Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on June 20, 2013
This evening TCM is airing a batch of films starring the atomic blond bad girl, Mamie Van Doren. Starting at 5PM PST and 8PM EST you can catch Mamie in a stream of black & white B-movies beginning with UNTAMED YOUTH (1957) and followed by THE BEAT GENERATION (1959), BORN RECKLESS (1959), GUNS GIRLS AND GANGSTERS (1958), VICE RAID (1959), SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960) and THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS (1957). Longtime Van Doren fans should enjoy the variety of films being shown and if you’re unfamiliar with her work this is a great opportunity to play catch-up.
Mamie along with Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield was known as one of “The Three M’s” in Hollywood at a time when curvaceous platinum blondes were all the rage. But like all three women, Mamie had her own distinct charm. She was a bit edgier and seemed slightly more dangerous than both Monroe and Mansfield thanks to her roles in a number of youth oriented movies. While Monroe frequently played a victim of circumstance and Mansfield seemed to enjoy lampooning the public’s perception of “dumb blondes,” Mamie took on the mantel of “bad girl” and it was easy for audiences to assume she’d been around the block a few times. During her early years in the City of Angels, Mamie managed to successfully maneuver through the rough waters of stardom and avoided the pitfalls of drug and alcohol abuse that affected many of her peers. Today she’s still going strong and has recently published an updated and more naughty addition of her 1987 autobiography, Playing the Field: Sex, Stardom, Love, and Life in Hollywood. The 80-something year-old actress can also be found happily engaging with fans online through her website as well as social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
My fellow Morlock, Richard H. Smith has written an informative piece about Mamie for the TCM website that’s well worth a read but I thought I’d follow it up with a few more fun facts about Mamie that I learned while perusing her autobiography and website.
When Mamie Van Doren was just 17-years-old she spotted an advertisement in Variety posted by pin-up artist Alberto Vargas who was looking for new models. Mamie responded to the ad and Vargas hired her to model for a new Esquire calendar he was working on. A few years later when Vargas was showcasing his work at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Vargas asked Mamie to appear there with him to help promote the show.
Mamie is an animal rights activist and she currently takes care of a number of adopted dogs and birds. In a recent interview with Donald D’Haene at The Good Man Project she explained why supporting animal rights is important to her: “Animal rights were not on anyone’s agenda when I was growing up on the farm in Rowena (South Dakota). Animals were for working and eating. I was a lonely kid whose only friends were animals, so as you can imagine, I suffered with them. That stays with me today, making me an advocate for animal rights.”
While performing on Broadway as a chorus girl in a production of Billion Dollar Baby, Mamie dated the World Champion boxer, Jack Dempsey. The couple could often be seen together sharing drinks at the Stork Club and Dempsey eventually proposed to her. But Mamie had other plans and she ended her relationship with Dempsey after moving back to Hollywood to focus on her acting career.
Mamie Van Doren was originally born with the name Joan Olander. She was named after actress Joan Crawford and the two women eventually crossed paths in Hollywood. Crawford once said of Mamie and fellow blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, “They aren’t even actresses. Those are boobs with mouths trying to get publicity.” But when asked which of the three M’s (Monroe, Mansfield or Mamie) she preferred, Joan Crawford claimed to prefer Mamie.
The buxom actress has posed for Playboy magazine a few times beginning in 1964 to help promote the movie, THREE NUTS IN A SEARCH OF A BOLT. This silly adult sex comedy was the last film directed by the actor, writer and producer Tommy Noonan who died a few years after production. Mamie still attends parties at the Playboy mansion and is friendly with publisher Hugh Hefner.
During the Vietnam War, Mamie entertained US troops in some of the most dangerous battle zones. Her shows were hugely popular and attracted large crowds. Mamie was deeply touched by the scenes of violence she witnessed and the various encounters she had with young soldiers. She has said that, “Nothing could have prepared me for the horrors of war. By the time I left Vietnam, the things I had seen and heard left me changed forever.” The experience seems to have made Mamie reconsider her political leanings and outlook towards war.
Acting isn’t Mamie Van Doren’s only talent. She’s also released a number of albums. Her earliest record was a collection of songs from the Warner Brothers film, UNTAMED YOUTH. The songs were written by composer Les Baxter and the legendary guitarist Eddie Cochran played on most of the tracks. The record was released in 1957 by Prep Records, which was a subsidiary of Capitol Records and Mamie Van Doren was the first artist they signed. Her latest album is a collection of country & western flavored songs titled Still a Troublemaker.
Tune into TCM tonight to see more of Mamie Van Doren!
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