Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Acquanetta (from my unpublished "FADEOUT: The Final Film Of ..."

Universal definitely didn't plan it that way but when the special effects people applied the old WOLF MAN time-lapse photography to poor Paula Dupree, the CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1944), the results proved quite unsettling. Halfway through the transformation from starlet to gorilla woman, the girl suddenly appeared startlingly African-American. Why, at least one reviewer demanded to know, would Universal seemingly endorse the bizarre racial theories of Nazi Germany in the middle of World War II? The studio, of course, wanted to do no such thing, only to entertain and perhaps even frighten, and Paula Dupree, their latest horror creation, went on to appear in two additional programmers, JUNGLE WOMAN (1944) and JUNGLE CAPTIVE (1945). She was played in the first two installments by Burnu Acquanetta (apparently meaning "burning water" in Arapaho), a former New York cover girl whom Universal relentlessly ballyhooed as "The Venezuelan Volcano." The dark-eyed beauty wasn't Venezuelan at all, of course, but that is really all we know for certain. She herself claimed to be part American Indian and part British royalty, but her adopted name was Mildred Davenport and she grew up in Pennsylvania. She came to Universal in 1942 but her stay there proved brief. The exotic queen of Universal potboilers, Maria Montez, reportedly hated this potential new rival on sight and got rid of her post haste. Or at least that was what Acquanetta herself later claimed, but her sudden departure was probably due more to the fact that she couldn't act. At all. After a few additional jungle girl roles, she married a car dealer and moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where she wrote Indian poetry and presented Friday night fright movies on television. Acquanetta died at Ahwatuki, AZ, in 2004 age 83.

The final film of Acquanetta:

GRIZZLY ADAMS: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Questar Entertainment, 1990) D: Ken Kennedy. CAST: Gene Edwards, Anthony Caruso, L.Q. Jones, Acquanetta. A direct-to-video release continuation of the 1977-1978 television series about a trapper fleeing modern life (the 1850s) in favor of the wilderness. This time Grizzly (formerly Dan Haggerty, now Edwards) and his pet bear Martha battle a gang of outlaws terrorizing a small town

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