Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Femme fatale in waiting

The star that might have been.
Errol Flynn creeped her out, Elizabeth Taylor refused to be photographed alongside her, she thought up the name ‘Marilyn Monroe’ [1], but most of all wanted to make sure that Edmund O’Brien was Dead on Arrival. Born Loretta Mary Luiz in Honolulu, of Portuguese-Hawaiian-Australian extract, Laurette Luez was one of the most promising of a handful of can’t-miss starlets of the post-WWII era. Her breakthrough year seemed to be 1950, when she appeared in two good films, D.O.A. and Kim. In the former her femme fatale credentials – beauty, brains, and lots of attitude – were showcased to best advantage, but cruelly it was the harem girl role in Kim that would foreshadow her career in the 1950s, when in a rapid and inexplicable descent into B movie purgatory (most infamously in Prehistoric Women), she was invariably typecast as island girls, exotic temptresses and jungle primitives. By the end of the decade her career was essentially over [2]. Ironically, her last film, Ballad of a Gunfighter (1964), was actually pretty good.

    What was the cause of her conspicuous cinematic non-success? Bad management, infelicitous timing, competition? Or perhaps she really didn’t have the acting talent. A more plausible explanation is that the film studios simply felt that, by the standards of the strait-laced 50s, her dusky looks were a little too ethnic for full-fledged leading lady status. This was the post-Carmen Miranda era in Hollywood when Latino actors were very much out of fashion. In any case, in 1965 she left movies altogether to devote herself to being a full-time wife and mother, and film star Laurette Luez faded into historical obscurity. In 1999 she died at the age of 71. But through a resurgence in popularity of both film noir and 1950s camp, her star has risen once again as is witnessed by numerous affectionate blog tributes and a plethora of Web images, bringing to her a certain amount of posthumous recognition and appreciation that eluded her in her own lifetime.

[1] The MM story is quite possibly more urban legend than fact. As direct information is scarce – and others have made the claim as well – we’ll probably never know for sure.

[2] To be sure, her likeness wasn’t exactly absent in her heyday years in the 1950s. As if in compensation for her disappointment in the film industry, she was much in demand as a model and for a time seemed to be a ubiquitous presence on the covers of men’s magazines. Her photogenic features even seemed to inspire pulp fiction cover art.

D.O. A. (1950)

1 comment:

  1. Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a strange femme fatale modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through Vanguard Cinema (, and is currently
    debuting on Cable Video On Demand. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the glam/punk tunes "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst" and "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire", and a dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.


    ***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
    before..." Film Threat
    "A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
    "Consistently stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
    version of David Lynch. " IFC News
    "Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
    "Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque