TCMFF 2012: SECONDS to none…Salome Jens

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Salome Jens enthralling her audience as George Hamilton performs at the pulpit….

Richard Anderson’s introduction to Seconds also revealed that he felt Salome Jens was a wonderful actress. And viewing that film at the Turner Classic Film Festival 2012 peaked my interested in a woman whosecareer encompassed many film, television, and stage successes. Her face is familiar to many because of her myriad of guest starring roles in series like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, appearing as the Female Shapeshifter, or Melrose Place as Joan Campbell.

She also appeared in Tales From the Crypt, Falcon Crest, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Medical Center , Stoney Burke, The Outer Limits, The Untouchables, and one of the more unusual episodes of Gunsmoke,entitled “Captain Sligo,” with Richard Baseheart in the title role, staple character player Royal Dano, and director William Conrad, who was the original Matt Dillon on the CBS radio show.

Jens’ quirky, often off-beat characters did much to advance her incertain non-traditional roles, but her portrayal of Nora Marcus as thefree-wheeling, grape-stomping paramour of Rock Hudson’s reformed Arthur Hamilton enjoying his new found “freedom” in the up-and-coming Malibu  counterculture, is one of her signature roles. As Nora Marcus, she  is mysterious, passionate, and willing to lead Arthur Hamilton into allkinds of adventures, some of which occur on screen in the actual Malibu  home of Seconds director John Frankenheimer.

Her 1961 starring role in Paul Wendkos’s Angel Baby is considered Wendkos’ best directorial effort, and a cult favorite with fans of Salome Jens. Wendkos, famous for the Gidget franchise The Legend of Lizzie Borden, starring Elizabeth Montgomery, and A Woman Called Moses, starring Cicely Tyson, was hard-pressed not to release Angel Baby, and it was “shelved” for a year to help ensure the success of a similarly plotted Columbia effort entitled [b]Elmer Gantry[/b], which propelled Shirley Jones to her Oscar win as Lulu Bains.

Angel Baby not only marked the debut of Ms. Jens as a woman who believes she has been selected by God to alleviate the suffering of others with her healing skills, but it also allowed a young Burt Reynolds his first film credit before his stint as “Quint” on Gunsmoke a year or so later. George Hamilton, as Paul Strand, is a greedy promoter who supposedly cures Jens of her affliction, and Mercedes McCambridge is his wife who also exploits the innocent.

Salome Jens will star with Andrew Prine ( Bandolero, The Miracle Worker, Chisum) in Glendale Centre Theatre’s On Golden Pond, July 12-August 11. Jens has previously appeared in many productions, and the New York Times called her one-woman show  About Anne, incorporating the poems and words of Anne Sexton, ” a magnificent moment of theater” and states that her “rich and brilliant performance gleams in the memory.” (Anyone living near Glendale, California, might want to order tickets to see Jens and Prine emote in [b]On Golden Pond [/b]at 818-244-8481.)
Watching Seconds made me so curious about Salome Jens because I had seen her in so many movies and television classics, and I had to find out a little more about this fascinating feature player.

Discussing her performance with Geraldine Page in Barefoot in Athens, a play about the death of Socrates, which first appeared on Broadway,  and aired in 1966 on NBC,  Jens claimed Page  was “fierce” and always worked “on the edges.” She also  reveals she was “moved, moved  humanly” by Page’s performance. Barefoot in Athens also starred Peter Ustinov as Socrates. After watching the print of Seconds at the Turner Classic Film Festival in April, I feel that Jen’s performances move viewers humanly and motivated me to find outa little more about her and her performance in Seconds, which helped make it a classic, cult or otherwise.
Maybe Salome Jens will be asked to appear at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival 2013 to introduce another screening of Seconds, or even Angel Baby.

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