Yikes! There goes Fenella Fielding. Back in the day, as immortalized by pasquinade such as Carry On Screaming, Fielding took ultra-nymphery & retina-searing sultry scrumptiousness with mo’ slink than a panther in eclipse, to like, vertigo-maximus. Supreme odalisque sass & hyper-feline grace to buckle those knees & swell those loins. Honesty, what a piece of class. I tumbled into a minor interview with Fielding a year or so back, churning the cauldron for her forthcoming biography with Simon McKay – Do You Mind If I Smoke?. Aside from her coming across as a hoot, the book, & indeed her life & account sounded potentially hugely fascinating.
Unfortunately, I personally found the book, in its majority, resoundingly dull, I think in part as there was, despite rare episodes of frankness, a lot of hesitancy & omission (Fenella had this admirable quirk of being relentlessly positive even in the grimmest of circumstances, which can, from a purely biblio perspective make for bland reading as she seems always keen to spend as little time as possible on anything negative). The other factor is that, as anyone that has ever heard or watched Fenella will assuredly concur, her gift with language, delivery & facial & bodily expression & accentuation are off the rails, she owns the energy in the language & animates & amplifies the conversation/dialogue/acting (ergo, there is a 5CD audio book version of Do You Mind If I Smoke?, which will inevitably be far superior). Much like a saxophonist who can breathe beauty & distinction into a dud tune, you could slop Fielding some drab & she would transform it into a thing of sumptuous grace & uber éclat. A great demonstration of such femismo occurs in Carry On Screaming (the only shit I have seen her in to date). Cult currency aside, it’s a fucking Carry On movie, so knockers & poke-jokes basically, but Fielding smokes (literally) the set with her performance as Valeria, prowling about in a tight red gown-dress. Far from being tarnished by the trash, she elevates the whole picture by almost ‘over-performing’ (which got her into trouble with co-star Kennith Williams, who is jowl-splittingly hilarious here). & here’s the thing & why I love this vixen so much & she such a damn moll – if you watch her performance, she is an absolute master of paralinguistics.
Her micro-movements, some exceedingly subtle, others more pronounced, add this constant somatic articulation, augmentation & embellishment that’s like a separate supporting language. Chicks in dungarees, jack-boots with shaved-heads, spitting chewing-tobacco through broken ice-grills are all good, like, whatever, it’s a multidimensional menagerie here & we are not prescribing, but I’ll tell ya’ what…. – this is femininity at a fuckin’ zenith! If you can be bothered, have an interest, watch pretty much any scene (especially one with motion) with her in it & count all the small, non-verbal supporting components in her fusillades of oestro emphases. That is some luxurious shit! Now if I remember correctly, Fenella pissed around with a few Carry On Doctor movies before getting the eff outta’ dodge, as she did not want the derogatory association & career-crumpling that would result from prolonged association with the like. She emerged unbesmirched, which is commendable, to cross the ocean without getting soaked.
It’s a pretty interesting area, wading through sleaze, & pseudo-sordidity (especially as a dame) without getting gunge in your wellies…brings me to another numinous-nymph that did not quite fair-so-well – the sublime Haji, most reputable for her sizzling, burn-your-bollocks-off, crash your bike into the railings role in cult, loony, flawed but genius director Russ Meyer’s “Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!” in which Tura Satana & Lori Williams were also jaw-breakingly-awesome in this residual cult classic.
Haji of course had also donated a preponderate performance in Meyers previous Motor Psycho as Ruby, parting the fuckin’ oceans with that pencil dress >< & blading that all black-wearing beatnik psycho in the desert.
It started to tip in the wrong direction once we got into Good Morning.. And Goodbye!. & it went pretty much right out the fuckin’ window with her cameo in Super Vixens. Ricocheting back to Good Morning, Meyer overtured, & in doing so also terminated, the acting career of Alaina Capri who essentially fled the field after starring in just two flicks, both by Meyer – Good Morning & the rampantly insane Common Law Cabin (one of his best).
Capri felt she was way overexposed/exploited, & I think she was right really & that Russ overdid it a bit. She was a bombshell & was largely there as cans-candy, but she easily out-acts every fucker in Good Morning. Those husky, languid, orgulous & venomous castration-lines as she lingually beats-on her impotent husband in Common Law, or tries to seduce Dewey Hoople in the ramshackle dust-hut with her spouse at the same table are fucking classics. Not to mention her catty pejorative clawings with Babette that almost result in her getting a machete wedged in that preposterously amazing hairdo of hers.
How much of a relation she bore to her portrayals, or the fact that she was a great character actor with a good role (dialogue/character wise), who knows?, but her killer depictions of an arch-ball-breaker, cavalier-nympho, man-eating, alpha-bitch with a sawn-off shotgun mouth & a penchant for viciously humiliating her husbands to the brink of suicide leave us some very fine cinema indeed (even if she gets blasted in the guts by that “Red Headed Ace”). Anyway! Three women messing with the perils & pros of a familiar field of foibles. So long Fenella x x
PS: one recent elegy to Fielding from someone in in the know stated that “She died with lashes on.” -(Susanne Moore)