remained with the studio for two years before marrying one of Universal's top producers, Stanley Rubin, a union that still lasts, something of a record in itself, especially for a former glamour girl. Hughes failed to become a star but at least she is still remembered and occasionally turns up at such events as Cinecon and the Palm Springs Noir Festival. She is quite good as The Golden Blade's bad girl, whose love for the Vizier's villainous son (Gene Evans) leads her to betray her mistress, Princess Piper Laurie. It is not Shakespeare, of course, but good enough for the kind of colorful escapist melodrama that Universal churned out like so much sausage in those years

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