When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
DISCOVERED!! Six Degrees of Separation between Deanna Durbin and Charles Manson!


I was making myself comfortable at a friend’s house, channel surfing while he was getting ready to go out, when I came across the opening credits for a 1968 British film, DUFFY.  The credits were trippy-kaleidescopic, the kind that 2006’s CASINO ROYALE wittily riffed on, so I kept watching.  When the credits were near the end and the above-the-line talent was being named, I felt shock and awe.  It dawned on me the collaboration between DUFFY‘s screenwriter and director was the missing link in the six degrees of separation between “Little Miss Fix-It Who Bursts into Song” Deanna Durbin and psycho cult-leader Charles Manson.

The ‘sixties-hip comedy DUFFY [which I haven’t seen yet] stars James Coburn, Susannah York and James Mason.  But as a British production for a Hollywood studio (Columbia), it brought together director Robert Parrish (1949 Oscar-winner and author of Growing Up in Hollywood) and screenwriter Donald Cammell (writer and co-director of the hyper-drugged Mick Jagger movie PERFORMANCE).   This union creates a huge cross-cultural link.

Donald Cammell was a creative colleague of experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and was part of the cast (along with Marianne Faithfull and Jimmy Page) of Anger’s LUCIFER RISING.  The music for LUCIFER RISING was composed by Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil.  And Beausoleil of course knew Manson.

Robert Parrish was part of a show-biz family.  Both he and his sister were child actors. While Robert was mugging for Hal Roach in The Little Rascals and having walk-ons in silent classics like Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS, his little sister Helen was climbing up the A-List by working on features directed by William Wellman, James Whale and Raoul Walsh.  By the late 1930s, her parts at Universal Studios crested with the role of Deanna Durbin’s older sister in THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP

So…
FIRST DEGREE:  Deanna Durbin worked with Helen Parrish
SECOND DEGREE:  Helen Parrish was the sister of Robert Parrish
THIRD DEGREE:  Robert Parrish collaborated with Donald Cammell
FOURTH DEGREE:  Donald Cammell worked with Kenneth Anger
FIFTH DEGREE:  Kenneth Anger worked with Bobby Beausoleil
SIXTH DEGREE:  Bobby Beausoleil was part of Charles Manson’s ‘family’

To end on a jollier note, I highly recommend Robert Parrish’s autobiography Growing Up in Hollywood.  The book gives a solid workman’s perspective to the Dream Factory:  no tell-all’s about sexy affairs with glamour girls, no gossip.   But page after page of being coached by Hal Roach on how to mug for silent slapstick, getting ill working as a chorus boy on a Ruby Keeler musical and throwing up all over Dick Powell (whom he later directed in his first feature film effort), running to the men’s room to rub liquid soap in his eyes in order to cry because extras in the shipwreck scene of Borzage’s HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT were paid more if they could really turn on the waterworks, and the editing scheme he learned that enabled him to cut the unwieldy raw footage of Robert Rossen’s ALL THE KING’S MEN into a feature film and win an Oscar.  (It was an editing strategy borrowed from the classic Raoul Walsh gangster film THE ROARING TWENTIES.)

Doug / PoMo Joan

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