Abandoned and Neglected: Pretty Poison B
Arguably Tuesday Weld’s best-known movie, this aptly titled yarn, which over the years has acquired cult status, is now finally available on DVD courtesy of Fox.
At the time, the studio didn’t know what to with the picture, feared that it will be unfavorably compared with “Bonnie and Clyde”, with which it shares some thematic similarities–troubled teenagers, love on the run. As a result, Fox’s honchose decided to dump it, namely placed it in few, less prestigious theater, with no advertising or publicity campaign.
By 1968, Tuesday was becoming a little tired of playing the eternal nymphet. At 25, she was still playing the precocious adolescent, but this time around, with a difference. Under the baby-doll exterior lurked a heart of pure evil.
Tuesday was brilliant in several offbeat movies, such as Pretty Poison, the film for which she is best known–but the one that she claims she dislikes. “Don’t talk to me about it,” she has said, “I couldn’t bear Noel Black (the director) even speaking to me. When he said ‘good morning,’ it destroyed my day.” In later years, Tuesday claimed to have learned more from the old Dobie Gillis TV shows than from Pretty Poison.
“Pretty Poison,” with a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr., is based on the novel “She Let Him Continue,” co-stars Anthony Perkins in his usual Psycho-like psychopathic role. Over the years, the movie has become an underground classic, particularly for Tuesday Weld’s fan clubs.
Anthony Perkins plays Dennis, a young man just released from prison for arson (and accidentally incinerating his aunt while setting her house on fire). Upon meeting Weld’s high-school senior Sue Ann Stepanek, he tried to convince her that he’s a CIA agent who needs her help in foiling a Communist plot in her town. But it turns out that Tuesday’s murderous nymphet character is miles ahead of Dennis.
In the film, Sue Ann gleefully pumps her own mother full of lead, bumps off someone else, and pins it all on Dennis, who’s strangely still stuck with admiration for her sang-froid audacity.
At its initial 1968 release, coming after “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Pretty Poison” was not commercially successful. It was not until some critics praised Tuesday’s performance that the film acquired a cult status. The cerebral film magazine Sight and Sound observed: “It is Tuesday Weld who dominates the film as surely as she does her weaker partner. Her gradual transformation from the seemingly innocent high-school girl into the cool killer and demanding sex-machine of the later reels is very convincing.”
It’s easy to see why Tuesday Weld was Warren Beatty’s first choice for Bonnie Parker in “Bonnie and Clyde.” Weld’s innocent, pouty face masks limitless capacity for murder and mayhem. Consensus among critics was that Bonnie Parker made Faye Dunaway, but that Tuesday Weld would have made the role her own. Is there a greater compliment for an actress.
Tuesday Weld has given many interesting performances, but she received only one Oscar nomination, as Supporting Actress in Richard Brooks’1977 “The Goodbar Girl,” starring Diane Keaton.
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