Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
RUNAWAY GIRL, devised as an ill-conceived movie vehicle for famed stripper Lili St. Cyr, ended up as a mongrel beast with 15 minutes of sex footage added for the fans' enjoyment. I had fun witnessing its weird structure and also appreciated the campy content of the tame original hour of footage.
Plot is simple -we see leggy Lili emerging from a bus of migrant workers, not the current Latino types but rather 1962 fugitives from a late '50s Mamie Van Doren picture. These gals are hired to pick grapes on the estate owned by Jock Mahoney, one of my all-time B-movie favorites and whose '50s series YANCY DERRINGER was my top show as a kid (and Native American sidekick X Brands my cult hero of that day).
Rivalry among the women is standard procedure for a B movie, and of course Lili with her glamorous outfits, jewelry and just the way she carries herself sticks out like a sore thumb among her no-collar fellow employees. One-shot scripter Stewart Cohn (same last name as mine) throws in many subplots, notably a sibling rivalry between Jock and his creepy sort of brother (not blood related) over-played by hammy Ron Hagerthy, a veteran of many TV westerns who never showed up on YANCY DERRINGER, however.
Francis Coppola backed a huge failure called BLOOD RED on the same subject of a California wine family dynasty in the '80s which I enjoyed on the same level as RUNAWAY GIRL -that film has become so obscure no one even remembers it for teaming Eric & Julia Roberts as brother and sister.
My favorite scene here involves an uncredited B actor playing the director of a Missing Persons office, as Lili's manager is searching for her as the title character who got tired of stripping and went on the unannounced working holiday as grape picker out in the fields. This extra whose character is named Walter Quillen gets mad and starts ranting: "I've walked 10,000 miles through the sewers of the emotions of humanity to get here, and I like it here most of the time". B-movie writing is an art that has been lost, instead we have the world has falling in love with the writing of a hack like Tarantino.
Lili gets to do her stuff late in the film in a montage of her stage appearances, doing her beautiful and quite tasteful routines shedding elegant costumes yet not getting naked. In contrast, the distributors added 15 minutes of sex tease footage doled out in three lengthy segments to make RUNAWAY an Adult Film of its era. The actresses in these nude scenes do not match the principal cast at all, a similar gimmick applied to MERMAIDS OF TIBURON to make that true classic of boring narration into AQUA SEX.
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