Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Classic Cuties: Mara Corday

Mara Corday's principal career in movies only lasted about seven years, from 1951 until 1958, but as a result of a handful of those films -- coupled with her status as one of the most photographed models of her era -- she has maintained a steady fandom for over 50 years. This is especially true among science fiction buffs, among whom Corday's three movies in the genre -- Tarantula, The Giant Claw, and The Black Scorpion -- remain beloved films of their era. It was her work in this trio of genre films that has ensured Corday a devoted fandom for the past several decades. In Tarantula (1955) the actress was cast in a demure, intelligent role as a scientist's assistant, quite unlike the hardboiled girls from the wrong side of the tracks that she had often played in the past; and while the 200-foot-tall spider of the title attracted a lot of attention, Corday's good looks were impossible to ignore. In The Giant Claw (1957), which suffered from ludicrous special effects, she was the best thing to look at in the entire movie, even for filmgoers under the age of 13; and in The Black Scorpion (1957), she actually supplied her own wardrobe, and looked nothing less than stunning in virtually all of her scenes, and she even got to fill the role of a full-blooded heroine, complete with acts of bravery of her own.

Corday's modeling career continued uninterrupted, culminating in October 1958 when she was the featured Playmate of the Month in Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine -- she would probably have been able to build on the momentum of the Playboy issue, but for the fact that she later married actor Richard Long (tv's The Big Valley, Nanny and the Professor), who insisted that Mara stay at home to raise their family. Following Long's untimely death in 1974, Corday resumed her film career with help from one of the most successful of her fellow Universal contract players, Clint Eastwood, who gave her roles in The Gauntlet (1977), Sudden Impact (1983), Pink Cadillac (1989), and The Rookie (1990).

Trivia: Mara Corday's lifelong friend, Clint Eastwood, had a small role in Tarantula. He was the fighter pilot who napalmed the beast in the films climax.

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