Posted by morlockjeff on September 22, 2007
Which is the real Jean Arliss?
For those of you who have seen William Castle’s 1961 film HOMICIDAL, the most unforgettable aspect of it wasn’t the carnival hustle promotion – refunds were given to moviegoers who spent the film’s climax in “The Coward’s Corner,” too scared to watch the ending – or the fact that the film appropriated the surprise denouement of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO – a cross-dressing psychopathic killer. It was the peculiar looking actor/actress named Jean Arless who stood out in a dual role, playing a male and female character.
Easily Castle’s most peculiar “stunt” or promotional gimmick, Arless apparently had no past – try to find other film credits under that name – and quickly disappeared after the release of HOMICIDAL. But the truth about Jean Arless was always hiding in plain sight, even if some people were convinced the actor/actress was a genuine “sexual resassignment” case.
Castle even identified the actress he cast as Emily/Warren in his amusing autobiography, STEP RIGHT UP! I’M GONNA SCARE THE PANTS OFF AMERICA! as Joan Marshall. He was also the one who gave her her new identity as Jean Arless: “It was a neutral name; it could have been either male or female.”
Kudos are in order for Ben Lane, the makeup man on HOMICIDAL, however, because Jean Arless is never completely convincing as a man or a woman (http://www.themakeupgallery.info/disguise/male/m1/homicidal.htm) and that’s what gives the film its perverse fascination that lingers long after the film’s clumsily staged shocks. Everything about Emily AND Warren is a lie but what is the truth? Is it the wigs? Is it the weird overbite? Is it a struggling unknown trying to be the next T.C. Jones? (http://www.queermusicheritage.us/drag-jones.html).
Anyone who watched a good deal of television during the late fifties and early sixties would have recognized Joan Marshall. She made guest appearances in countless TV series such as”Highway Patrol,” “Have Gun – Will Travel,” “Tales of Wells Fargo,” “Maverick”..the list goes on and on.
She also starred in the pilot for the series “The Munsters” as the family matriarch Phoebe whose name became Lily in the regular series as played by Yvonne de Carlo. (Apparently Marshall wasn’t hired because her performance was too imitative of Carolyn Jones as Morticia.)
You also may remember Marshall as Areel Shaw in “Star Trek: The Original Series” (1967).
Another surprising fact is that Marshall became the wife of director Hal Ashby. They met and married during the making of THE LANDLORD (now enjoying a revival in a new print in New York City). Despite the fact that author Peter Biskind, in his book “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” reported that their marriage fell apart during the filming of HAROLD AND MAUDE in 1971, the couple remained married (at least legally) until Ashby died from cancer in 1988. Her last film credit was a bit part in Ashby’s film SHAMPOO (1975) which Ashby allegedly based on some aspects of Marshall’s life which Robert Towne and Warren Beatty worked into the screenplay. Who’s to say if any of this is true? The biographical info on Marshall at IMDB and other sources is as suspect as Emily and Warren in HOMICIDAL. But what did you expect for someone who was “discovered” by William Castle?
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